Agents who ignore critical reviews of their services do so at their peril as new figures reveal high levels of readership of review websites, according to a social media expert.
Peter Watson, who runs the Chatty Imp social media consultancy, says new research conducted by website analytics firm BrightLocal indicates that 50 per cent of people are now routinely reading business reviews - up from 33 per cent two years ago.
The same research suggests some 84 per cent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and that 90 per cent of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. Some 58 per cent of respondents claimed that the star rating employed by many review sites was useful in helping them form an opinion of a company and thus making a choice of product or service to buy.
Watson says Google is also placing more emphasis on reviews and ratings.
The search engine recently took the step of displaying reviews and ratings from trusted third-party review sites within a business’ Local Knowledge Panel, appearing beneath the information submitted to the Google Business Page.
“Bad reviews are a fact of life for agents. There will always be occasions when a client is unhappy about the service they have received and will take to the net to complain about their experience The important thing for agents to remember, is how they respond to the bad review is very public” says Watson.
“It pays to take the time to handle a complaint in a professional and fair way, replying promptly to stop the issue from escalating. It is also worth asking the disgruntled reviewer to send more details in a private message, to remove the issue from the public eye.”
Positive reviews should be used in marketing campaigns, he adds.