Transcript of Why Reviews Matter to Your Business

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John Jantsch:  Today’s episode is brought to you by Break Through The Noise, the new book by Tim Staples, Co-Founder and CEO of Shareability. In his book Tim reveals his secret sauce for how to capture the attention of millions of people online, without spending millions of dollars.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Aaron Weiche. He is the CEO of GatherUp, a review and customer feedback platform, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today, is getting reviews, customer experience feedback, all that good stuff that we need to do to understand who our buyers are, and what we do that’s unique. Aaron, thanks for joining me.

Aaron Weiche: Yeah, you bet. Thanks for having me on, John.

John Jantsch: Let’s just talk some basics. I mean, I assume everybody knows what reviews are, those things that Google, and Facebook, and things, people have been leaving for years, but now they’re on these digital platforms. Let’s talk about how important they are, that we kind of take over, or at least participate in that process.

Aaron Weiche: Yeah, two really big high level signals that I look at and put a lot of trust in is one, just what you see when you do a search at Google itself, and that I test is, whether I’m looking for a product, or a hotel, or a service, who’s going to take care of my lawn. Almost all of those results nowadays in some way, shape, form, or another are accompanied by review stars.

Aaron Weiche: We definitely see a very strong signal from the biggest window into the web through Google, that reputation really matters, and they are bringing it to the conversation right in that search result, very high, and very visible for a user to interact with. Then, the second is just around a lot of studies in the last handful of years that show overwhelmingly, to the tune of like 85% or more, that we trust online reviews as much as we trust talking to humans that we know. When you kind of combine those things of a very high trust level, and it’s very visible, and Google doesn’t do things by accident, I think that’s a very, very large signal to any small business that your reputation is tied to how you’re viewed in the world.

John Jantsch: There’s certain industries, nail salons, restaurants, hotels, I mean you’re under three stars and you’re just done because people really count on those for those. But, would you say that, that has now kind of permeated out to just about every industry?

Aaron Weiche: Absolutely. No one is void of reputation being part of that decision, and the best way I summarize this is, we have every option available to us when we do a search now, right? Even when you get into a very obscure business or service provider, you still might have three or five choices that you can look into. Time is such a huge commodity, we’re not going to call, or fill out a contact form on all of them. As a consumer, we’re looking to make the most informed decision, and reach out to one.

Aaron Weiche: When you look at that, brand and reputation is often one of those big factors, and what do other people have to say about working with this business. Are they reputable and trustworthy, because I’ve never used them before, and are they worth me putting a call into, or giving up my email address, or filling out a contact form?

John Jantsch: Do you think that consumers understand the difference between what we might call first party and third party reviews? In other words, you go to a website and they’ve got all these glowing reviews on their website, but then there’s Google who is aggregating these theoretically in a sort of impartial way. Do you think consumers understand the difference between those?

Aaron Weiche: I think they do a little bit, but what I think is even more important to the consumer is, is there depth, and is there information, and are there answers in those reviews? I think that’s much more of a deciding factor, because if it’s helpful to the consumer, I think they start to look at less what’s the source, how is it organized, what’s the rating scale, and everything else. But, if they’re able to get answers to their questions, and be able to identify with what they’re reading and have that aha moment where they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s me,” the way this person is describing this, or their experience with it. I think that’s what’s most important to them.

Aaron Weiche: I think when you do a good job of bringing that type of content to the table, they really don’t care how it was acquired, or what went on with it. They’re just happy that they have the answers that they need to move forward.

John Jantsch: Okay, so on Google’s five point or five star scale, is there a perfect aggregate score that you should be aiming for? Here’s the genesis of my question, I mean you see these ones that a plumber, and I’m not picking on plumbers. But, 147 reviews, all five star. Do we believe that?

Aaron Weiche: Yeah, I definitely think small business owners and marketers, we fall victim to the perception of perfect. As a long time SEO industry friend of mine, Matt McGee once said, we don’t live in a five star world. I think it’s important for businesses as well. One study I cite a lot when I give talks is, Northwestern and PowerReviews did a study, and they actually found that 4.2 to 4.5 was the most trusted. That showed that you’re doing a great job, but you’re also not perfect. Because, just as you noted, when you see this large quantity of reviews and everyone has had this perfect experience, there is a part of you that says, “That seems a little bit too good to be true.” I think authenticity is a really big part of it, and I tell people all the time, don’t obsess on being perfect. Definitely focus on being great, consistently over and over again.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think because we all know people that, you can give them $100 bill, and they’d give you a three star review, you know? I mean, some people just won’t give anything five stars.

