The way people choose the businesses they buy products and services from has changed fundamentally with the near-universal adoption of the internet and its various review sites. While in the past, people learned about products and services largely through word of mouth, today, online reviews on sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp could make or break your business.

These days, people place a lot of trust online reviews: one survey found that 88% of people trust reviews on Facebook and Yelp just as much as personal recommendations. With this in mind, today we’re going over why a strong online reputation is crucial for any modern business and how you can boost this through online reviews.

What is business reputation?

Your business reputation is how the outside world sees your business. It consists of things like your company ethics, commitment to your customers, the quality and value that you offer as well as your management and vision for the future.

A good company reputation also means answering customer queries quickly and not blaming your customer but rather seeking to rectify any issues yourself. It’s about showing corporate responsibility by giving back to the wider community and keeping on top of the latest technology developments and innovations in order to be seen as a market leader in your field.

How your business reputation affects your finances

While it might be difficult to put an exact figure on the financial impact that a bad company reputation could have on your business, there are studies and some real-life examples that can help illuminate this a bit better. 

A Harvard Business School study found that for restaurants, there was an estimated 18% difference in revenue between 3-star and 5-star establishments. Meanwhile, a construction company was awarded $750,000 for lost revenue after it sued someone for a defamatory review published on Yelp and a site called Angie’s List. These examples go to show that the financial consequences of as few as one bad online review can be huge.

Company reputation & hiring new talent

Another way a poor business reputation can negatively affect your company’s financial standing is the way it can cause trouble attracting and retaining the top talent in your field. Surveys suggest that 76% of people would be unlikely to accept a job offer from a company with a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed, while one in two might say yes if they received a significant pay rise with their new job at a company with a poor reputation. 

Additionally, a LinkedIn study found that companies with a good online reputation had a 28% lower turnover rate, meaning that hanging onto talented staff is easier when they’re proud of where they work.

Choosing the right review sites & how to get reviews

Choose only a few sites you want to get reviews on and complete profiles for them with essential information about your company. Focusing on fewer sites means you have your reviews more centralised. This means that your would-be customers can appreciate the full scope of your company reputation and that you can monitor it more carefully. Adding details like pictures, opening hours and directions means your potential customers have all the information they need in one place and that they have fewer barriers for purchasing from you.

To attract more reviews, make sure your customers know where they can leave a review. So ask your favourite clients in person if they could leave you an online review. Additionally, add a call to action asking for reviews into sales literature, at the end of emails and on receipts. 

Remember to ask for a review as soon as possible after a customer has bought from you as their memory will be fresh. Our next two blog posts will go into more detail on how to get more online customer reviews for your business, so stay tuned.

The issues with fake reviews

Whatever you do, never buy fake reviews. If you’re unfamiliar with this phenomenon, fake reviews are a common way for shady businesses to artificially boost their business reputation online by paying for people to post fake reviews that praise them. So even if you’re putting in lots of hard work building your reputation the honest, organic way, a morally questionable competitor could be stealing your thunder with fake reviews. 

Paying for online reviews is a bad idea because if you get found out, your reputation will suffer immensely. Likewise, if you get customers expecting outstanding products and services, they are more likely to be sorely disappointed if your company offering doesn’t match the expectations that fake reviews have built for them. This can lead to some angry backlash on review sites.

Responding to reviews

Once the reviews start coming in, you should make the most of them by interacting with the customers who have taken the time to review you: make sure you thank people who’ve left positive reviews both online and in-person and respond to negative reviews quickly with sincere apologies and offer ways to fix the issue. Sign up for alerts from review sites to be notified when someone reviews you: this will allow you to respond to them quickly.

Make sure you show that you’re taking steps to learn from the feedback you’re getting by adding this level of detail to your responses to critical reviews. And remember to thank your customer even for a negative review and remain courteous and apologetic even if you feel like the criticism isn’t fair. While it may be difficult to do so, offering a refund even if you strongly feel your customer is wrong can help mitigate the impact of their negative review. 

Keep in mind that customers often vent their frustrations in the form of negative online reviews as a last resort, so make sure you provide ample opportunities for customers to get in touch with you directly to rectify any issues before they take to the internet to complain about you.