I have a client - a physician with an office in my city's downtown area - that's not very active online. You can't blame her. She spends her days serving her hundreds of patients and doesn't waste a lot of time online that takes her away from doing that. The model has worked - she's successfully run her practice for more than 25 years.
But this is 2019 and unfortunately, one patient felt that he wasn't served so well by her. He was unhappy with how long he had to wait and the treatment he received by my client's staff. So he went online and - like so many others who feel unable to express their feedback face to face - wrote a scathing, anonymous review on Google.
It happens to many of the small business owners I know. For my physician client, it was only one bad review. But it was probably seen by thousands of people. And she didn't even know about it, and told me that she didn't even have a chance to respond ("there are online reviews about me?") until months later. The damage was done.
This is the problem that reputation management firms are trying to solve. One of them, Chicago-based ReviewTrackers, just raised $10 million (which adds to $9 million previously raised) to help their customers of all sizes be better at dealing with online reviews.
"Online reviews are driving more and more purchase decisions as 94% of consumers now say that a negative review has convinced them to avoid a business," wrote the company's CEO in a blog post. "With consumers trusting online reviews more than ever, and businesses without adequate tools to manage them, we have a significant opportunity to step in and operationalize that process while driving significant revenue growth."
Bad online reviews continue to be a growing problem for many businesses and the platforms that facilitate feedback such as Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, OpenTable, Yahoo and Google reach millions of potential customers that could potentially take their business somewhere else for as little reason as a negative comment or two. But many customer service experts agree that responding quickly and positively to a review, with the promise to take action while showing gratefulness for the feedback, helps mitigate the potential bad effects. But how to do this if you don't even know the review exists?
ReviewTracker's application helps do this, even if you're not online like my physician-client. It monitors more than 100 third party review sites like the ones I mentioned above and automatically notifies a business of a review so that the owner can quickly respond from any device as quickly as possible. The company also uses customer workflows to group reviews based on their status so a business owner can know which issues have been corrected and which are in need of attention. It does for a price point starting about $49 per month.
ReviewTrackers has been around since 2012 and says it has more than 65,000 customers. But it's not the only game in town that's competing in the rapidly growing online reputation management space. According to a Venture Beat report, companies such as Signal Media, Podium and Zen City have raised more than $80 million in the past few years to build their own platforms - many of them AI-based - to monitor and respond to negative reports.
For a business owner, this is very important stuff.
According to a 2018 report from online marketing firm BrightLocal, 97% of consumers search online for local businesses and 85% of them trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Almost half of them even require a four-star rating before they choose a business! So even just a lousy review or two can really have an impact on your business.
Look for other companies like ReviewTrackers to land on your radar screen in the near future. Clearly there's opportunity here. That's because more and more businesses are learning that investing in a service that can keep them stay updated on their online reviews - whether they're active or not, like my physician client - is becoming a critical part of any good company's customer service operations.