How do customers use online reviews?
1. Star rating glance test
Many consumers come across your online reviews because they’re doing research on a number of businesses and want to narrow down the list. They might start with a search engine or go straight to their favourite review sites. Either way, they’ll perform a quick category search like “dentist in Wavertree.” The top choices will usually be the businesses with the highest star ratings. If you have a good average rating, they’ll click on your profile to learn more. If not, they’ll pass you over.
2. Reading reviews
It sounds obvious, but not all customers read reviews—or read them the same way. Studies have shown that most consumers read 2–5 reviews for any business they’re seriously considering. Within those, they’ll look for clues about the issues that are most important to them. Some consumers put a lot of weight in the specifics of the reviews, others simply ready the first sentence or two to make sure the person knows what they’re talking about. Some read the top reviews they find, some skip down to the middle and pick one at random.
3. Customer fit test
Sometimes, consumers read reviews to try to figure out why a reviewer has given the rating they have. Here, the question is: “Am I like the people who are reviewing, or are they looking for something different to me?” Consumers in this category tend to be savvy review-users who have been burned in the past when they went with the average star ratings alone. After all, just because someone likes a business doesn’t mean everyone will like it: we all need different things. One customer might prize a hardware store for comprehensive selection and not really care if the staff are helpful, while the other might only have basic needs but need a lot of assistance to find the right tool.
4. Negative review search
The smartest review users will look at some of your most negative reviews, no matter how many 5-star ratings you get. They’re looking to see how you handle the situation when things go wrong. Often, your fiercest advocates are initially unhappy customers that you managed to win back through careful attention and a quick response; therefore, by looking at negative reviews, consumers can judge how well your business recovers from a fumble.
If you want to know more about online reputation, watch our video, Rob Thomas explains how online reputation helps you stand out from the crowd.
For more insights on how to maximise the impact of positive reviews and how to handle and prevent negative ones, download our practical handbook and take control of your online reputation.