Deep Dive Into Local series from Jan. 30, 2016. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Mike: Hi. Welcome to the Deep Dive into Local with Mike and Mary for the week ending January 30th. Today we're going to talk about how reviews can both positively and negatively impact client satisfaction in local. I wrote an article today at GetFiveStars detailing some research from the Harvard Business Review that notes how, in a case study research, how high star ratings on a product led to increased sales often in the range of 10 to 15 percent with the higher star ratings, but often resulted in even higher product returns that more than wiped out the benefit of the increased sales. It is my thinking that the same thing happens in local search. If you have an unusually high star rating that sets unrealistic expectations among your customers, it becomes very difficult to meet or exceed those expectations, thus leading to a greater number of unhappy customers.
An example I gave in my article was about a client I work with in Santa Fe that runs a Japanese spa restaurant and resort in the mountains above Santa Fe. As a quality control decision, they chose not to include sushi on their menu. They made this very clear on their website. They make it clear whenever they can. But a few customers gave them one star reviews because they didn't offer sushi, as these people were expecting. A lot of the previous reviews hadn't noted one way or the other about sushi. So in some ways these very negative reviews were helpful to this business in terms of setting expectations correctly for the kind of customers they wanted -- people who wanted Japanese food and didn't care if there was sushi or not; they just wanted a good Japanese food experience. Plus I think the opposite happens as well. Constantly striving to guarantee five stars -- I've had lawyers in the past that literally paid off clients who left lower star ratings, try to get them to remove their star ratings -- can backfire by creating unrealistic expectations that you are unable to fulfill.
Mary: Yes. I did an audit for a law firm not long ago where they apparently had just woken up to the idea that they should have reviews to compete. They went back and found a bunch of previous clients who were very happy, and asked them to leave reviews for them, but they did it in such a way that suddenly they went from no reviews to 30 five star reviews in one month. That's very unrealistic. It even looks manipulated to everyone...
Mary: ...not just to me and Google.
Mike: I think lawyers have gone through a certain education that attracts a type of person that thinks that if big is good, bigger is better. They pull out all the stops. They're not satisfied with a 4.5-star. They need a five star review, otherwise their mother is chirping in their ear, "Gee Albert, why aren't you getting five, 100% on your test?"
Mary: Why aren't you perfect?
Mike: "Why aren't you perfect?" It's weird, right? It reflects a certain degree of insecurity. In the end that insecurity backfires because they end up with unhappy reviews. In fact, you gave an example of a lawyer on Yelp. Why don't you tell that story.
Mary: Oh, a law firm that got one bad review on Yelp that they couldn't get rid of, so they changed their business name. That is still haunting them years later. This article that Dillon Brickhouse wrote is really good. He starts out talking about how you need to be personable; everybody in your organization needs to be personable. Because you can get reviews from people who didn't become your customer and the review was why they did not become your customer; sometimes those are quite unflattering. They called and got treated badly, or nobody called them back. So it's not just your happy customers that you need to keep happy, but you need to be nice and keep everyone happy.
Mike: In every business type there is a way to deliver an experience that exceeds the expectations of the customer, and or potential customer, as you mentioned. I think that in lawyers and perhaps in doctors, too, it's around quality of communication and expectation setting where you communicate clearly right from the beginning. You make that communication process simple because people are very nervous about the fact that they're having to come do business with you. If you can exceed their communication expectations pre- and post-contact, then you are miles ahead. That really speaks to this issue of not gaming your reviews, setting correct expectations and having your customers help set those correct expectations. Perhaps you deal with a certain type of law and people think you deal with the other type of law, and somebody gives you a bad review because you don't deal with that type of law. That's a great review to have because again, it helps the review corpus create detailed information expectations about what people can expect from you.
Mary: Right, it also gives you the opportunity to respond and say, "We don't do that. This is what we do do, please call me for a reference." I mean a lot of times every business gets contacted to sell something or provide a service that they just don't do. So knowing good people to refer customers to is extremely helpful.
Mike: Right, and as you pointed out, process is critical. How an incoming call is handled & responded to is critical. This is true for every business. I have one client I work with; every time I call them, their phone rings busy. This doesn't have to be that way; the call could go to voicemail and then the business responds to voicemail. That would be preferable to forcing me to call back. Understanding where those pain points are is important. Again in the case of law, people are nervous coming in and want to be treated gently and with empathy. You may be the most brilliant lawyer in the world, but, as you note in that article, if you surround yourself with inhospitable staff, it doesn't matter.
Mike: So it's a combination of good process, real review corpus, not faking reviews, constantly reviewing your internal processes to make sure they are painless. Ultimately figuring out where those pain points are for your customers and clients so when you do interact with them, you can exceed their expectations and earn their high review.
Mary: Yes, a lot of times when I'm testing a website I will submit their form just to test it and see what I get back. A lot of times you get a message that says someone will contact you as soon as possible. If I'm sitting in jail with a charge against me, I need a little more specific information than that. If something weird's going on with my health and I'm really worried about it, I want to talk to somebody sooner rather than later. The timeliness of communication and the reassurance of getting timely responses is very important to people.
Mike: I agree. Interestingly, Facebook is grading businesses on the timeliness of their response.
Mike: Interesting metric, I agree. Do you have anything else to add?
Mary: I do not.
Mike: With that we will conclude this week's episode of Deep Dive in Local. See you again next week. Thanks.
Mary: Go skiing, Mike.
Mike: I will, 3:00 today.