Aaron Weiche: Yep.

John Jantsch: I agree with that. Do you think that business owners, small business owners should get proactive? I mean, be asking every one of their customers for a review, or does that somehow taint it?

Aaron Weiche: I think more important than that is, you should be asking and understanding what your customer thinks. I get that Google reviews are so visible. I call them … right? They’re like sprinkles on the doughnut. They’re what attract you to the window, and get you to look up close, and have you thinking about it. But, I look at whatever your customer thinks about their experience with your business, how it went, that’s more important. Whether they tell Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, or whether they tell you directly, you need to know what they think. Absolutely, you need to be proactive with that, because we’re all inundated with so many things to do, and things we forget, and whatever else. If you’re not taking control, and taking the time to ask that customer, and make it really easy for them to give you feedback and talk to you, then you are falling short in what you can do to understand that, and ultimately turn it into marketing power for you.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and I’m going to give you a little tip here, behind the scenes secret of something that I do.

Aaron Weiche: Ooh.

John Jantsch: We work with a lot of small business owners, one of the first things we want to do is match their message to their market. Guess what one of the best sources of information about what their message really should be, or what their unique difference is? A lot of times if somebody has a lot of glowing reviews from not just five stars and done, but like they wrote a paragraph about them, nine times out of 10 phrases and themes will come out of those reviews, that really do suggest, “Here’s what this business does that’s unique.” Or, “Here’s the problem this business really solves.” A lot of times we’ll build marketing campaigns around the content from their reviews.

Aaron Weiche: Yep, that’s absolutely perfect. I would take it a step further, I often tell people, do that research on your customer or your competitors reviews as well, right? Where are they driving these amazing experiences, and are you giving that same type of experience, or are you falling short and you need to change something? You’re right, reviews are a goldmine for what really makes a customer happy, and you need to make sure that you’re marketing and telling that story so that others desire to come have that same experience.

John Jantsch: I’ve worked with businesses over the years that have claimed, “Hey …” And we know, they have happy customers, they have repeat customers, they have advocates, but they can’t get them to write reviews. Is there something that actually tips somebody over the edge so that they’ll make that effort?

Aaron Weiche: Service all day long to me, is really the big one. We even see it within our own business, that they like our software, and they might write nice things about our software, but the minute that we are asking for feedback or a review after one of our support teams helps somebody solve something, or guides them in a direction, the response rate on that is through the roof.

Aaron Weiche: For a lot of businesses I always look at like what is that aha moment when you’re serving a customer, that you can see they’re really happy, you’ve solved a problem, you’ve relieved pressure, you’ve given that solution. That’s when you want to be prompting them, or letting them know how important a review is, or even them talking to you about the experiences, because they’re in that euphoria of what took place. That’s what I usually look to analyze with the business, and that’s the time you need to be asking.

Aaron Weiche: Secondarily, you just, you have to make it easy for them, right? Time is our biggest commodity, so if you can’t make it happen in a couple of easy clicks and in a really short interaction, you’re going to lose out. We all get these surveys in our inbox, right? You fly on an airline and they ask you to take a survey, and you get 30 questions in and you now, you liked that brand and now you’re like, “I really don’t like you. You’ve just stolen time from me within my day.”

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John Jantsch: Is there a proper moment in the customer experience to ask for reviews, feedbacks? Again, I know there’s no like one answer to that.

Aaron Weiche: Yeah.

John Jantsch: But, should the sales people, the technicians, the marketing people, I mean should everybody be doing it or is there a sort of proper sequence in your opinion?

Aaron Weiche: Yeah, well I think you hit upon what’s probably most important, and that it’s a human on your team asking, right? Even if you use an automated solution like ours, but that team member says, “Hey, just so you know, within the next day you’re going to get an email asking for some quick feedback and to write a review,” that’s build a relationship and saying like, “Hey, I provided you with great service. Will you repay that favor by giving us a review, or giving us feedback on our business?” We see that when that human ask is coupled with timing as close to the service as possible so that they haven’t forgotten about it, or missed details with it, or anything else. That’s really the winning combination, is that human ask as close to that service or experience.

John Jantsch: I know this will vary by lots of industries, but is there sort of a globally accepted kind of impact rating for star reviews? In other words, for every half a point, and again I’m just defaulting to Google because they have such an easy scale. But, like going from 3.5 to 4.2, does that have a measurable sort of percentage of impact of sales?

