A Guide to Online Reviews: What Do They Really Mean for Your Brand?

Today, it’s not uncommon to search for an online review before making just about any purchasing decision. In fact, 84% of consumers trust these digital recommendations as much as advice or feedback from their family or friends. Whether we’re ordering take-out or looking for a great place to take the kids for a few hours, we’re consulting virtual strangers in our quest to find the best.

As such, brands are focusing more than ever before on cultivating a transparent business image by including these online reviews on their website, social media platform, business profile and more. The catch-22? As customers ourselves, we understand that no company is perfect and we rarely expect that from the ones we patronize. As such, a 4.5 out of 5 stars is often enough to convince us to give that new restaurant a try or see that movie that just came out.

Yet, around the world, brands are competing at breakneck speed for that spotless reputation and identity. In our quest to outshine our competitors and gain that elusive audience retention, are we losing focus on what matters the most? Let’s take a deeper look at online reviews, what they mean, and how we can leverage them for good without losing our sanity.

Finding the Origin of Online Reviews

Before you jump to conclusions over a particularly negative set of recent reviews or call an all-hands meeting to discuss spiteful feedback, take a closer look at where that content originated from.

Is a majority of it coming from someone with a personal vendetta against your company? It’s not uncommon for a past employee to air his or her grievances online for all the world to see, and isn’t that what online reviews are all about? The same could also hold true for people who applied for an open position at your company and did not get it. They could be bitter, spiteful and taking to the web to express that frustration.

Keep in mind that people are statistically more likely to leave a review on your site if they’ve had a negative experience. That, too, can shift the balance, especially if you aren’t offering incentives for people to leave you positive feedback if they loved your product or service.

While you never want to coerce your employees into leave any kind of review, you can organically encourage this feedback by asking them at natural times, such as their birthday or a special work anniversary, if they’re happy in their position and would like to share their sentiments.

Turning Negatives into Positives

When you receive a notification that leads to a bad review, your first reaction might be to hide under your desk. Yet, take heart. Even the most applauded and profitable companies have their fair share of naysayers.

Instead, your next move should be more strategic in nature. Note that, according to a recent survey, 70% of job seekers are willing to change their mind about your company, even after reading a slew of negative reviews, if you can respond proactively to said feedback.

How do you do that? Rather than honing in on the negative aspects of the comments, look instead to find ways to highlight your company’s strengths in your response.

For instance, if an employee complains online that your management team underpays its staff, you can respond by explaining the competitive analysis you perform to ensure your salary structure is realistic, then encourage them to reach out to you for more clarification. It’s a simple, to-the-point response that lets the writer, as well as the greater community, see that you’re listening.

Advance as a Company Through Online Reviews

At their core, all online reviews offer your company a chance to grow for the better. Whether it’s a review of your workplace as written by a current employee or a list of product flaws scribed by a dissatisfied customer, read them all and take that opportunity to learn from them.

This might mean meeting with your HR team on a regular basis to update everyone on feedback and hear their advice for moving forward. From there, you can identify any trends that seem to be occurring (such as the same complaint popping up from myriad sources) and work proactively to remediate them.

When you listen to what both your employees and your customers are saying, you’re already one step closer to understanding what makes your niche tick and what delights it. Don’t dismiss reviews and don’t delete negative feedback. Use it to propel your business forward and you’ll be surprised at how far you go.  

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