At Shout About Us, we’ve written time and time again about the importance of responding to negative online reviews of your business. Now, we have new data from Yelp that lends additional support to this idea, driving home the message that your brand or agency’s review response strategy matters.
The survey, which was conducted October 2021 and published last month, was commissioned by Yelp and interviewed more than 1,500 U.S. participants aged 18 and up. What it reveals, as we’ll explore in this article, are the dramatic and impactful ways in which owner responses to business reviews can influence consumer behavior — and in turn, your company’s profit margins. Specifically, we’ll be taking a look at three key findings from the study:
- The impact of owner responses on consumer attitudes toward poorly-reviewed businesses
- How the practice of paying for or incentivizing reviews impacts consumer trust
- The extent to which owner responses increase the likelihood of receiving updated or upgraded reviews
Let’s begin with the first and arguably most important finding from the research: the way your response strategy can influence attitudes — and shopping habits — around your brand.
Yelp Finding #1: Most Shoppers Will Ignore Bad Reviews if Businesses Respond the Right Way
This may be the survey’s most important finding of all, due to the huge implications it has for your business — not only your existing customer base, but all of your potential future customers. So what better place to jump into the data?
According to Yelp’s survey, a whopping 88% of respondents — close to nine in 10 shoppers — say they’re willing to give businesses a chance even when they receive poor reviews. However, there’s a catch: it depends on how successfully your business responds to those reviews. If you don’t reply to negative reviews — or worse, respond inappropriately — you can say goodbye to that 88% (and substantial potential for growth along with it).
To quote Yelp’s blog, “88% of respondents are more likely to look past a negative review if they see that the business has responded to it and adequately addressed the issue.” But what does that mean for your business? What can you do to respond more effectively?
We have those answers covered in our guide to responding to 1-star ratings, which walks you through four tested strategies for dealing with bad reviews. For even more advice on honing your review reply strategy, check out our tips on 2-star ratings, read about how you can leverage bad reviews to your advantage, or educate yourself about the review response mistakes to avoid. You can also take a look at these tips from Yelp, which line up with our own philosophy: respond promptly, respond publicly, and always maintain your professionalism — no matter what sort of complaint you’re replying to.
Yelp Finding #2: Paying for Good Reviews Slashes Consumer Trust in Half
We wrote extensively about this topic in a recent post, which explained the serious negative consequences of purchasing (or otherwise incentivizing) good reviews. That includes, but is not limited to, business practices such as:
- Offering discounts in exchange for positive reviews
- Giving customers free products, gift cards, or other exclusive perks in exchange for good ratings
- Paying for good reviews
- Soliciting positive reviews from people who are connected to your business, such as your employees, friends, or family members
As our response scribes have discussed in the past, paying for positive reviews has two major drawbacks:
- This practice is banned by Yelp, Google, and many other platforms, which could lead to penalties for your business (including the possibility that customers will see warnings about using your business, at least on your Yelp reviews).
- You can be investigated and heavily fined by government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which brought the first case of this nature in 2019 and has recently ramped up its efforts to fine violators.
As if that wasn’t enough on its own, Yelp’s new survey now provides a third reason: soliciting reviews puts a massive dent in consumer trust — and when we say “massive,” we aren’t exaggerating. According to the survey, “Nearly two-thirds of respondents who read reviews (64%) believe that those that were contributed after a business asked for the review are biased. Similarly, half of the people surveyed (50%) don’t trust reviews if they know the business asked their customers to leave them a review.”
The bottom line? If you want consumers to trust your brand, never solicit positive reviews. Those easy 5-star ratings might seem tempting now — but you’ll probably feel differently after your business gets demoted on Yelp, you’re fined by the FTC, or your brand loses credibility with consumers.
Yelp Finding #3: Responding Quickly Makes Customers More Likely to Update Bad Reviews
As our response scribes have noted in the past, data shows that most consumers expect speedy responses from business owners. A solid 20% of reviewers expect responses within 24 hours, while another 26% expect a reply within 48 hours — together, accounting for a full 46% of consumers.
Based on the data, we’ve always recommended responding to your reviews within 24 hours — regardless of whether they’re positive, neutral, or negative. Yelp’s research provides yet another incentive for your business to respond swiftly: it makes reviewers more likely to upgrade bad ratings, which benefits your business in two ways.
First, higher ratings translate to better search visibility and more potential customers — especially since “94% of consumers saying positive reviews make them more likely to use a business,” according to BrightLocal (whose full report, which we recommend reading, is linked to above). Second, it sends a powerful positive signal to other consumers who are checking your reviews, serving as valuable proof that your company is engaged, helpful, and most importantly, deserving of trust.
So, exactly how likely is it that a formerly-dissatisfied customer will come back to change their review? Yelp research from 2017 showed that “users are 33% more likely to upgrade their critical review if a business responds with a personalized message within 24 hours.” While this 33% statistic is slightly older than the other findings we’ve discussed in this article, it continues to remain relevant to businesses today, earning it a mention in Yelp’s newest survey alongside the latest data.
Schedule a Demo of Our 24-Hour Custom Review Reply Service for Digital Agencies and Brands
Don’t have enough time or a large enough staff to deal with all of your clients’ reviews? Let the expert response scribes at Shout About Us manage the process for you. We offer a comprehensive suite of online reputation management solutions specifically designed for digital agencies and brands, including review generation, a secure white label review management platform, and custom review response within 24 hours, guaranteed — all supported by award-winning technology and a U.S.-based customer service team.
Learn why industry-leading agencies like Qebot, Suds Creative, and V Digital Services all trust Shout About Us and our review response service for effective and efficient online reputation management. Contact us online to chat, or schedule a demo today.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.