Rosie Akenhead discusses how to approach the world of online customer reviews
For any service that is beauty or surgery related, “online reviews” might be a daunting phrase. The world wide web is vast and many businesses want to know what people are saying about them online and how they can control it.
An online review is really no different from an email, a phone call or a customer standing across your desk and talking to you directly. Yet, how you handle an online review can sometimes be even more important than how you handle customer feedback face to face, because it can be seen by so many other people browsing the net.
In the digital age, the information landscape has changed hugely since the first paper Yellow Pages style listings were created. People now use Google, YouTube, Gumtree and Craig’s List in the same way they once used encyclopaedias and local papers.
Often, now when people search for businesses they turn to sites like Yelp to get the information they need, rather than paper directories. Yelp gives consumers basic business information, plus gives people a platform to interact and respond to businesses – through reviews, photos and discussions. Like many sites, Yelp has taken what naturally occurs – word of mouth – and moved it to an online platform.
Around 60% of searches come from Yelp mobile. That means people are browsing and looking for services and finding out what’s around them while they’re on the move, ready to make that purchase. Searching on devices is on the up and a partnership between Yelp and Apple Maps only enhances that process.
Yelp doesn’t just cover beauty salons or surgeons, it covers things like bars, restaurants, shops and anything you might find in your local high street or town.
Reviews are written in many different areas, but when you’re in the beauty, health or fitness industry, people tend to have quite a personal experience with you which can certainly lead to individuals writing reviews online.
We discovered in 2014 that 82% of people who come to Yelp are looking to buy a product or service. This is important because it means that when someone is looking on your business page, they are likely about to make a purchase, so you want your page to look as attractive as possible.
In general we found that as a result of their search, people were purchasing from a business they found on Yelp within a week.
According to the 2013 British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) report, there were 50,000 cosmetic procedures performed within the UK in 2013 – a rise of 17% from 2012. One million Botox procedures were undertaken in 2010 and that figure continues to rise year on year. This is a sector that’s really booming, with non-surgical procedures currently accounting for about nine out of ten treatments.
The Minotaur Consumer Study showed that 19 million people in the UK would like to have a cosmetic procedure. That’s a big percentage of the UK population who would like these kinds of services, and people are frequently searching online for opportunities and clinics where they can get these procedures done.
Around one in three people using Yelp have searched for Health or Medical and two in three people have searched for Beauty & Spa. Given that Beauty & Spa is not an every day activity, unlike going for a coffee, it shows that people are turning to online review sites to get the latest tips on where to choose.
As you know, this is a very personal industry. Every interaction with every single consumer, from getting waxing done on the high street to having full-blown cosmetic procedures, is a potential review.
The number of reviews on Yelp for these categories actually reflects that. 9% all of Yelp reviews are Beauty & Fitness and 6% are Health.
How to make the most of customers online
One of the easiest ways to make your business listing more attractive is by adding pictures and ensuring your business information is both accurate and useful.
Once you have some reviews, you will want to interact more with your customers online and learn how to handle online reviewing.
On Yelp, businesses list for free so you can set up a business account easily and get statistics about your Yelp page. You can check how many people visit your Yelp page, how many are looking at your website and how many are checking your business map.
You also get free tools, such as ones that encourage people to ‘check in’ on Yelp when they are at your location in return from a small incentive.
It’s free to do and means that people are aware you are on Yelp and actively engaging people online. If someone has had a good experience they can get a little nudge afterwards to write a review.
Responding to online reviews
If you get a review, good or bad, it’s good practice to respond. Whether it’s thanking someone for a great review or responding to negative feedback on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else you have a presence – it serves a purpose, just as any verbal feedback does.
On Yelp you have the option to send a private message or to add a public comment. A private message is essentially an email; so feel free to get more information about a negative experience via this medium.
If you don’t hear back you can add a public comment but there needs to be more caution with what’s said, of course.
If, for instance, someone says they had a Botox treatment that went wrong, you can say something about your guidelines and procedures.
This means the public are aware not only that you’re responding, but that you also do have guidelines and procedures that outline any risks.
Customer service doesn’t end when they leave you, it continues online so if you pride yourself on being friendly, make sure that’s reflected online also.
You can always ask customers if they had great experience and whether they mind writing a testimonial, but things like stickers in windows and Yelp widgets on your website are helpful ways to remind consumers that they have an option to review your business.
Misconceptions about online reviewing
- Reviewers are all anonymous
On Yelp that’s not the case. People build out their profiles so you can see what kind of person they are. Every single person writing reviews provides their real name and an email address. You can also see what things they like, whether they’ve written reviews and what sort of ratings they give. This can give consumers and businesses a good idea of how trustworthy someone is.
- Reviewers are all students
Actually on average, the people writing reviews are in their mid-thirties. These are generally people with a disposable income and they are often college or university educated – that’s a prime target market for the cosmetic industry.
- All reviews are negative
Not only is this not true, but on Yelp, 78% of reviews are three to five star, which means good to excellent.
- Online reviews aren’t reliable
We work really hard at Yelp to make sure that we’re showcasing the most useful and reliable content to consumers. We have an automated system that looks out for those reviews that might be fake or biased. By doing this, we help to keep consumers safe, keep content relevant and protect businesses from dubious competitor activity.
Q: If a business posts an owner reply and then regrets the response, can the manager remove it?
RA: Yes, in a situation where you think you haven’t reacted or responded in the way you want to, you can take it down.
However other people are still likely to see it before you do, so I advise people to wait 24 hours before responding to reviews, so they can be more objective in their response. Also get a friend or colleague to read it over before posting.
Q: What recourse does Yelp have for slanderous reviews?
RA: There are strict content guidelines for reviews on Yelp. If someone was to name one of your staff by full name, behave in a very rude way or be slanderous, you can flag a review.
You can also flag a review if you believe a competitor may have written it, it is written about the wrong business, or it is particularly unjust. This then gets sent to a specific team in our headquarters so we can look at every single factor and decide whether it should stay up or come down.
Q: Do businesses advertise with you?
RA: Our revenue model is a mixture of display and local advertising. Here is a natural search ranking (which you can’t buy) but we then sell small adverts at the top of the page of each search term, so you can bid on search terms like “botox” or “facelift” for example.
Rosie Ackenhead is the Manager of Business Outreach for Yelp in the UK and Ireland.