Al’s Column: Getting the most from online reviews

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July 4/11, 2016; Volume 30, Number 27

By Paul Friederichsen

Let’s face it—nobody likes to be “reviewed” because none of us likes the risk of criticism. In fact, most of us tend to take it personally. Like it or not, online reviews are here to stay.

These days, everybody is online—especially consumers in the market for floor coverings. More frequently, consumers who are thinking of replacing a floor are looking online for answers: what to buy and where to buy it. That means she’s probably paying close attention to online reviews. In fact, research says 70% of online customers rely on reviews before making a purchase. So, if you’re not listed on a review site then you’re not in the game. Even worse, if you are online but your reviews are lousy, you’re already losing.

That’s why understanding the world of online reviews is so essential in marketing today. To begin with, what is the online review landscape for a floor covering dealer? Here are the sites that should be on your radar:

  • Angie’s List
  • Yelp
  • Google My Business
  • Yahoo! Local Listings
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Facebook Ratings and Reviews

So, how do you get positive reviews? Think branding. In Brian Gracon’s book “Meconomics 101” he lists three brands that every dealer needs to be mindful of to ensure customer satisfaction: Your store’s brand, your associate’s personal “brand” (how they deliver customer service, etc.) and the flooring brands you carry on your showroom floor. A shortcoming in any of the three brands could result in a poor online review. And here’s the really sobering news: Studies have shown that behind every angry or upset customer with an online review, there are an average of 26 more who have chosen to remain silent.

Truth is, there is no online magic bullet, quick fix or short cut to get positive online reviews for your business. There is simply delivering amazing customer experience across the three brands consistently. Do that, experts say, and you will reap the good graces, loyalty and reviews of happy customers.

How can you encourage customers to post good reviews?

Rule #1: Never ask for a “good review.” Ask for an honest one.

Rule #2: Don’t be afraid to ask for a review.

There are a number of ways to do this, whether it’s on your website, your social media, your newsletters or email program, your on-hold recording, your business cards, your in-store signage, etc. It’s all about customer engagement that’s genuine and responsive. Remember this: For every positive review, there are, on average, eight more behind that didn’t bother to post. And never forget to say “Thank you.”

What if you get a bad review? First of all, it’s your business that’s being reviewed, not you. And no matter how hard you try, not everyone is going to like your business and bad reviews will happen. So keep these tips in mind:

1.Respond publicly and respectfully but not defensively.

2.Learn from it; a sincere criticism is actually doing your business a favor.

3.Remember your business is not going to be a good fit for everyone—nor should it be.

4.Some people are just jerks or things aren’t going well in their world. Just move on.

Think of online reviews like a patch in your overall marketing garden; it needs care, occasional weeding and good stuff to overcome the bad. With proper tending, the fruits can be beautiful and attractive to others. Bottom line: Celebrate those on your website, in your advertising and, just as important, with your staff. Build your business on the momentum created by good, honest reviews and take your business to the next level.

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