Image courtesy of Lola Dalle
A recent study released by market research firm, Opinion Research Corporation, reveals that 61% of surveyed consumers are browsing for online reviews of companies and services before making final purchase decisions. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise for me, since I am one consumer who tends to research heavily before making a decision… sometimes too much. It often sends me down a rabbit-hole exploring review sites in order to make sure that I am absolutely sure I am making the right choice. I recently came to the conclusion that this is even more true for services used ‘once in a blue moon’.
Searching for a Locksmith.
I needed a locksmith to do a very specific type of job… an ignition replacement. Obviously, I don’t call locksmiths very often… and have no loyalty to any particular “brand”. I naturally did a Google search for “locksmiths” in my area. At the top of the results were quite a few local business directories such as Yahoo Local and CitySearch. AAA Locksmith is now staring me in the face, along with A&A Locksmith, ABC Locksmith, and a few dozen more on page one. What I also noticed was the reviews column. Who to call? Well AAA had 0 reviews and grayed out stars, yet A&A had 4 out of 5 stars and 3 reviews. needless to say I couldn’t resist seeing what my neighbors had to say. I ultimately skipped the no-review listing and went for the stars. And I also ended up choosing a great Locksmith (they were, but who knows without a comparison?).
Wow, Reviews are More Important Than I Thought.
It occurred to me later that the types of businesses that could really benefit from online consumer reviews are the ones that rely very little on repeat business. How often do we hire plumbers, roofers, a locksmith, or a real estate agent? How much more important is it to hire a reputable agent than it would be to research a locksmith?
Although IncredibleAgent.com started out as a blog platform vendor, it seems it’s purpose has become real estate agent ranking and reviews (#1 in SERPS for real estate agent reviews)… But the activity on places like Yelp.com and Citysearch is heavy, and the growth of these up-and-coming household names is nothing to ignore. What would you conclude when reading this page as a consumer?
The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth.
This is the new-school of good ‘ol fashioned word-of-mouth. No longer do we totally rely on Aunt Patti’s recommendation for an Agent. How objective is her opinion, really? She may have had a good experience, but how will she really know the consistency of this level of service. I would rather look into a half-dozen detailed reviews and let that weigh in on my decision in addition to Aunt Patti’s. This of course is very disruptive news for an agent so used to the friend of a friend marketing word-of-mouth approach. Creating customer evangelists is important, and the power of an online review can have the same effect over and over again.
Rather than debate on which is more important, online or “real-life” testimonials, we can focus on enhancing the online side while also maintaining the traditional method of obtaining valuable word-of-mouth referrals… it’s great service and relationships any way you slice it.
But to motivate a client to not only pass out your card to their friends and family, but to also log in to Yelp.com and write a positive recommendation, may take an extra bit of effort. When I have a terrible experience with a service provider, my first thought is: “How can I stop their reign of terror… I’m going to write a scathing review and make sure everyone knows… they will be sorry… oh yes mwa ha ha ha ha!” But for some reason, after a pleasant experience I think: “That was great, I really hope they do well, Let’s go to that new restaurant I’m starving!” Am I alone in this thinking?
A Diamond is Forever.
So, to motivate a happy client to write a good online testimonial, simply ask. Shoot an email out with a link to your page on the third-party review site. Make it really easy for them. You might even send a snail mail (It’s back by the way) thank-you card with gentle request and a gift-card. You want that review. A 5 star review, like a diamond, is forever and very valuable. And like a diamond, crushing a bad review is next to impossible without the proper methods.
For more on the subject check out the fanatics at The Society for Word of Mouth.