Customer reviews: The reality of ratings and reviews

By Ann Graham, Oct 25 2018
Did you ever hear the story about The Shed at Dulwich? It was London’s top-rated restaurant on Trip Advisor. The only catch was… it didn’t exist.

That’s right, The Shed wasn’t a restaurant. It was barely even a shed. Rather, it was the result of a very clever marketing campaign that centred on customer reviews.

But what customers could possibly be writing reviews of a restaurant that doesn’t exist? The answer, fake ones!

The mastermind behind The Shed was a freelance writer by the name of Oobah Butler. He’d carved a successful career for himself out of writing fake reviews for restaurants, so took it one step further with his campaign for The Shed and the result is something to be seen (check out the video below!)

Butler’s approach to fake reviews is rather extreme but it does shed light (no pun intended, ok perhaps a little) on the power of ratings and reviews.

Customer reviews

In a customer-centric world, reviews can have huge influence – both good and bad. As customers search for goods, products and services they invariably gravitate to the experiences other users have had before them. These may be in the form of case studies and testimonials on your website, comments and reviews on your Facebook page or Google reviews that appear when a customer searches for you or for a relevant search term.

You know those little stars that appear when you’re searching for a real restaurant? Those are your Google Reviews and research has found they have a direct impact on your customer’s purchasing decisions. They also contribute to your reputation as a trustworthy and reliable source of a product or service – or both! In 2014, a survey discovered that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Reviews certainly give prospective customers or clients an insight into the quality of service, products and results they have received from you, but they also do a lot more. Reviews are a major contributing factor to your website’s local SEO. 

Improving your local SEO

Take a moment to think about your own search behaviour. When you’re looking for a product or service, whether it’s for the home, work or the kids, most of us are looking for a local provider. Why? We’re becoming more conscientious about shopping and supporting local, but local is also more convenient.

Google is pretty savvy when it comes to knowing and predicting our behaviour, so its search algorithms will push local business listings to the top of the search results (provided you have good on page SEO of course!) and those businesses who have both good quality and a good number of customer reviews will receive greater credibility and therefore greater presence on the search engine results page.

How to get good customer reviews

Good customer reviews start from within. What level of service are your customers receiving from your staff? What type of experience are they getting from a visit to your website? How friendly a response are they receiving from an email or a phone call? Are they receiving a meaningful experience that’s worth reviewing?

Customer reviews also come from taking a proactive approach with your existing clients. If you don’t ask, you won’t get, but there’s no harm in asking. Every quarter identify a few clients to ask for a review and offer to do one in return. After all, it’s just as fun to give as it is to receive!

Responding to negative reviews

We know it’s not always going to be a bed of roses. There are some clients and customers who can’t be pleased and that’s a risk of living in a digital world. People can submit negative reviews to a public platform, such as Google, without needing your permission.

They are certainly entitled to their opinion and to having their voice heard, so it’s important to acknowledge that. If your organisation receives a poor review, respond to it quickly. Don’t escalate the situation but rather acknowledge the comment and invite any further discussion to be taken offline.

Top tips to make online reviews work for you

  1. Ask your clients to write a review of the service/product you have provided them.
  2. Should you ever receive a negative review, be sure to respond quickly.
  3. Create a CTA on your website, encouraging users to write a review.
  4. Don’t be afraid to use your social media channels to ask for reviews.

And despite the success of The Shed, fake reviews are not advisable! If you have more questions about how to make reviews work for you, or just curious about how a marketing agency could work for you, then get in touch today.

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