Are online reviews hurting or helping your sales?

It’s no secret. Online continues to leapfrog more traditional media channels annually — both in use, and trust.
In fact, one very popular restaurant chain has put all of their marketing dollars into digital channels.
Let’s look at a couple of stats.
  • 81% of folks conduct online research before making a purchase or visiting a business.
  • 84% of people trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.
  • 73% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more.
So what does this mean? Online reviews and comments don’t disappear when you avoid them. The days of looking the other way are over. It’s time to rip the band-aid off completely. It might be hard, but use those reviews as opportunities:
To connect directly to your customers. The Internet and social media provide businesses the opportunity to personally engage and respond to their consumers AND publicly get credit for it. Just remember three things when responding – be fast, authentic, and action-oriented.
To shore up your internal operations. Although some reviews can be one-off experiences, multiple reviews citing similar grievances are strong indicators that something is internally wrong – protocols not being followed, poor employee performance, etc. Use the information and take the action necessary to correct the issue.
To cut off a potential crisis — at the knees.   More crises are beginning as online issues. This is not a drill, this is reality. A disgruntled former employee, an offended customer — they don’t have to wait to get the news media’s attention to tell their story. A waiting audience is merely computer keystrokes away.  Hit these issues head-on , and avoid the costly and exhausting exercise of playing online crisis “whack-a-mole.”
To recover and reward. For complaints, address them, make it right and go one step above. Think of it as a plus-one approach. If someone, for instance, ordered takeout at your restaurant and was missing an item – opt to send them a gift card that covers the item and maybe an appetizer or dessert. It’s also equally important to reward your customers that leave positive reviews and/or incentivize folks to leave reviews . Ex: Did you enjoy your experience today? Leave us a Yelp review and enjoy 15 percent off your next service.
Online reviews and comments can both hurt and bolster sales. The upside? As a businessperson, you get to decide the impact based on how you monitor and manage the comments.

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