In today’s technology-driven society, people are able to locate information on most people, places, and things with a simple click of the mouse. The instant gratification that the internet provides is just one reason people go online now more than ever before. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of Americans go online on a daily basis, with 21 percent revealing they go online almost constantly, 42 percent several times a day, and 10 percent go online about once a day.
In the past, people relied on word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends, but the internet’s ability to provide instant information has led many to begin making choices based on the personal reviews of other internet users, even those they don't know personally. A BrightLocal survey of consumers, for example, found that 91 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews.
Also, the survey found that 84 percent of those surveyed trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, 87 percent say that a business needs a rating of three-to-five stars before they will use it, and only 14 percent of consumers surveyed would consider using a business with a one-to-two star rating. This means that online reviews matter. “Paying attention to your online reputation is vital to growing your business and continuing to attract new customers,” says Roxanne Borger, director of client education at MindBody.
“Other people’s experiences are the impression searchers get before they even set foot inside your business, and you want them to be able to imagine themselves there having as good an experience as your reviews describe. Word-of-mouth is one of the top ways spas are getting new clients—and that includes online reviews. That said, review sites should really be viewed as another arm of your marketing strategy. If you encourage reviews in a proactive and effective way, the words of your happy clients will be invaluable in helping to attract new clients.”
While online reviews can be a great way for consumers to learn the good and the bad about a specific business or product, not all reviews are genuine. In fact, in 2013, New York regulators settled with 19 companies for $350,000 in total fines in a crackdown on fake reviews. These companies were caught creating fake online profiles and paying people to flood the internet with fake consumer reviews, which is considered false advertising and a deceptive business practice. While fake reviews can be incredibly frustrating, it’s important that you not ignore them.
According to MindBody’s Roxanne Borger, you should treat these reviews as you would a negative review by responding professionally and attempting to remedy the situation. While many review sites have a flagging system that detects and removes fake reviews, some can fall through the cracks. In these situations, it’s best to first do the research to determine that the review is indeed a fake, and then alert the review site.
“Once a review is flagged, many sites will ask for a detailed explanation, and that’s when the research comes in handy,” says Colleen Lemos of Millennium Systems International. It’s important to also keep in mind that consumers are savvier than ever. “If competitors write a series of fake positive reviews, consumers will read between the lines, and they will probably be found out,” says SpaFinder Wellness’s John Bevan. “Consumers can also recognize and will ignore reviews from a professional complainer.”