Reading reviews is a great way to get to know a local business before deciding to work with them.
It used to be that when someone wanted to work with a local business, the first thing they’d do is ask a friend or a family member for a recommendation. Barring that, they’d probably look in a phone book.
Those days are long gone, and while word-of-mouth recommendations are as powerful as they ever were, people just don’t seek them out like they used to. Nowadays, instead of looking in a phonebook or asking for a personal recommendation, people start their local business search online.
The problem is that, when you search “plumber near me,” for example, depending on where you live, you could get dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of search results. With all of those businesses to choose from, finding the right one for your needs can feel almost impossible. That’s where reviews come in.
Reviews help us get to know a business a little more before we take the leap and decide to work with them. And, these days, most people trust online reviews just as much as they trust a personal recommendation from a family member, friend, neighbor, or coworker.
The Downside of Online Reviews
Like I said, reviews make us feel comfortable and help us to understand what working with a local business is really like before we even call them. However, there’s one major problem with online reviews — they’re extremely subjective.
Think about it: a five-star experience to you may be a three-star, or even a one-star, experience to someone else. We all value the same things — customer service, timeliness, quality, etc. — but our standards are widely different.
Not only do differing standards make it impossible to establish a baseline, but our individual standards can vary by our moods. For example, if you’re having a bad day, you’re much less likely to be patient when there’s a delay, even if it’s something that’s out of the business’ hands. On the other hand, when you’re in a good mood, you’ll be much more forgiving of small lapses in service that would normally annoy you.
Another thing that can make online reviews less-than-reliable is the possibility of fake reviews. Even though it’s definitely not kosher, there are still some businesses out there that buy reviews or prompt employees to pose as customers and leave reviews. This can make it difficult to tell exactly what working with a business is like.
It’s not just businesses that leave fake reviews, either. Sometimes, a business’ competition will leave negative fake reviews in order to undermine its online reputation. This also occasionally happens with disgruntled ex-employees.
How to the Most Out of Reading Reviews
#1. Read multiple reviews on multiple platforms.
You can’t just read one review on one platform and hope to get a good idea of what working with a local business is really like. As we’ve already established, people have different standards when it comes to what they expect from working with a business, and if someone has had a bad day, they might be a harsher critic than you would be.
By reading multiple reviews on multiple platforms, you’ll be in the best position to really understand what kind of experience most people have with the business in question. If the business has sent all of its happy customers to leave reviews on Google, you’ll get more of the full story if you also check its reviews on Yelp.
#2. Don’t put too much stock in overly specific reviews.
When people read a business’ reviews, they want to know about the general experience people have when working with them. Unfortunately, people don’t write about the general experience; they write about their own personal experience, and the specifics can often get in the way.
A great example of this is when a reviewer uses a specific employee’s name. While details are good, the employee in question — whether they did a wonderful job or a terrible one — may not even work at the business anymore! That means that the review may not even apply to what working with the business is like anymore.
#3. Don’t accept angry reviews at face value.
There are several reasons why someone might review a business online, but there are two reasons that seem to be more common than the others. 1) They want to help others make more informed decisions about working with the business in question and to provide the business with feedback they can use to get better. 2.) They have a bone to pick with the business, and they want to vent a little about how upset they are.
If someone has a less-than-stellar experience with a business, or even with a specific employee, they might write a review out of anger and spite that has little bearing on what working with the business is really like. When reading these kinds of reviews, it’s important not to simply accept them at face value. Chances are, there’s more to the story.
#4. Pay more attention to more recent reviews.
If a business has hundreds, or even thousands, of reviews, it can go a long way toward making you feel like you know them before you hire them. However, not all of those reviews will hold the same weight because not all of them will be relevant to what working with the business is like today.
When you’re reading a business’ reviews, it’s important to pay much closer attention to the most recent reviews because they’ll give you a better idea of what working with the business is like these days, rather than what it was like to work with them months, or even years ago.
#5. Watch out for themes.
When you read reviews, a good place to start is by reading a business’ five-star reviews as well as its one-star reviews. This way, you’ll get a good idea of the very best experience the business can provide as well as the very worst experience. And, when you read those five-star and one-star reviews, it’s important to look for common themes.
If a business has three or four one-star reviews, and they all mention the same employee that no longer works there, they may not have much of a bearing on what working with them is like. The same goes for five-star reviews.
Start your local business search with Top Rated Local!
Reviews are subjective, but when you know what to look for, they can be a great tool for finding the right local business for your needs. Find local businesses near you with Top Rated Local today!