The number of visitors to consumer review sites is growing and growing fast. A quick look at Compete.com reveals that Yelp.com’s traffic grew 61.55% to 12 million visitors per month over the last year. Urban spoon, a review site for restaurants, has grown 58.82% in12 months to reach 2,797,932 unique visitors a month.
If you are in a service business (and who isn’t?), you should think carefully about these numbers and what they mean for your business. They mean that a lot of potential customers are looking to see how your service is online before they pay you a visit or place an order.
Many small businesses don’t really stay on top of their online reputations. The old adage in business was about how destructive negative word of mouth was. Jill Griffith, author of “Customer Service: How to Earn It, How to Keep It” wrote in The Austin Business Journal that an average unhappy customer tells 8-10 people about the negative experience. One in 5 tells 20 people or more. She wrote that in 1999.
Now the unhappy customer who leaves a restaurant dissatisfied may spread the bad word of mouth AND put a negative comment on Urban Spoon. That review may be found by potential patrons looking for the phone number to make a reservation or address of the establishment for a long time to come.
I recently looked up a recycler on Google, and he had six reviews, which was great. But, all six were bad. I mean terrible. “Run Like Heck.” “Don’t buy here under any circumstance.” I asked the owner if he knew about them, and he said, “Yes, and all those customers were lousy.” Yep. He understands the value of a review! NOT. You think those reviews might affect his future business? You are kidding yourself if you think people arent checking ratings and reviews. Perhaps not all, but more and more are all the time.
The cost of a business with negative reviews is larger than most small business owners realize. I was listening to a National Public Radio story a few months back about a start up restaurant that invested millions of dollars to get the doors open but did not bother to keep up with what was being said on user-driven review sites.
When business dipped, the owner did the math and figured out that a well placed negative review literally cost him $10,000.
He gave his front line employees the freedom to do whatever it took to make sure that patrons left happy. He ended up having to kiss some hinnies, but he dramatically improved the online reputation of his restaurant.
He also made it easy for those who were positively impressed with the food and service to find their way to review sites and to recommend his place on Yelp, Urban Spoon and to friend the restaurant on Facebook.
By making a positive effort, he got evangelists for the service and food at his restaurant to recommend it to friends on sites like Facebook. Consider how much more powerful the recommendation of a trusted friend is than that of a stranger.
The bottom line is, regardless of your business—make sure you are managing your online reputation. Stay tuned here next month for some simple tools to help you manage the online reputation of your business.
Remember only you can make business great!
Ron Sturgeon, business owner, consultant and peer bench marketing leader, combines over 35 years of entrepreneurship with an extensive resume in consulting, speaking and business writing. Ron can be reached at 5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117, 817-834-3625 or by email at rons@MrMissonPossible.com.