02 Jun The Business Benefits of Online Reviews
Think about a recent major purchase – did you Google the product, read the Amazon review or look at the number of star ratings on Tripadvisor.com? Did it influence your purchase decision or perception about the product or service? Chances are, you read an online review on a third party website at least once; and like you, other customers are savvy multi channel users who conduct their own product research.
Understanding how customers view products, services or a company is important to identifying the perceived strengths and weaknesses of a company. So what are online reviews and why are they important to a business?
Online reviews typically highlight the key features of a product, they display images of the product packaging, provide how-to directions, describe the overall service experience and sometimes make buy or don’t-buy recommendations. Online reviews act as buying guides to customers by offering glimpses into the best and worst of a product or service. But they can sometimes be biased, even malicious, aimed at: deliberately destroying a company’s reputation; negatively shaping perceptions and influencing purchase decisions.
So how can businesses embrace the online review and leverage the feedback to enhance customer satisfaction and propel business growth?
1. DEEPEN THE CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS
By listening to and reading online customer reviews, businesses can deepen their understanding of customer concerns and needs. With the rise of social media and every other customer owning a smart phone, the probability is that at some point in the life of a business, a positive or negative review will be posted about their product/s or service/s. If the review is positive, the business should thank the customer and use it as a testimonial or as a key selling point.
If the review is a case of poor service or product quality, for example, a picture of a tainted meal, a messy guest room or a video of an abusive employee; the business should engage the affected customer, address the facts, apologize and offer a remedy to the customer. This will build trust and credibility with the customer, allow the business to demonstrate empathy and responsibility, potentially recover a lost customer or prevent a dissatisfied customer from going to the competition and gain goodwill and brand advocacy.
2. INCREASE BRAND AWARENESS
By encouraging customer reviews and participating in conversations with customers on social media, third party websites, even on their own customer blogs or forums, businesses can increase the levels of awareness of their brand over time. Take the pioneering Tripadvisor social travel website, as early as 2010, Tripadvisor began issuing travellers’ choice and certificate of excellence awards to businesses in the travel, leisure and hospitality market who “consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews”. These reviews not only create a digital footprint by exposing the business to a much wider range of people, but as the number of reviews expands, the business benefits from free advertising and top ranking on online search engines like Google.
Businesses across the global and in St Lucia have been seen using the Tripadvisor awards and recognitions as endorsements to their quality and service excellence by posting them on their websites, storefronts, customer receipts and menus. Customer reviews on third party website like Tripadvisor, add credibility and boasting rights to businesses and potential customers who read these reviews, view them as authentic and trust worthy.
3. GENERATE NEW PRODUCT IDEAS
When giving a review, customers are uninhibited about how they feel about the business, its products and customer service. They often make suggestions about areas for improvements and new product uses – as in the case of Johnson and Johnson’s use of baby oil as an adult moisturizer. It is the best-unpaid research there is and presents significant opportunities to generate new product ideas, product improvements as well as new customer acquisition from word-of-mouth recommendations.
Today, the active encouragement and monitoring of online reviews should be a critical part of a business’ overall brand management and business development strategy. Customer reviews should not be feared even the bad ones since they offer great learning and product improvement opportunities.