Aaron Weiche: Yeah, the one study that I know is probably quite old now was from Yelp, that they basically equated like a half star rating into what it would be for revenue within a restaurant. I can’t off the top of my head remember those numbers, but that’s the last really data driven study that I’ve seen on that.

Aaron Weiche: We tend to look at it a lot of times because we capture, and this is a whole ‘nother topic, but we capture net promoter score, which basically helps a business understand how likely that customer is to refer you. We just see a super strong correlation between those that are happy and willing to refer you, are also willing to give that digital referral, and write that review. We see it inside of that, and I think if you, over time, looked at businesses that have a high NPS and a high rating, you’re going to see them succeeding in their profit and loss and their sales, much more than anyone else.

John Jantsch: Well, and I know anecdotally, I mean when I’m traveling and I’m looking for a place to eat because I don’t have a recommendation, I mean there’s certainly judgements I make about if it’s under four or something, you know? I’m probably going to look elsewhere. I mean, I think a lot of people probably kind of operate in that same sort of vein.

Aaron Weiche: Yep.

John Jantsch:Do you think that there are demonstratively demographic trends to this? In other words, is a 30 year old only relying on reviews, where maybe a 60 year old is going to be asking somebody via email, or text, or something. Have you seen any? Those are just wild examples, but have you seen any correlation-

Aaron Weiche: Yep.

John Jantsch: …Demographically to the use of reviews, and their reliance on reviews?

Aaron Weiche: Yeah, what we have seen more is that evening out a lot more, and no surprise, right? When you have all of this information right in the palm of your hand in your smartphone, I think that’s really increased the access, and the amount of people wanting to rely on those things.

Aaron Weiche: Now, I think what we see more of happening is yes, a younger consumer, anywhere from 18 all the way up to 35, or even that next jump of 44, 45, they use it almost exclusively. Where, then when you trend into some of the olders, it’s going to balance out in some of the upper age brackets, where reviews are part of that consideration, but they still want some human referral, and maybe a few other sources to go along with it. Where, the younger you scale down, if I see it on the review site and I feel good about it, I’m good. I don’t need to ask any personal recommendations, or anything else.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about the topic nobody wants to address, what percentage of reviews do you think are just blatant spam?

Aaron Weiche: I don’t know if I can give you a number, but I can tell you, too high, too high of a number. This is definitely a critical thing facing the industry as an overall, right? Google has really jumped leaps and bounds, multiples above how many reviews any other review site has. But, in doing so, anytime you go all in on quantity, quality suffers, and they have very little, and there’s been a lot more coming to the surface on fake reviews, bot reviews, all of these different combinations of spam reviews.

Aaron Weiche: We’re hoping in work in this industry, and we want its authenticity to play out, and have longevity, that something needs to be done there. Then, you even have on the other side, Yelp which is very polarizing for small businesses. They have something in place, right? But, they also, it’s so secretive to how they filter out reviews and things like that, that also causes distrust. We actually have both sides of the coin right now. We have somebody whose paying so much attention, and trying to make sure that only the best reviews from trustworthy people and whatever else are the ones that are showing, but they go so far to extreme that people don’t trust how they’re surfacing the results.

Aaron Weiche: Then, on the other side we have somebody who it’s such an open floodgate with so little being done, that when you start digging into a lot of things, that can cause a lot of distrust. It’s definitely probably at least at a five, 10%, maybe even more mark, which I think is just a shame considering the firepower that these companies have, to actually institute some pretty basic things, or just be more transparent on what they are doing with it.

John Jantsch: I loved your qualifiers in there, you said definitely, probably, maybe, at least five percent, I think is what you said. Not to pick on them too much because everybody else has, but Yelp sort of brought some of that on themselves, I think, in terms of marrying the selling of advertising with a review process. A more cynical person than I might suggest that there’s some things that are not so right there, but I know you have to be nice, you have to play nice because you don’t want them mad at you.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about responding to reviews. What’s your take on that? Should every review you respond to, what’s your take?

Aaron Weiche: My personal take is, especially for a small business, absolutely do that, for a couple of different reasons. One, for the next customer that’s researching and looking to do business with you, it sends a strong signal that you’re listening, you pay attention, and you care to respond to your customers. It makes them envision how they’re going to be treated with you, respectfully. That, you’re going to listen to their needs, both online and off, and it’s a really good trust signal.

