The Stars Say it All - How Customers Respond to Business Reviews

Unless you're a trendy downtown restaurant, getting reviews for your business can be challenging. No matter how hard you work for a customer, there's no guarantee that they'll decide to review you at the end. Maybe they never review anyone, but rest assured those stars under your business name still matter a great deal. Even if you only have two reviews to another venue's hundreds, the modern consumer 'trusts the stars' to tell them whether a business is good or bad, worthy of their business, or better left alone. Reviews can matter more than location, word of mouth, and months of hard work to provide excellent service to your customers because people have come to rely on the online rating system and the stars are easy to see while your hard work is not.

Trusting the Stars

An interesting point to note is that people don't trust ratings because they want to be easily led, quite the opposite, in fact. Relying on ratings from other customers is really a reaction against the constant push of promotional material. While a business may claim their product is superior, a stack of negative reviews will reveal the truth if the materials or construction is sub-par. This theoretically frees the modern consumer from being blinded by commercials and marketing, able to make decisions based on the real life experiences of their fellow buyers rather than the pretend world of promotions, and it usually works. Other than the occasional warning away from a bad product, online reviews can also help customers find businesses they wouldn't expect to be good, but are. A restaurant that looks completely run down from the outside, for instance, may have nothing but 5 stars for delicious food and great service and those 5 star reviews bring in more customers ready to be pleasantly surprised.

The Number of Reviews

The customer reviewing system is a great idea, but the current system has a few undeniable flaws to consider. The first is that while people have come to trust the average star rating as a powerful determiner of the quality of a business, most don't remember to take number of reviews into account. A 4.5 star rating with thousands of reviews making up this average is a much better sign than a 5 star rating from only two reviews, but people have come to trust that star-graphic alone and will tend to favor the business with only two reviews. Related, the second major flaw in the review system is the dispersal of ratings between multiple online platforms. Some come through social media, some through Yelp or LinkedIn, and yet others are left on industry-related sites meaning you could have dozens of reviews, but only a small handful on each venue people use to make their decisions.

Getting Those Stars

Naturally, you want to boost your number of reviews on your platforms of choice, with Google and Yelp always as great places to start. Some people will review everything no matter what, some never review, and many can be persuaded to review either by an overwhelming experience or in response to a polite request. There are dozens of ways to boost your number of reviews and one of the best is to simply offer a friendly reminder to every customer that you would appreciate online reviews. When they have enjoyed your services, often a minute or two reminiscing and writing about their experience for others is no hassle.

Reviews are an important part of the modern business landscape and you want as many of them as you can get, spread out to all the major business listing sites. Some will allow you to import from other locations, some won't, so be prepared to prioritize one or two rating locations in your efforts to build you a reserve of reviews. This way, customers will finally be able to see how much those who came before them have enjoyed working with your business.

Bryan Caplan