How important are online reviews?

Customers and business alike are relying more and more on the online reviews that their valued customers write. As we live in an increasingly digital world, reviews are becoming the new “word of mouth” advertising, treated as a personal recommendation that so many businesses rely on to make their enterprise viable. How important are online reviews? And, what happens when a business gets a less-than-stellar review?

Increasingly people are placing more trust in online reviews and they are often the key influencing factor in a buying decision. In fact the most recent stats show that now over 92% of consumers read online reviews. 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews.

But, just how damaging are negative reviews? In a recent news article, a Vancouver lawyer sued a former client for a scathing negative review and claimed at trial that a Google review calling her the “worstest lawyer” led to a decline in client calls, citing damages of $15,000. The Judge awarded her only $1 in damages, mainly because she did not prove the extent and calculation of the damages, but also noted that the claim should never have been brought forward.

It’s interesting to note that lawyer Kyla Lee and her firm, Acumen Law Corp have received a few unflattering reviews from multiple sources, including Facebook and Yelp. The judge also noted that surely every business cannot expect to have all favourable reviews.

Suffice to say that all online reviews should, in this day and age, be treated as an important facet of any business. Some business ignore them, but their potential customers do not. Some business owners only respond to the most negative reviews and tend to be defensive in explanation. Most well informed business owners treat online reviews as gold. It gives them an opportunity to both thank the customers who have taken the time to write one and express their renewed level of commitment to good customer service to the less favourable ones. Nobody is perfect.

Google measures online reviews and it affects the local rankings. Local search engines love online reviews because consumers love online reviews. Consumers view relevant and recent reviews as being the bellwether and reliable indicator of how a business treats its customers. A business that responds to all reviews demonstrates a business owner that is engaged, concerned and committed to providing a positive experience that their customers have with their service or products and employees.

A prudent business owner would be well served to get as many reviews and from as many online sources as possible. Responding to all reviews in a courteous and professional manner demonstrates a fair and customer oriented attitude. It’s good for business. It’s also good for Google local search ranking.