Aaron Weiche: Secondarily, when you do this through most platforms, it’s going to email and alert that customer that you’ve responded, so it’s another customer touchpoint, you’re thanking them for taking the time to write that review. All great things, and maximize those touchpoints with your customers, and let everyone see that you’re interactive with your customer base.

Aaron Weiche: Now, that grows exponentially when it’s a critical, or a bad review. You want to first respond to that customer and try to save that relationship, let them know you’re listening. Own the problem. Nobody wants to hear, “Well we were short staffed, the basement flooded,” yada, yada, yada. All they want to know is that if they ever came back again, they wouldn’t have this same poor experience, and that you care, you’re doing something to solve it, and you’re owning it.

Aaron Weiche: After that, you also…solving it for that person, you want to make sure that those next customers also see like yeah, they’re not perfect, but if something does go wrong they listen, they’re reasonable, they’re respectful, and they try to make it right. At the end of the day, that’s what most consumers want, is that confidence that if something does go wrong, they will be treated well, and the business will try to make it right with them.

John Jantsch:  Yeah, I have…obviously business owners get emotional about a negative review, particularly, “Well, that customer was unreasonable,” they just want to fire off their response to that person. I always tell them, write your response not to that person, write your response to the public, because that’s who’s going to see it.

Aaron Weiche: Yeah.

John Jantsch: I think that’s a good way to approach it, but it’s also, it’s, “Hey, they’re saying bad things about my business. How dare they.” It’s hard to take the emotion out of those, isn’t it?

Aaron Weiche: It totally is. I always tell people, because I do this for myself. I put myself in an emotional timeout when that comes in. Step away from the keyboard, let the emotion wear off, reread it for the facts that are there on what went wrong. The wait was too long, the food was cold, an expectation wasn’t met. Whatever that is, and then yeah, great point. Write it that way.

Aaron Weiche: I always tell people, write it, and then read it out loud, right? What does it sound like when you read it out loud to yourself, or to someone else? I also tell people, it’s not the emergency situation you feel like it is, because when you get a bad review, you suddenly think the entire world is reading that one star review that’s out there, and that’s not the case. You’re better off taking time to compose the right type of response, editing it multiple times, getting other people to weigh in on it, and two days later posting the right response, than you are rushing, being emotional, saying the wrong thing, and causing even more things to go wrong than what already went wrong with that review.

John Jantsch: I think we can all agree the social proof aspect of reviews, I mean I go there, I look them up, and they’ve got 25 reviews, and they all seem really good. What in your opinion is the SEO value of reviews?

Aaron Weiche: Yeah, I think really big value because, just as you pointed out, there’s kind of this content goldmine in there, especially when you’re providing a great experience and service, and that customer’s going to write about it. They’re writing from … in marketing, right? It’s always write from the persona of your customer. To me the big win here, is this is persona generated content. Let’s say I’m planning a trip for my family, I have four kids going to Disney World. I’m on TripAdvisor reading reviews on a hotel. Well, the minute I see someone else talk about that they have four or five kids, the same boatload that I have, and I start looking into how they spent their time, and what they did, and did the place they stay have all the amenities they want. I start to identify with that, I have met my equal persona.

Aaron Weiche: I just think that’s so important for a business to understand, that we all write great things about ourselves and our copy, how we’re the best, and the greatest, and an awesome staff, and all these other things. But, reviewers I think, they speak the language of the average consumer because they’re not trying to sell something, they’re just sharing what their experience was. I think that’s such a win, when the consumer can consume that.

Aaron Weiche: On the flip side for Google when they see that, that consumer is likely using keywords about the business, locations about the business, the types of terms a searcher is going to type in as well, and you’re bringing all of this additional content to a page that you wrote 300 words about your business. Well, if you bring in 30 words … or, 30 reviews about it, you might double the amount of content that’s talking about your service product, or your business.

John Jantsch: Aaron, we could talk all day about this, but better wrap it up and tell people where they can go to find out more about GatherUp, and the various services that you offer small business owners?

Aaron Weiche: Absolutely. If you visit GatherUp.com you can get a very detailed look at what we do, what our feature set is, case studies of businesses that we’ve worked with, our blog is very active, we share a lot of knowledge from the reputation and review space. We always invite you to come in and be able to learn from all of that.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, thanks for dropping by, Aaron. Hopefully we’ll run into you some day soon out there on the road.

Aaron Weiche: I appreciate it, John. Thank you.

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