90% of customers state that online reviews influence their buying decisions. Facebook must have been thinking of that statistic when it introduced the star rating system for businesses a couple of years ago.
Tripadvisor revolutionised the way we look for restaurants, hotels and other fun activities. Facebook’s star rating system extended that to every kind of business you can imagine – so now your village grocery, your dentist and the dog groomer all get service ratings.
Hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions are getting rated on Facebook too – and people turn to their pages more frequently to check opening hours, menus and special offers. If I get to a restaurant’s page for their opening hours and they have terrible ratings I will definitely think twice before calling to book a table.
So should you call your mother and great aunt and get them to start leaving you five star ratings in order to game the system? Nope. There are two steps you need to be taking to keep your 5-star ratings flowing in: avoiding slip ups and mending relationships after you get negative reviews.
Keep one thing in mind: online marketing is not only controlled by your behaviour online, but also by the way you treat your customers in person too. Online ratings make it harder for people to hide behind a picture they paint of their business.
Online ratings can make or break a business, which is why you need to make sure that you place yourself on the right side of the rating system, not get caught with your pants down when far too many people leave negative reviews of your business.
And, really and truly, the only way to get (honest) good online ratings is by offering an exceptional product and service. This is, after all, the whole point of online ratings. Star systems like that of Tripadvisor or Facebook are just ways of improving the effect of positive word of mouth, but they’re knives that cut both ways.
So make an effort to offer the best service you possibly can, train your people to be courteous and to, as much as possible, not let customers leave the store with unresolved issues. Create policies that empower your front-line staff to compensate customers on the spot.
Everybody makes mistakes, but not everyone can deal with the fallout. If I had a negative experience at a business but then I was told that this was a mistake and the guys apologised and maybe even rectified this, I’d probably still leave them a good review. Trust me, it’s much easier to give a customer a free cupcake than to have to deal with the fallout of an irate online review (or even worse, with a deluge of negative reviews).
Fixing slip ups
No amount of spending on Google ads will bring your Tripadvisor rating up – and only the person who left the rating can change it (unless you can prove it’s a fraudulent rating).
So, you’ve done your absolute best but something slipped through the cracks, one of your sales reps was having a bad day or your most popular item was out of stock on a particularly busy day. Some people will always be disappointed with some aspect of your service.
As I said earlier, the best way to fix this is to try and solve it in-store, as it happens. If you don’t manage, you can still make an effort to fix things online. The worst thing you can do is get defensive – once again, own up to the mistake and kill the commenter with kindness.
Offer to help them find a solution if the problem is still unresolved or offer them compensation if that ship has sailed.
And in the end…
Ratings count. But don’t see them as the reason to keep your customers happy – see them as a way of judging your performance, and use the negatives to fix points that need to be fixed and pick on the positives and ask your people to do more of that.
There’s the added advantage that good ratings seem to help businesses with local SEO rankings, but, as always, we’ll insist that you care about your ratings for humans first.