People Think User-Generated Reviews are More Trustworthy than Professional Reviews

Customers want to hear from their peers. Forty-six percent of consumers said they trust the reviews of other customers more than reviews by professionals, according to our recent survey.

The survey — which asked 1,800 U.S. consumers how they discover, choose, and recommend businesses — also found that only 12 percent trust expert reviews over the reviews of other customers.

Customers are looking for the opinions of their peers. That’s good news for small business owners, especially if they pride themselves on connections with their customers. By encouraging their top customers to sing their praises online, they’ll be able to portray a stronger and more trustworthy brand to their future customers.

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But while consumers trust other consumers more than professionals, they don’t always trust customer reviews completely. While 43 percent of respondents said that customer reviews are very or extremely trustworthy, 53 percent find customer reviews only somewhat trustworthy.

So what makes a review reliable?

  • 77 percent said that it was very or extremely important that a review has specific details about the products or services purchased;
  • 46 percent think it’s very or extremely important that the review has photos;
  • 46 percent think it’s very or extremely important that the reviewer has visited a business multiple times; and 44 percent said that it’s very or extremely important that the tone of the review isn’t overly positive or negative.

Of course, the tricky thing about customer reviews is that you have no control over what people write. But you can influence those reviews and what other customers take from them. So when you’re thinking about your online review strategy, you need to develop a reactive approach and a proactive approach.

Reactive approach: monitoring and responding

Forty percent of consumers read the most recent reviews first, so you want to make sure that first review makes a good impression. You should get in the habit of responding to reviews where possible, showing that you are engaged with your customers. If it’s a positive review without a lot of detail, you might respond with questions that get them to give more details or add photos.

Twenty percent of consumers look for the negative reviews first, so responding to that feedback could be particularly important. Remember, the customer who left that review isn’t lost yet — responding to the negative feedback is your opportunity to save the relationship (and build your reputation with prospective customers).

So respond quickly, offer an apology, and let them know you appreciate the feedback. (If the review is particularly bad, you might reach out privately and offer a discount or refund.)

Proactive approach: a focus on customer experience

If you want people to leave positive reviews, the most important thing you can do is make sure that every customer’s experience is a great.

Our survey shows that for most types of businesses, customers are more likely to write negative reviews if the store isn’t clean and the staff is rude. So start there. Make sure you hire good employees and set expectations for how they should interact with customers. And put processes in place to ensure that your shop is clean and organized.

The survey also showed that customers are more likely to write positive reviews if businesses add a little something extra to make the experience extra special. For restaurants, that may mean a free appetizer or a visit from the chef; for retailers, it might be a flexible return policy or free gift with purchase; and for salons, it might be a complimentary beverage or sample products.

In addition to optimizing your customer experience, you might think about starting a referral program — the best sales rep you can have is your last raving customer. By rewarding customers for bragging about you (online and off), it will encourage them to do more of it.

Want to see more of the survey results? Download our Retail Playbook: Finding and Winning New Customers.