Online reviews are the new “word of mouth” marketing. Virtually all consumers (92 percent) read online reviews and base their purchasing decisions off these reviews.
Nearly three out of four consumers (72 percent) say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Checking sites like Yelp, Google, Angie’s List, Amazon, Consumer Reports, and other popular online review sites before making a purchasing decision is now second nature for consumers.
Gone are the days when consumers asked neighbors, coworkers and friends for recommendations. Now, they crowdsource advice from via Twitter or Facebook and scour online review sites to get inside information on companies and services before making a purchase.
While your business cannot directly control the content of your reviews, that’s no reason to take a passive approach to online review management. Yes, it can be frustrating when that one angry customer decides to go on a rant against your business and the other 100 happy clients don’t post anything.
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It’s understandable to feel as if controlling your business’s online reputation is a losing battle. It doesn’t have to be. I’ve written before about the importance of proactively staying on top of online reviews to blunt the impact of negative feedback and encourage satisfied customers to share their experience.
Once you’ve built up a strong base of online reviews, it’s time to translate this online enthusiasm into offline action by turning online reviews into leads.
Channeling the power of positive online reviews into a steady stream of leads is especially important in fields like law, healthcare, and home repair services. Why?
Once a consumer picks a doctor, dentist, lawyer, or plumber, they’re more likely to stick with this choice for the long run unless they move outside the service area. Here's how to harness the power of your online reviews into more leads and more satisfied customers.
Ethical rules governing legal marketing are complex. The rules are designed to “strike a balance between consumer protection and access to justice”, which means an attorney cannot advertise his or her services as superior to another firm’s. Instead, attorneys must let their online reviews do all the talking. The most effective legal websites harness the power of online reviews to build trust with potential clients.
Case in point: the home page for the Scheiner Law Group. The page prominently features certification seals from top legal review sites, like U.S. News and World Report and Texas Super Lawyers, and a 10.0 “superb” rating seal from Avvo.
The site also features a rotating list of endorsements at the top of the home page, including “Houston’s Top Lawyer”, which are all attributed to legal review sites. These reviews allow the firm to make statements like, “Grant Scheiner is one of the top criminal lawyers in Texas” without getting into hot water over unethical claims.
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As of 2014, nearly half of all consumers say they’ve used an online review site to find information about healthcare providers a figure that jumped by 68 percent between 2013 and 2014 and is continuing to grow. More than four out of 10 consumers (44 percent) said that positive online reviews could convince them to go out of network for a great provider, according to Physician’s Money Digest. Where are consumers finding these reviews? ZocDoc launched in 2007, continues to be a top destination for consumers who are searching for new doctors, dentists and other health care providers.
ZocDoc is a powerful lead generator because it not only lists credentials and aggregates the provider’s online reviews but also allows for instant appointment requests. For example, let’s say you’re searching for a new dentist in Phoenix, Arizona. The result listing includes aggregated reviews, a quote from a recent verified patient review, and information on the dentist’s upcoming appointment availability.
Click on a potential dentist (like this example for Dr. Akhil Mehta, DDS), and you’ll be able to review his credentials, scan verified patient reviews, and instantly book an appointment. Between the glowing praise (“Best dentist I've ever been to. Loved everything about my experience there.”) and the ability to book instantly, Dr. Mehta no doubt has a steady stream of patients headed his way.
Looking for a plumber? HomeAdvisor is a top site for sourcing home improvement pros. The HomeAdvisor homepage prominently features a link to "Browse Ratings & Reviews". As you scroll through the listings after clicking through that page, you will notice that after each heading for the plumber and ZIP code, you can choose a number of "verified reviews" under the business name. In general, the more verified reviews, the better. Businesses with 1,000-plus reviews have an 18 percent higher star rating and receive 672 percent more leads, reports Entrepreneur.
H2O Plumbing is a company in Beverly Hills with 28 verified reviews on HomeAdvisor. The business has an average score of 4.85 out of 5. Scrolling through the rest of the profile shows that the company has been "Screened and Approved" by HomeAdvisor, and it is also the recipient of several awards on the site, including a HomeAdvisor Elite Service badge and a HomeAdvisor Top Ranking distinction. None of these accolades would have been seen without the initial interest in the high score based on 28 reviews, however.
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Online reviews can make or break the initial interest of a customer in the rest of your business. A new client who has no experience with your services can question any distinction that you have from a website or even a watchdog agency, but there is truly nothing like the honest words of a former client to put the mind at ease about the rest of a business profile. Make sure that you reach for the best customer service in every instance because that little $50 client can make a big difference in the rest of your receipts. No need to be shy encourage reviews from satisfied customers.