The decisions we make these days – where to eat, what to buy, what service professionals to trust – are influenced more than ever by reading reviews online. And rightfully so, it’s quite honestly one of my favorite things about our connected world. Online reviews ease our fear when spending our hard earned money and allow us to make better informed decisions, which is something we all could use a little more of.
However, like most good solutions, it’s spawned problems of it’s own.
Are you familiar with the term ‘vocal minority’?
In this case the people who take the time to review businesses are more often the people who are upset and have complaints, not the ones that are happy. And though it may be an incredibly small number of people compared to those that have had good experiences, those voices become incredibly amplified and powerful because they’re the ones speaking up.
While every opinion is valid, think about how many times you’ve read someone’s negative review on Yelp or elsewhere and thought ‘Wow, that person sounds like they just love to complain’. Or how about all the people who fancy themselves professional food critics that you just want to shake your head at? The truth is, their vote counts for way more than yours does because you never stepped up to vote.
As a business owner, I’ve seen it first hand. You can make thousands of people happy a year, they may even go out of their way to say thanks on the phone or send an email of gratitude, but it’s the one person who simply doesn’t like the font on your website that actually takes the time to leave a 1 star review where everyone can see it. It’s an odd world we live in.
The fact is that small businesses you love are suffering in a very real and significant way right now because of something as trivial as this vocal minority of negative online reviews. Your favorite restaurant or coffee shop is getting passed over because a mere 20 people decided to go online and complain (with only a percentage of those being ‘valid’ complaints). No matter that hundreds or thousands of people love it, that business likely has a much lower rating as a result of the vocal minority. It sounds crazy, but even a 3.5 star rating these days can lead to enough lost business for a small company to put them out of business – that’s fine if the business is terrible, but it’s certainly not always the case.
Let’s forget for a second how this affects small businesses though, this is a problem for you and I as consumers just the same. If you’re like me and you read online reviews before you make a lot of buying decisions it can easily turn into a black hole of indecision. Far too often there’s just not enough reviews to help you make an informed decision – when only 70 people have shared their opinion and 20 of those are complaints does that mean it’s bad? More than twice as many people said they loved it, but which opinion is more valid?
Here’s what YOU can do to fix this:
1.) Make a list.
Take a few seconds right now to make a list of 3-5 businesses you’ve interacted with in the last month and had a good experience with. It might be hard because we tend to remember the negative experiences much more than the positive ones – getting your car repaired or buying that new shovel from the hardware store probably wasn’t the highlight of your month.
Restaurants are an easy target for online reviews because we’re so opinionated about food, but try to focus beyond just restaurants and include both local and online interactions:
Have you bought any furniture, gear, clothing, flowers, even batteries from your local convenience store? Did you use a plumber, a landscaper, or have any other maintenance or repairs done to your home? Did you visit your dentist or doctor? Your list should be considerably longer than 3-5 once you get going, so pick the ones that made you the happiest or the small businesses that need your support the most and set the others aside for another day.
2.) Go online and share your positive experience.
It’s not as easy to write a positive review as it is to list your complaints. It can be intimidating to try to think of a paragraph’s worth of things to say for why you liked a place or a product, but the truth is a simple thank you and 5 stars is all that’s needed – “Great experience”, “I’ve used _____ many times now and I love it”, “Prices were fair and they did a great job”, “No complaints, I’d give them my business again”. The more you can share and the more personal you can be the more effective your review will be, but just the act of leaving a positive review is enough.
(Where you leave the review really depends on the business. If it’s a physical product and the company sells on Amazon, a review there usually goes a very long way. Other businesses rely on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, internal reviews, etc. If you’re unsure, contact the company and ask them the best way to share your review with others.)
3.) Repeat monthly.
That’s it. Just take those few seconds to share that a business made you happy, did their job well, or simply made a good product and we all become part of the vocal majority.
Let’s start shining a positive light to counteract the negativity that the Internet is so capable of breeding. You’re doing a good deed, helping others like yourself to make informed decisions, and helping all the businesses that you want to still be around the next time you need them.
4.) Bonus Lesson! Take everything above and apply it to your offline life as well. Whether it’s your loved ones, co-workers, employees, or your boss – chances are you’ve been more vocal about the things you criticize then those you appreciate. Start handing out some more 5 star Thank You’s along with those 1 star complaints and we really will make the world a better place.
Happiness is contagious, and so is negativity. Let’s spread the right one.
If you’ve done business with Trek Light Gear and want to leave us a positive review, the best place for others to see your review is currently on Amazon. Just find the product page for any specific product you’ve purchased from us (even if you didn’t buy it on Amazon) and let us and others know that we made you happy. You have our thanks as a small business and my sincere thanks for doing your part to help others.
Want to help a little more? Share this post and let’s make positive change go viral.