Today’s post requires a little bit of imagination. Please humor me for a moment as I paint a mental picture:
Imagine, as a small business owner, that as each customer left your shop they were allowed to place a sign right in front of your storefront that told everyone what they thought about their experience with your business. You would have no say in the matter, customers would just pull out a roll of tape and stick it right on your front window. Naturally, some of the signs might say great things like “This is a great place to shop!”, while others might possibly say less than favorable things. As the business owner, you are powerless to take the signs off your storefront or change them in any way. You’re stuck with them.
As prospective customers come across your store, they see several signs, all of which are competing for their attention. Naturally, their eye is drawn to the less than favorable signs and they have to make a decision — Do I shop here regardless of what that sign says? Some might be brave enough to try, but an untold number of prospective customers hop in their car, drive off and never look back.
Okay, back to reality. Thank goodness, right?!
While it’s certainly a good thing that customers can’t slap signs all over your storefront, you might be surprised to know that the equivalent of this scenario takes place online all day, every day.
When people are searching Google for the products and services you offer in your local area, your online storefront is very likely not your homepage where you can control what a person sees. Instead, searchers are likely to be presented with your “Google Places” listing which can show rating stars and a link to reviews from all around the web right in the search results page.
On the flip side, let’s say someone is searching specifically for your business name; again they are very likely presented with several ways to read reviews about your business online. Sure, they can go to your homepage if they choose, because it’s there among the search results too (if it’s not, we need to talk 😉 ), but consumers want to know they are making a smart choice and are curious about the experience of others.
Chances are that your potential customers will read reviews if presented with them. Naturally, these prospective customers are looking out for the worst case scenario so that they can avoid making a similar mistake.
Practically everywhere consumers look online, they are given user generated reviews. These reviews are the online equivalent of the signs taped to your storefront mentioned above. Before a potential customer gets to your storefront, they are faced with the ability to hear the good, the bad and the down right ugly online and there is very likely nothing you can do about it.
Even though you can’t take down the negative reviews or change what they say, you can do a few things to clean up your online reputation if you find yourself faced with negative reviews online. And the truth is, how you respond when a negative review rears its ugly head, will mean the difference between customers passing you by or giving you a try.