by Scott Gordon, The Chief Reputation Officer
As part of my Podium practice, I work with many clients who are grappling with online reputation challenges (see my recent piece on quadrant 2 activities). Many are baffled at their low online reputation scores and cite hundreds if not thousands of “happy” and “repeat” customers as the proof that they run solid, reputable businesses. Yet, even with this repeat business (the holy grail for most companies), they struggle to grow revenue and profits at the pace they would like. They find themselves stuck on a hamster wheel.
Whenever I begin to peel back the onion and look more deeply into these companies’ internal processes, I find that they are correct in all regards. They do, in fact, run solid, reputable businesses that truly care about their customers and do quality work, and they are concurrently stagnant. So, what’s the deal?
At issue here, is the bully pulpit of the internet. While these legitimate businesses do indeed have lots of happy customers, they are not actively soliciting any of them for online reviews by driving them to top customer review sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, Houzz, among myriad others.
Here’s what business owners are up against: unhappy customers are 11x more likely to leave online reviews to “warn” other consumers about their bad experience so they may avoid a similar fate. As if that weren’t a tough enough item to deal with, competitors are also more likely to leave your business reviews than happy customers, and their reviews, in large part, tend to be unflattering attempts to drive existing and potential customers away from your business and (hopefully) to theirs.
Of course, while many of these spurious reviews read as if they were written by non-customers, they still impact the star rating potential clients see when they type “your name” plus “reviews” into Google.
If your star rating is below the magic number ‘4’ on any of the major reviews engines, 93% of consumers will hesitate to contact your business. Additionally, they are subsequently unlikely to dive any deeper than what they see on the first page of Google. They simply move on to the next 4+ star competitor they find (oft assisted by a Google Map, replete with star ratings, listing you along with your top two competitors – thus, this prospects work is done for them).
To make matters worse, there’s a third group of co-conspirators who wish to drag your business through the mud in a public forum: your disgruntled former employees. Again, these unsavory and disingenuous individuals can do significant harm to your reputation if you take your eye of the reputation ball. Some will wait months or even years to inflict their particular style of brand damage, as revenge is a dish best served cold (and the longer they wait, the less likely they are to be caught).
Thus, with the three major threats constantly looming (unhappy customers, competitors, and ex-employees), it is imperative that your business devise an online reputation strategy and empower it with the latest technology to drive more happy customers to leave reviews where they matter.
Because it’s not only your star rating that matters, but the total number of reviews you’ve amassed.
Consider this, you may have a 5 star rating on Google or Yelp (if so, congratulations!), but if you have a low number of reviews, that 5 star rating is very much at risk.
For example, if you have 5 stars, but only 5 total reviews on the site, the following could happen in a very short period of time:
In this example, you are a mere two reviews away from dropping below the magical 4 star threshold. Just two negative reviews and suddenly, 93% of customers hesitate to contact you!
We call this your Reviews Risk Factor. A reviews risk factor is determined by the total number of reviews needed to take your current rating (assuming it’s above 4 stars), to a sub-four star rating. The lower the number, the higher the risk. In the above example, this company’s Review Risk Factor is 2.
On the other hand, a company with a lower star rating, say 4.3, that has 100 reviews looks like this:
When we use this same example with 5 stars and 100 reviews, it takes 36 consecutive 1 star reviews to breach the 4-star mark! This is a risk factor of 36 – a much safer number and something you should be striving for!
Therefore, the solution is to get more happy customers to leave more reviews more often, so that any ‘star impacts’ a negative review causes will be increasingly muted over time.
As you get more reviews, this strategy has the knock on effect of disincentivizing additional negative reviews (particularly from competitors and former employees) as their individual contributions to your overall star rating seemingly have no effect. Since their goal is to get your star rating to drop, the more reviews you collect and distribute across the various customer reviews sites, the harder this goal is to achieve, so they’ll often leave you alone and seek out easier prey.
In sum, the fewer reviews you have, regardless of star rating, the more impactful each new review is. This impact diminishes as more reviews are collected. If you have a high star rating and a low number of reviews, you need to get started building your moat with feature rich reviews management software.
If you have low stars (anything under ‘4’) and a lot of reviews, it’ll be a bit of a climb out of the hole you’re in, but again, with the right strategy and a little time (6-12 months), you’ll be amazed at your change in online reputation fortunes and begin reaping the benefits of more customers and higher profits. Unfortunately, the longer you wait, the deeper the hole and the steeper the climb out.
Don’t let your online reputation management (or lack thereof), get the best of you.
There’s an old Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.