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Online reviews are crucial to gaining the trust of prospective customers, ensuring visibility and gaining brand recognition. They have a direct impact on key performance measures including ranking on review sites, third party distribution websites (OTAs), search engines, online reputation and overall sales and conversion rates.
In our recent research of over 2,000 UK consumers, we looked into how consumers view and interact with online reviews. We found that more than one in three (38%) people always read reviews before making a booking or placing an order, while an additional quarter said that they sometimes do. So, with over half of all consumers being influenced by online reviews, it’s worth paying attention to the details that customers remember.
Nearly half (45%) of people said that bad customer service would be the top reason for leaving a negative review, whilst half (50%) said that good customer service would encourage them to leave a recommendation. Fine food retailers, which are typically known for their customer service and offering personal touches for their customers, are in a strong position to capitalise on this and achieve high numbers of online reviews.
The best way to ensure that staff provide an outstanding experience is to make sure that they are happy at work. While this seems simple, many businesses fail meet this requirement. Employee wellbeing should always be high on the priority list as the benefits include increased productivity, staff satisfaction, team morale, and reduced absenteeism, among others.
Happy employees equal happy customers, so introduce a culture of reward and recognition. This can be as simple as encouraging positive communication between staff and letting them know that their efforts are appreciated. Positive reinforcement will ensure that staff remain engaged and dedicated, in turn ensuring that customers are too.
With only 7% of people saying that they’d usually leave a review, fine food retailers and hospitality operators need to be proactive in encouraging customers to leave one, and this needn’t be an awkward process. But it’s important to consider their experience first. If the customer has had a fantastic, trouble-free experience then go ahead and ask for a review.
Reviews can be requested via customer surveys, comment forms and follow-up email links, which are subtle yet direct methods that make it quick and easy for customers. Follow up emails should also come from a person instead of a faceless entity as this tends to increase response rates and gives the brand a human touch.
However, if a customer has had a negative experience, ensure that staff have done everything in their power to address the complaint before considering a review request. Customers may still leave with a positive impression if everything has been done to rectify a problem.
Reviews and testimonials are incredibly important for gaining customer trust. However, only 8% of people trust reviews on a business’s own site, so think about the placement of reviews to achieve maximum impact. Encourage customers to leave reviews on third-party booking sites or social media, as prospective customers will be more likely to trust their legitimacy.
Always avoid incentivising reviews. Offering rewards in exchange for a review is unethical and encourages fake responses that fail to reflect products or services authentically. Giving away incentives in exchange for reviews also gives the impression that incentives have been offered to all reviewers, negating authenticity and discouraging trust in the long-term.
Gaining a higher volume of ratings will improve competitive online positioning and visibility but most importantly, attract new customers. So, the number of reviews received online can directly impact revenue.
We all like to feel special every now and then, so the key to gaining positive reviews is to make sure that customers leave feeling indulged. Good customer service, excellent communication, and rectifying problems quickly are the best ways to make sure that customers become true brand ambassadors both in-person and online.