2018 had both constant and change in the world of online reviews. While we often focus on the day to day changes in tactics for reputation management, it’s important to zoom out to take inventory of what’s transpired at a high-level view, and how it can inform what we do next at GatherUp.
I wanted to outline some of the bigger takeaways from online reviews in 2018, what those signal to us and how we will be incorporating them into our 2019 plans. Both in what features we build or enhance and how we talk about what we are doing.
1- Reviews Are A Conversation
A couple of different signals in 2018 hit upon the fact that consumers want interaction with online reviews, and so do the review sites. The first was in May when Google fixed their review reply notification email to consumers after years of it being broken. This fix has helped both consumers and the business have dialogue through reviews, making it more than just a posting.
We also saw multiple surveys report that consumers and search engines value the business replying to reviews. Bright Local cites that 30% of consumers highly value businesses’ responses to reviews, making it just as important as the sentiment of the review (32%) and the detail of the review (33%).
The importance of responding to your customers has long been at the core of GatherUp. Responding to 1st-party reviews privately within the platform, or publicly through our Review Widget on your website, lets your customer know you care and that you read their comments. Responses are threaded in each customer’s profile so you have a complete history of each interaction. You can respond to your Google reviews from your GatherUp account (this is in BETA currently, just email firstname.lastname@example.org for access) and we’ll drop you right into other reviews to respond with 1-click.
We even updated our own email notifications this past year for feedback, reviews, Google Q&A, and reports.
What’s ahead in 2019: In the coming year we’ll be taking replies in GatherUp even further. We’ll be creating an “inbox” that will allow you to track, prioritize, assign and respond to make sure all responses are on point and close the loop. The conversation of reviews is just getting started when your customer responds to your review request, we’ll be helping you make that conversation one of high value to both parties.
2- Strategy Over Tactics
Stars are great, stars are simple, but stars are not everything. A 5-star review without words to tell you why the experience with your business was so great really isn’t that great. A 2-star review without an explanation of what went wrong leaves you in the dark. As the example below shows, one customer cites bad follow-through and timing for his 1-star review while the other only lets you know they were unhappy.
While the benefits of building a great profile of Google reviews are obvious, the deeper strategy of reviews should be to benefit from what your customers can help you learn. Each review is an opportunity to learn about your customer, your business, and the experience the two shared. I don’t feel this could be over-valued, it’s why we say “listening is a business superpower.”
Your review strategy should be to learn and improve, as that will drive more quality and authentic reviews in the long run… and MANY happy humans referring your business. That’s the real flywheel you are looking to create.
Previous posts from Mike Blumenthal and I have outlined the equal weight a business should put on 1st-party reviews and 3rd-party reviews. The more you can get your customers to talk to you, the more you can learn from them. 1st-party reviews come in bigger quantities and allow you to have a direct, and often more candid, conversation with your customer. We believe you should make the most of it.
This belief was represented in multiple features we rolled out in 2018. The addition of Google Q&A monitoring gave you one more way to listen to you customers. Recently we launched Auto-tagging so that a business can better understand themes in their 1st-party reviews and also power content specific review widgets to benefit web pages on services, products, and geo-locations.
What’s ahead in 2019: In the coming year we will continue to double down on the core belief that anything your customer is willing to share with you, in any way, is valuable. We’re developing an Insights report that will help you know “what you don’t know” by bringing to the surface what customers are talking about and what way that conversation is trending. Publicly sharing these reviews are important as well and our Review widget will be getting new layouts and options very soon.
3- Good For The Customer
The process and outcome of writing a review should benefit both sides. I’ve outlined before some pretty lengthy surveys that some businesses put their customers through just to have a say. That’s crazy. The customer doesn’t owe you 20 minutes of their day, they already gave you their money. Businesses should work to make customer feedback and online reviews easy for their customers.
GatherUp’s goal is to be the best 2-minute conversation post experience possible. We are constantly making it easier for customers to talk to a business and for that business to intake more feedback and act on it. That’s a win win.
It’s a responsibility that everyone needs to take part in. Yes, Google and the other review sites need to do a LOT more on fighting it. But businesses also need to stop buying fake reviews or hiring marketing firms to do review work for them without any verification. We have our responsibility too, it’s why we are one of the few reputation management systems compliant with Google and TripAdvisor’s terms of service against review gating.
If I allow myself to really think big, I’d love to see a day where a consumer sees our logo when they walk into a business or visit a website and they can instantly trust that they can provide feedback or a review to that business and hear back from them.
What’s ahead in 2019: A new feature is coming soon that we are really excited about in this area. It’s called TextBack and allows your customer to text the word “feedback” to your business and then get an auto-reply link so they can leave feedback and a review from their phone instantly. It’s one more way we’re making this conversation for both sides easier. For authenticity, we believe there is nothing better than using a platform like GatherUp as it enables the business to upload their true customers to get real reviews. It’s as simple as “real in” produces “real out.”
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with a high level year in review and get a glimpse into our plans for this year. Our whole team (which keeps growing) is excited to take our offering, service, and value even further in the next 12 months.