Upping Your Street Cred: Client Reviews in the Digital World
Word-of-mouth recommendations have always been an important part of the massage therapy profession. There’s no test you can take, no certificate you can obtain, that will tell potential clients about the quality of your hands-on work. As a result, consumers often rely on the experiences of others to let them know whether they’re likely to get their money’s worth out of a session—that’s the original social media.
Today, consumers are still more likely to trust businesses and services that are recommended by their friends, family, and coworkers. And while the method of choosing providers isn’t new, the medium is. The conversations and interactions that used to happen in person are now happening online in many places, with online reviews playing an important role.
Social media presents an enormous opportunity for small businesses in this regard. Rather than having to pay for expensive ads to get the word out about your practice⎯ads that most consumers don’t even trust⎯you can do the same thing, often for free, using social media and the network of contacts that you already have. So, should you participate, or not?
Why does it matter?
One reason why many small business owners are hesitant to get into the world of online reviews is their fear that it will open the door for negative reviews, which can be quite a scary thought.
Fortunately it’s an easy decision to make, because you really don’t have a choice in the matter; you don’t get to opt out of being talked about. Clients are already talking about your business, and they’re probably already reviewing it online, whether you know about it or not. You can either worry about what someone might be saying about you, or you can know for sure by becoming an active participant in the discussion, cultivating good reviews and resolving anything negative that might come up.
From a potential client’s viewpoint, the only thing worse than a negative review is a negative review with no response from the company it’s about. Your clients can leave reviews whether you want them to or not-that’s just how these sites work-so you may as well be there to respond and smooth things over should they take a negative turn.
Where do I start?
The first thing you should do is claim any listings for your business that already exist on review sites. Because anybody can post a review of any company, you’ll often find that business listings for your practice have already been set up on the major review sites, even if you didn’t do it yourself.
Claiming your listings means identifying yourself as the business owner (a simple and free process on most review sites). This allows you to post official responses, receive notifications when you get a new review, and update your practice’s contact information and other details.
Check the major review sites to see if your practice already has a listing, and if it does, claim your listing (also try Googling your business name to see if there are other profiles you should claim, aside from those on the major review sites). Here are some of the biggest sites you should start with:
- Google Places / Google+ Local
- Yahoo! Local
- Bing Places
- Angie’s List
Start with these sites for now, since they’re the biggest names in the game, and later you might consider picking off some of the smaller sites when you have more time.
If you have the option, add any additional information to the listings you claim so that people who find you online can know more about you. Your business website, contact info, rates, hours, and other basics are all good things to include—if you can add photos of your space or other personal touches like a bio or mission statement, even better!
Now that you have the basic profiles set up you can start to work on getting more and better reviews of your practice. Chances are you already have some existing clients who love the benefits of your work—just ask them for a review! Many clients are more than happy to help you out by providing a testimonial on one of the online review sites where you have a profile.
One note of caution: be careful about how you ask for reviews. Don’t try to encourage people to leave only positive reviews, and definitely don’t try to bribe them with discounts or other special offers in return for a positive review. Most review sites have a policy against this kind of behavior, and it’s simply unethical.
That being said, your repeat clients will more than likely leave positive reviews anyway—after all, they wouldn’t be coming back for more sessions if they didn’t enjoy your work.
Ultimately, reviews and the word-of-mouth referral are some of the most important factors for your business when a potential client is checking you out. Make sure the first impression is a good one. Get the clients who already love you to spread the word about your practice online, and you’ll have proof to show that booking a session with you will be an experience worth paying for!
How to Deal With a Negative Review:
• DON’T be reactionary: The worst thing you can do for an angry client is to respond in kind. Be sure to remain neutral and positive, and try to see their side in the situation.
• DO try to resolve the issue: People usually complain because they feel they’ve been wronged somehow, not because they just want to complain. If you can figure out how to right the perceived wrong you’ll not only make them happy, but you’ll show that the harm was unintentional on your part in the first place.
• DON’T engage in a public argument: You risk looking petty if you argue on a public forum, even if you’re right. Make the conversation private to work it out, and once you’ve solved things, then post the resolution publicly as a response to the original complaint.
• DO make it clear that you’re responding: When you take the conversation to a private medium, don’t forget to indicate that’s what you’re doing. Even if you’re working on solving things privately, a public complaint without any response for others to see will still look bad for your business.
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About the author: Abram Herman is the Social Media & Marketing Coordinator at ABMP.