As the influence of online reviews and social media becomes more prevalent, there are two common reactions. Businesses either feel cornered and driven to despair, or they are pushed into highly aggressive approaches aimed at quickly acquiring a large volume of positive reviews in the most relevant review sites for their specific market.
Generally speaking, the companies with the highest stakes when it comes to the review race are brick and mortar shops in local economies in urban and suburban areas where the competition for specific segments is fierce. Commonly impacted segments include restaurants, hotels, service providers such as carpenters, mechanics, construction companies, electricians, plumbers, and even attorneys and medical practitioners.
Sometimes, businesses engage in review and reputation management practices that could be construed as less than ethical. It’s not hard to see why. Many do feel like competing in the customer reviews rat race is a matter of the survival of their livelihood.
The range of activities in which a business can engage in an effort to secure additional ratings and reviews is wide. Of course, most review platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Foursquare frown upon these activities and work diligently in revising their policies and algorithms to provide what, in their opinion, are fair and neutral reviews of businesses.
Too good to be true?
A business is held by the standard of its score and rank, whether the reviews of that business are natural and unprompted, or have originated as a result of aggressive solicitation perks, rewards, or simply false engagement. If a high review score or rating begins generating additional customer traffic, the sustainability of that score is only possible by delivering service equal to what was described by the prompted or “bribed” review.
If the online rankings of a business are too good to be true, the owner needs to be cognizant that eventually the very buzz generated by the positive review profile will result in additional natural reviews that will either confirm their ranking or quickly decay what was built under a less than truthful pretense.
While the possibility of unprompted reviews may provoke fear in the heart of business leaders who have artificially boosted their profiles, it is important to keep some perspective and appreciate the value of this process.
Living up to inflated expectations
As a business begins to receive more of a mixed bag of natural/unprompted reviews (posted by actual customers), the opportunity arises to step to the plate and shine. The strategy is beautifully simple: analyze negative feedback (using a tool like ReviewTrackers) and take quick action to correct it. In addition to using the feedback for agile corrective action, businesses can also establish training practices and policies aimed at creating an environment that matches the “highly rated” but not-so-natural reviews.
Always be in prep mode
Share the descriptive characteristics of your best online reviews with your team, and prime your organization to deliver mirror images of the experience expected by new customers based on prior feedback. Use this strategy as an ongoing feedback loop.
If, in fact, you are unable to meet the utopian standards set by artificial or prompted reviews, it is time you embrace normalization and use it as the starting point for something bigger and better. The key is to always be willing to learn from prior mistakes and move forward with vision and commitment.
It is easy to fall prey to flattery. If a review was prompted, it is important that you take the feedback with a grain of salt. Filter your data using review analysis tools, and only take into account reviews that accurately and honestly convey the quality of your products and services.
Businesses big and small need to always remember that the only kind of good review is a review based on reality. The closer a review looks to the way your business operates, the easier it will be for everyone to duplicate or surpass the experience with a new customer.