Word-of-mouth marketing has been around for centuries. People love to recommend companies that they’ve enjoyed doing business with, and conversely, warn others of bad experiences. Whether it is a local eatery, health care office or contractor, people are more likely to use a business that has been recommended to them.
With the rise of social media sites, online directories and instant-sharing apps, reviews are just a click away at any time. Word-of-mouth still goes a long way in the digital world. As a matter of fact, 84% of web users value reviews as much as they would value a personal recommendation from a friend. With this in mind, it is no wonder why more and more propane, oil and HVAC companies are shifting their focus to online reviews. However, what exactly, can reviews do for your retail energy business?
Your propane, oil or HVAC-related business may be the best in the area—but if nobody knows about it, you’re not going to get leads. Customer reviews expose your business to readers and increase awareness of who you are and what services you provide. In fact, online reviews are often a customer or prospect’s first exposure to your business. Reviews also tend to build on themselves. Once people start leaving reviews of your business, others will be more compelled to join in. With each new online review creating an opportunity for someone else to come across your brand, your chances of being discovered increase.
Build Credibility & Trust
While you can write the best content about how great your business is, there is no better endorsement than approval from actual customers. With 88% of consumers trusting online reviews when considering a business, reviews are critical to earning their business. Even those less-than-shining, negative reviews help to build trust. Customers increasingly value transparency. By displaying these reviews, you can show that your business has nothing to hide—all while making your positive reviews come across as even more sincere.
Increase Search Engine Rankings
Reviews are crucial to local search engine optimization (SEO) because they get more of the right people to see your business—that is, those who are conducting searches for businesses like yours and the services that you offer.
Better yet, a steady stream of reviews helps boost your rank and visibility on Google and establish a more prominent online presence. The more times your business is mentioned online, the more important search engines consider you to be. With 56% of consumers using search engines as their top source to look for reviews about a business, you want to make sure your business is ranked high.
Gain Insights into Customer Satisfaction
While online reviews are helpful to prospective customers, they’re just as important to your business. Reviews provide existing customers an opportunity to provide objective feedback about your business and the services that you offer. Take time to read through them and use this feedback as indicators to how well your business is doing in terms of customer satisfaction, service and overall experience. Understanding your customers and their expectations can ultimately steer you toward the goal of meeting their needs. In addition, reviews can help you identify who your top employees are and which team members may need some additional training or coaching.
Influence Purchase Decisions
Reviews give prospective customers the information they need to advance from consideration to actually doing business with your company. In fact, 90% of people report that reviews influence their decision to make a purchase. Once prospects browse star ratings, your number of reviews and basic business information, they’ll start reading individual reviews from your customers to see what it’s actually like to do business with you.
While your price range, products and services will likely be somewhat comparable to those of your competitors, it is important to focus on what sets you apart from the rest. Delivering best-in-class service, having a well-trained and courteous team of customer service representatives (CSRs) and offering extended service hours are fairly simple ways to gain high praise from your customers and attract prospects.
Responding to Reviews: The Dos and Don’ts
Once your company starts generating reviews, it’s important to take the next step: responding to them. A recent study found that when businesses respond to customer reviews (even the bad ones), their overall ratings subsequently increase. Skillfully responding to your online reviews not only builds your brand identity, but also keeps your online reputation in check. With so much at stake, it is important to get your responses right.
• Always Apologize: One of the most important things to do when addressing a negative review is to start by acknowledging the customer’s concerns. Even if they seem unfounded, it’s important to empathize and show sympathy that they had a bad experience with your company. This means apologizing—even if the mishap is not your fault. Owning up to the mistake and offering a sincere apology helps diffuse the situation and puts your company in a better light.
• Resolve Any Issues: Don’t just respond to a negative review; fix the problem at hand. By openly explaining what went wrong and how it won’t happen again, you show customers that preventative measures are being taken to truly solve the issue. With consumers trusting online reviews more than ever before, it’s important to go the extra mile, turning a bad situation into a good one.
• Take it Offline: Remember, in the digital world, everyone is watching and the last thing you want is a back-and forth-argument for all to see. If possible, ask the reviewer to call, email or even private message your business so you can privately discuss and resolve any issues they may have. No matter the platform, it is all about making it right and providing a solution.
• Ignore the Negative Reviews: When it comes to addressing negative reviews, they simply cannot be ignored. Not responding to a negative review is a response in itself and it tells everyone who comes across the review that you don’t care about your customers’ feedback or experiences with your business. On the contrary, responding to complaints can help increase customer advocacy and better yet, set your business apart from competitors who are failing to do so. It’s all about showing customers that you’ve heard what they have to say and are more than happy to resolve the issue.
• Be Argumentative: Customers yield a lot of power online, and if you do not carefully think through your response to a negative review, you may fuel an angry customer. When you see a bad review about your company, it’s important to maintain professionalism at all times and under no circumstance become argumentative with customers. Avoid hastily typing up a response to the customer or commenting when you are angry. Instead, stop and take a minute to clear your mind so you can better assess and approach the situation in a calm way.
• Take it Personally: While it’s one thing to take pride in your business and the work that you do, it’s important to remember that your business reviews are not personal. When people leave reviews, it’s a response to the experience they’ve had with your business, just as they would do with any other business. Rather than getting defensive and explaining why the customer is wrong, it is important to show a human side and take a professional approach to express that you generally want to make the upset customer happy. While negative reviews and criticisms of your business may be tough to hear, it should ultimately act as the basis for how your company can evolve and improve.
Recent research found that 70% of customers will leave a review. All you have to do is ask! With reviews playing a pivotal role in generating new business for your company, you can never have too many. Obtaining reviews is an important part of any marketing strategy and must be an ongoing process. ICM