Everyone holds access to the Internet in their pocket these days, and consumers have readily adapted to this new norm when it comes to how they conduct research prior to making a purchase.
Consumers now know where they want to spend their money before they even make the decision to spend it.
This is largely driven by trust in the experiences of others. Ninety-one percent of 18- to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In a sense, online reviews are the new and improved Yellow Pages.
Evolving Consumer Buying Habits
In the past, marketing and word-of-mouth from existing customers were the two ways a business brought awareness to its products. Communication from companies, whether through ads, sponsorships or PR, had to focus on educating the customer, convincing them to spend their hard-earned money and creating urgency before they were distracted by something else.
With the Smartphone delivering consumers more relevant information in real time, however, “push” methods are falling into disuse, and “pull” methods are taking over.
When a shopper (including mortgage shoppers) finds a business online, they have already shown that they understand the product, have searched for it because they want to make a purchase decision and are in that urgency state.
For example, if you’re looking for a restaurant recommendation (let’s say Italian food), you probably search on Google or Yelp first and read the experiences of people who have already eaten there.
Stats in 2018 show that this process represents 86% of consumers of local businesses (95% for those aged 18-34.)
Benefits of Consumer Reviews
Many small businesses are concerned about the control over the reviews that are left by consumers; many feel like they are losing control, and they don’t like that. Not only is that a myth but the reality is the complete opposite. Businesses now have more control than ever over the reviews left by their customers—86% of them would consider leaving reviews for businesses and 89% read a company’s responses to reviews.
Online reviews also allow businesses instand access to negative feedback, unlike in the past where negative word-of-mouth might be happening in an environment far removed from their sphere of knowledge. Companies can not only respond directly to negative reviews, but they can turn them into an opportunity by acknowledging legitimate concerns and solving issues before they escalate.
Businesses can also use reviews as a free resource for market research, discovering potential blind spots and seeing the buying experience through the eyes of the customer.
From a consumer perspective, they are now becoming review-savvy. Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a business. A growing percentage of consumers require multiple reviews to be able to trust the product or company.
How Brokers Can Use This Knowledge
When online reviews are left about a product or the business as a whole, a number of actions can be taken. Some best practices include:
Be quick to respond to them. As stated earlier, people read companies’ responses to reviews and make decisions based on that almost as much as the original review. If they know you care (they can tell by your responses to reviews), they are more likely to trust you further.
Respond like a person instead of a business. If prospective customers see that behind the business/brand is a person, they will trust you more than if they think of you as a shadowy corporation.
Try not to take reviews offline. Instead, address them on the site. Consumers are review-savvy and can spot and differentiate between a reasonable and an inauthentic review. They’re also more likely to trust the business if they can see that you’re making an effort to respond to negative reviews compared to businesses that have only positive reviews.
If there is a legitimate negative review and the business is clearly in the wrong, admit that a mistake has been made and take measures to correct it to reinforce trust.
What to do with Negative Reviews
As for how to turn negative reviews into positive customer advocates, make sure to:
Determine how accurate the review is and make an effort to reach out to the disgruntled customer in order to resolve their complaint.
Once the problem is solved, ask the reviewer if they are willing to change the review. Most customers are happy to change their review if the problem they faced has been corrected. In fact, they are more likely to be more forceful advocates of businesses that have gone to the trouble to right a wrong.
Be consistent in responding to the negative reviews and make sure to address them as quickly as possible.
Stand your ground if the review is unreasonable and inaccurate. This will show that you are aware of the accuracy of the reviews and will interest potential customers who spend more time reading through all the reviews and responses.