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Online reviews are simply a modern version of ‘word of mouth’, something professional services firms have always relied upon. According to statistics, 93% of people read online reviews before they make a purchase. That makes your business reviews an asset worth building and looking after.

Where should I start?

You may already be familiar with Trustpilot and Feefo as go-to sites for reviews. In addition, you may use Google, Facebook and reviews. There are also increasing numbers of industry-specific review platforms - for solicitors, consider ReviewSolicitors. For financial advisors, you may want to look at VouchedFor or Unbiased. Some sites are free, and others require a subscription. Varying levels of support are offered, too, from collecting feedback to managing feedback, eliminating fake reviews and analysing data, so it is worth spending time comparing features and value for money.

Think about your customers/clients. How do they find you online? Which review sites would be useful and relevant to them? If you are going to pay for a review site subscription, choose the one that best fits your needs. Free options like Google and Facebook can work just as well for local businesses.

Whose role is it anyway?

If you want a consistent approach to managing online reviews within your business, it is a good idea to assign the task to one person or team. Who can speak for the company? Should it be the office manager or marketing team, or does it need to be a senior partner? Would it be useful to have a policy in place defining how reviews are handled, how quickly a response should be given, who is responsible, and what happens when that person is away from their desk? Choose an approach that is right for your business to ensure nothing gets missed.

Positive vibes

Good reviews give us a warm, fuzzy feeling and are a great indicator that we are offering a quality product or service that people want. When you receive a 5-star review, should you reply? Absolutely! It’s an easy way to say thank you and show your appreciation for their business. Clients who feel valued are, in return, more likely to remain loyal to your business.

Too good to be true?

Research also suggests that a mixture of negative and positive reviews appears most trustworthy to the customers. They may consider a 100% ‘5-star’ score as fake, raising their suspicions and reducing trust in your brand. Did you know that a score of 4.2-4.5 has been shown to drive the most sales? So don’t worry about the occasional less-than-perfect score.

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.” - Nikki Giovanni (poet & writer)

You’re human, your colleagues are human, and things don’t always go to plan. The thought of having to deal with negative feedback may be enough to bring you out in a sweat, but it is important that you reply to all reviews, good or otherwise. Prospective clients will want to see how you deal with different situations in case the same thing happens to them.

No one likes criticism, but was it justified?

Did you miss a deadline or fail to keep a customer up to date about how things were progressing? Disgruntled clients are quick to share their views. The best way to deal with a negative review is to respond, be transparent, and offer a solution. Studies have shown that 56% of people have changed their opinion about a business because of a response the business gave to a review.

Learn from your mistakes

Why did things go wrong? What could you or your team have done differently? Do you need to change a procedure or offer more training? Businesses evolve over time, so include feedback from client testimonials as part of this development process.

Policy violations

Every now and again, reviews come along that are simply unjustified or untrue. It isn’t something that you want to be associated with your business, but what can you do? Different sites have their own review policies: do not actively monitor reviews but has a “Notice and Take-Down System”. If a review is reported to them, they will temporarily remove it, investigate and then reach a decision within a few working days. This could be useful if a review is abusive and singles out one member of the team.

On Facebook, Reviews/Ratings can be turned on or off. You can also report inappropriate content, through Meta’s Community Standards, for example, if a review includes hate speech or harassment.

It is possible to report Google reviews, for example, if someone has reviewed a different business with a similar name in error or if their review is offensive. There are different categories to choose from. If ‘not helpful’ is selected, the review will not be reported or removed but will be shown to fewer people.

Not all reported reviews may be deleted by the platform in question, so you still have an opportunity to reply personally with an appropriate message. Don’t be afraid to tell your side of the story if the reviewer has deliberately given false information, but above all, your response should be an opportunity to reach out and offer to resolve the issue.

Added bonus

As well as demonstrating social proof, did you know that online reviews can affect your SEO rankings by over 15%?! But that’s a topic for another day…

Get in touch if you want to learn more about how online reviews can help your business and ways to incorporate them into a wider marketing plan. Cal Partners is a professional services marketing agency based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

About the author

Alison O'Neill

Account Manager, Alison, is a former Forensic Scientist who moved into professional services marketing in 2008 and is a Chartered Marketer and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (MCIM).

Marketing for Professional Services

Cal Partners

The go-to strategic marketing partner for ambitious professional services