Since the dawn of media advertising, consumers have learned to be skeptical of promises made by companies. We’ve all been disappointed in a buy that didn’t live up to the hype, and we’ve learned to protect our expectations and our wallets until a product or service proves worthy.
According to a Nielsen “Global Trust in Advertising” study from 2015, branded websites are less trusted than recommendations from friends and family, and two-thirds of people trust consumer opinions posted online.
We instinctively trust the opinions of people who have nothing to gain from convincing us to make a purchase.
Furthermore, we need social proof before we buy.
Here’s what that means for you as a marketer…
Even if every amazing aspect of your company is quantifiably true, screaming that truth from the rooftops won’t earn you the trust of your target audience. Your voice simply doesn’t carry as well as the voices of your customers—which is why every organization needs to leverage authentic customer feedback.
Why You Should Leverage Honest and Authentic Reviews
Customer ratings and reviews lend credibility to your brand. But beyond that, they increase your online presence and exposure.
The more and better reviews your business has, the higher you rank on local search.
Ratings and reviews are also one of the best ways to improve and offer your customers exactly what they’re looking for. Businesses used to rely on surveys and comment/complaint cards to know the good and the bad. Now, you have a treasure trove of honest feedback about your company at your fingertips.
While it may be uncomfortable to open yourself up to potentially negative reviews, there’s a lot of value in getting honest feedback—good or bad.
The goal is to grow a thick enough skin that occasional harsh comments can be read as helpful and valuable resources. And by responding to them properly, you’ll find they help your business flourish.
How to Use Feedback to Your Advantage
Here’s a quick how-to guide to making your customers’ opinions work for you:
Don’t fear authenticity.
It can be oh-so-tempting to recover from bad reviews by incentivizing positive reviews, or by stooping so low as to write your own.
Don’t do this!
Customers can smell bologna from a mile away, and it won’t fix what’s broken. Helpful critiques and even unhelpful, rampant negativity are inevitable. Instead of trying to smother these comments or coat them with sugar, let them breathe.
If you’re doing things right, customers who love your brand will improve that star rating in no time, and those negative comments give you a chance to respond and make things right—or at least apologize.
Claim your platform review listings.
Before you can bury the hatchet with an angry customer, you have to know where to find them. Claim all of your listings so that you can stay up-to-date on feedback and respond to complaints and praise.
The better you keep up with your reviews, the more control you will have, even if customer feedback is ultimately out of your hands. Create social media accounts across multiple platforms so that you can actively monitor and even search for reviews. Be sure to remove duplicate listings to prevent confusion.
This will also give you the opportunity to put the correct information out in the world. If your listings go unclaimed, they might include the wrong information or no information about your services, hours, location, etc.
Remember, if a would-be customer is inconvenienced by inaccurate information, they are going to blame you.
Add a reviews and testimonials page to your website.
The Nielsen study concluded that a branded website is the second-most-trusted advertising format, behind word of mouth from family and friends and before other customer reviews.
Prioritize a sleek and user-friendly website that acts as a central hub for every single bit of information someone might want to know about your brand—customer reviews included.
Even though you’ll control how reviews are displayed on your own website, it’s crucial that visitors get a strong sense of authenticity and see you openly interacting with displeased customers instead of trying to hush or censor them.
Let people know how and where to leave a review.
It may be in poor taste to incentivize good reviews, but there’s nothing wrong with letting people know the option is out there!
Whether your store is brick-and-mortar or ecommerce or both, make sure there are banners stating where to rate your businesses. If customers like what you have to offer, many of them will be willing to do you a solid and leave positive reviews of their own volition!
Most negative experiences can be smoothed over by making apologies or making amends.
Many negative experiences are anomalies or result from unmet expectations that someone has built up before interacting meaningfully with your business. Be present and address complaints.
Sometimes handling the aftermath of a negative review in a mature way can turn someone from a hater to a vocal advocate.
Absorb the feedback and improve.
Every once in a while, you’ll hear from a customer who’s unnecessarily cranky and has no suggestions for improvement—only complaints.
It’s okay to respond as politely as possible and then write off their opinion. But if you find yourself inwardly calling every negative reviewer a cranky jerk who deserves to be ignored, the problem may be your perspective, not theirs.
There’s a little sparkly diamond to be squeezed out of most chunks of coal. Do your business a favor and mull over every bit of negative feedback before writing off a comment.
Make sure your responses to customer reviews mesh with your brand voice. Whatever you want to convey through your own content, convey it in every interaction with a customer, whether they’re pleased or disappointed.
One last suggestion…
Brag about the good reviews by including them in promotional emails or sharing them on social media. Every review and every interaction is a building block of your brand that allows prospective customers to place their hard-earned trust in it.
About the Author: Hannah West writes about the newest technology tools and trends for TrustRadius and is the author of young adult fantasy novels Kingdom of Ash and Briars and upcoming Realm of Ruins. She holds a degree in French that rarely comes in handy and lives in Texas with her husband. Follow her on Twitter.