Whether local business owners like it or not, online reviews are the new word of mouth and the reputations that companies acquire on sites like Yelp, Google+, and Facebook are having an increasingly large impact on their real world success.
Just how large, you may ask? According to an August 2015 Consumer Review Survey published by BrightLocal, 92% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses before they visit (33% always or regularly check reviews) and only 13% of consumers will consider darkening the door of a business that has earned a negative (1 or 2 star) rating. 80% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (a figure that has risen significantly over the past five years) and 73% form an opinion of the business in question after reading as few as 1-6 reviews.
With so much riding on third party reviews that most businesses have little to no direct control over, it becomes incredibly important that car wash owners approach sites like Yelp and Facebook with the right game plan, starting with the following five principles:
1 . Check for Accurate Information
When Yelp or Facebook automatically create a listing for a business it is important that that business move quickly to claim and take control of it. Accidental errors such as misspellings, bad addresses, wrong hours, or incorrect “This business is permanently closed” flags can inconvenience or turn away huge numbers of potential customers, so make sure all information is accurate and kept up to date.
2. Provide Enough Information
The advantage of online directories like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Foursquare (and the reason behind their rapid rise over the past decade) is that they give consumers access to the experiences and knowledge of other consumers. Fortunately, this fact doesn’t have to work against car washes or other small businesses, as owners are usually able to directly upload plenty of information about their company. The more information that is made available, the more official information potential consumers will have to look at besides the reviews alone, and the more likely they will be to consider the car wash when making a purchasing decision.
3. Upload Great Photos
The Internet is a distinctly visual medium and operators do well to take advantage of this fact. According to Katie Byrne of Yelp Business Outreach, “Yelp users stay 2.5 times longer on business pages with photos, and businesses that have 1-5 reviews and 10 photos get 200% more user views than businesses with the same amount of reviews and no photos. Make sure to upload high-quality images that show off your store or office, products or services and staff. Your photos should tell a story, so don’t just upload your logo – it’s not that helpful for potential customers.”
4. Craft your Message
In your company info, start by sharing your mission. This is likely a statement along the lines of ‘to provide the best possible car wash with the best service around’. But if the review platform provides more room, don’t be afraid to go past the elevator pitch and share a bit about your wash’s origins, performance record, and the things you love best about working there. Also, include information about the specific services your facility provides that sets it apart from your competition, and how those services benefit the consumer. Readers naturally connect to truly human experiences, and pulling back the curtain a little bit can make the experience of visiting your wash more meaningful.
5. Engage Negative Reviews
Negative reviews will come, and when they do it is important to address them directly in a calm and respectful manner. Share your wash’s side of the story and make things right. It isn’t uncommon for negative reviewers to change their scores after their concerns have been addressed, and frequent responses to reviews (both positive and negative) show visitors that the company in question is backed by friendly, real people who are engaging and listening to their customers.
One Final Note.
Unfortunately Yelp and other review sites have come under fire in recent years as countless bad actors (including both companies and individual consumers) have used the site to loudly pursue personal grudges, extort companies in the hope of receiving special treatment, pad their own scores, or sabotage local competition with fake reviews.
But even with so much potential for abuse, reviews play a powerful role in the current market and they won’t be going away any time soon. Take the time to meet this challenge and be rewarded as a steady stream of customers diverts from your digital space to the car wash queue!
Tommy Car Wash Systems