The days of receiving a friendly letter or a gift basket are behind us. In 2016, any insurance agent knows that what people say about them online is a big deal.
Perception is reality, and the smart agent will be proactive about managing, curating and encouraging online reviews.
Let’s look at the different platforms and approaches to managing your online reviews.
Get on Board With the Value of Online Reviews
Every purchase decision starts with a Google search. Often, after your initial conversation with a prospect, they will Google your company name and reviews. Or they will Google your name specifically.
What they see can be the deciding factor when it comes time to make a purchase, ask about your products or even make a recommendation to a friend. Managing this is called online reputation management. More and more, I believe the only reputation you have as a business is the one shown in your online reviews.
Do you use Yelp? Google has pushed its own reviews. Many websites use markup language to show star ratings and reviews in their AdWords ads and in their organic search listings.
Online reviews are becoming more prevalent each day. It’s clear that consumers want to see reviews before they make a decision about your company. This online rating, no matter how frivolous the source, is what makes you trustworthy and reliable, attracting new customers and retaining old ones. If you have 4 out of 5 stars but your top competitor is listed just underneath you at 4.5 out of 5, then why would a customer choose you? This rating can help differentiate you, especially to those who are unfamiliar with the market.
Online Reviews: The “Where” Matters
Even though all review platforms can help form an opinion about a company, some platforms are clearly more reliable than others. The type of review platform used can vary from industry to industry, even company to company. While a platform such as Yelp can be more important to a restaurant than to an insurer, this definitely doesn’t mean there isn’t reputation management in the insurance industry. No matter whether your insurance agency is two years old or 20 years old, it’s important to have control of your online reputation.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most popular review platforms.
Google reviews are often what come up as soon as you search a company’s name, so they’re often the first reviews that a customer will see, and arguably the most important. Displayed right underneath your company name in big, bold letters are the bright yellow stars that immediately catch your attention. That’s why it’s vital to manage this reputation carefully.
Being the most widely used review platform, Yelp is often next on the list when someone wants to check your company’s reliability. Some niches are more prevalent than others on Yelp, but since Yelp is so popular, it’s always a good idea to keep your Yelp reputation in check. Keep in mind that both Yelp and Google reviews are user-generated, so the reviews shown are based on the opinions of customers.
Better Business Bureau
The BBB has managed to stay relevant in the digital age and takes a different, more authoritative approach to reviewing companies. Instead of displaying user-generated reviews such as Google reviews and Yelp do, the BBB assigns companies a grade. The grade ranges from A+ to F and is based on a variety of factors, including the type of business, length of operation, complaints, advertising issues and a handful of others.
Keep in mind there are tons of review platforms out there, and it is important to figure out which one your customers use. Target a handful of platforms — maybe only one or two — but remember that you can’t manage them all. This is where you should encourage customers to share reviews and where you should always manage and resolve any complaints.
Effective Methods for Collecting Online Reviews
It’s one thing to recognize the need to manage customer reviews. But you must have a plan to put into action. And it starts with getting people to actually post reviews.
One tactic, and often the most effective one, is to hit customers at the point of purchase. Customers are more likely to review your company immediately after interacting with you. The experience is fresh in their memory, they still have the emotion from it and this is when they are most likely to share their experience with others.
If you don’t get the review at the point of sale, all hope is not lost. You can still reach out via an email campaign shortly after the purchase. Remember not to wait too long, or they will have moved on from the experience or may not even remember it.
Another thing business owners often overlook is simply asking customers for a review. Find people who have done business with you multiple times and seem satisfied with their experience. These will be the people you want to have post reviews, because (1) they are more likely to review in the first place due to your ongoing relationship, and (2) they will likely leave positive reviews.
Finally, I think it’s beneficial to provide incentives. Traditionally, you might think of a restaurant giving a discount for checking in on Yelp or a bike store offering a free tune-up with a review. Whatever the incentive is, the key is to find something of value to your customers so they have a reason to leave a review. For an insurance agency, this can be tough. Setting up a simple sweepstakes to give away a gift card is one suggestion I’ve seen work.
Mostly, your success in getting customers to post reviews depends on your asking, and asking nicely.
Drew Gurley is co-founder of Redbird Advisors. Drew may be contacted at email@example.com.