Online Reviews – Do Your Customers Trust Them?

Marc Charette

May 2024

Is Your Trust In What You Read Online Going Down?

If you own a small business or are responsible for a business’s online reputation, you’ll undoubtedly have to deal with asking for reviews, responding to reviews and making sure that the overall conversation about your business is positive.

The best way to do that is, simply, run a fantastic business where people feel compelled to tell their story about dealing with you and just how wonderful it was. So if you do run a great business, why is it still so hard to get fantastic reviews?

The erosion of trust in large organisations may have something to do with it. And retaining the trust of your customers may have been impacted by how often we’ve lost trust in the big players, including government agencies, multinational corporations, news agencies, etc.

In this blog post, I’ll explore the shifting dynamics of trust and provide practical strategies to help your small business gain the trust of potential future customers, and keep it authentic.

The Decline of Trust in Large Organisations

High-profile scandals, data breaches, and perceived lack of accountability have eroded the public’s confidence in so many large organisations that the sentiment of trust has never been worse.

We can’t go a week without hearing about a data breach, a scam, some major company getting caught selling data that was supposed to be kept private, and the list goes on. In short, the bigger you are, the harder it is to manage data, provide great individualised service and build person-to-person referable trust.

So what does that mean when it comes to you as a small business? This big mess at the top may create an opportunity to capitalise on this trend by positioning your business as a more trustworthy and personalised alternative.

The Power of Personal Referrals and Relationships

In the face of this erosion of trust at the top, Australians are increasingly turning to personal referrals and relationships when making purchasing decisions. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family, and trusted community members carry significant weight. As a small business, fostering strong relationships with your customers and encouraging positive referrals can be a powerful way to build and retain trust.

The Role of Online Reviews

Online reviews have become an integral part of the decision-making process for many consumers. This is why, having a dedicated strategy for online reviews is critical. There’s three parts to the process:

  1. Ask for reviews
  2. Respond to reviews
  3. Showcase your reviews

Of course there’s more to it than that, but in essence that’s the process. But then what about reviews that don’t go so well? Can bad reviews be good?

When Bad Reviews Are Good For Business

While positive reviews can help build trust and credibility, negative reviews can also quickly undermine a small business’s reputation. It’s crucial to monitor actively and respond to online reviews, addressing any concerns or issues in a timely and professional manner. By demonstrating a commitment to customer satisfaction, you can turn negative reviews into opportunities to showcase your responsiveness and dedication to your clients.

Strategies for Retaining Trust as a Small Business

To retain the trust of your customers in the current business landscape, consider implementing the following strategies:

  1. Prioritise Transparency: Be open and honest about your business practices, pricing, and any potential challenges or changes. Transparency builds confidence and demonstrates your commitment to your customers. (This is where a lot of the big players fail most.)
  2. Deliver Exceptional Customer Service: Ensure that your team is well-trained, responsive, and dedicated to providing a personalised and positive experience for every customer. Prompt and empathetic problem-solving can go a long way in creating and maintaining trust.
  3. Leverage Social Media: Use social media platforms to showcase your brand’s personality, share behind-the-scenes (BTS) content, and engage with your customers. This can help humanise your business and foster a sense of community. I’ll share more on how you can create fantastic BTS content for your business in another post.
  4. Encourage Positive Reviews: Proactively ask not just satisfied customers, but all customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google, or industry-specific directories. Positive reviews can help offset any negative feedback and reinforce your trustworthiness.

* This is your golden nugget. You’d be surprised how many of your clients are ecstatic about their experience with you, but simply fail to see the importance of sharing that experience publicly. After all, they’re not buying from you simply to grow your business, so it’s no surprise they don’t see how much positive reviews impact your business.

** And if the reviewer is another business, this is a great chance to say a few nice things about their business too. If you do that, they may even share your response to the review they left you on their socials… now that’s a bonus!

  1. Showcase your reviews on your website and social media: Although most people will see your Google reviews on your Google Business Profile (the single most important place online for your business other than your website), it’s a great idea to also showcase your reviews on your website on a ‘reviews/testimonials page or on a slider widget of some sort.

This way, if people have gone straight to your website, those reviews are reinforcing your brand experience front and centre where people are already sufficiently engaged with your business.

Next, showcase reviews as social media posts. This is one of the best strategies to create positive posts. This is also where as previously stated, saying great things about another business is not only easy, you can tag them too!

  1. Continuously Improve: Regularly solicit feedback from your customers, analyse your performance, and make adjustments to your products, services, and processes. Demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement can further strengthen your customers’ trust.

This is where you can take reviews to a higher level, such as a survey. You can be far more specific in surveys too and you may not want to reach out to everyone in this instance, especially if you’ve kept good records about who’s bought what from you. You can be targeted. This also demonstrates to your customers how much you care and how professional you are.

Your small business can outplay the big players time and time again with a great reviews and online reputation building strategy. And yes, it is a strategy… not a a one trick pony. You have to work at it. It takes time. You may get a few things wrong along the way too. But by far, reviews are trusted more when they’re authentic.

As a small business, reviews can give you the upper hand and win more business from customers who truly are a right fit for your offer. If you’d like to learn more about how to develop your online review strategy, you can reach me at my contact details below.

Marc Charette is a Google Trusted photographer who also offers local SEO and Online reputation building services for his clients as a complete package to optimise your Google Business Profile and other online marketing assets.

Central Coast Digital Media / Work Pics 360