Who reads online reviews before making a purchase? EVERYONE! A picture is no longer worth a thousand words in the realm of online shopping... words of others are worth a thousand words and more. The influence of online reviews and commentary, both positive and negative, has become increasingly critical to a product or brand's success. Reading the experiences of others is now one of the most impactful resources for potential customers. In fact, a recent study indicated that 90% of consumers consult online reviews before transacting with a business. During Amazon Prime Days earlier this month, for example, Amazon sold over 175 million items in two days. Each item has its own star rating review and some are labeled as a Prime recommended product... a bonus for that particular company, who no doubt saw a boost in sales due to that recommendation. A review can hold the power to make or break a business relationship in any industry where the consumer has a choice to make, credit unions included.
Modern credit unions understand that online review marketing and online reputation management aren’t just novel ideas—they’re essential for affecting public perception. That’s why understanding why and how to get online reviews for your credit union can make such a difference. Businesses of all kinds seek and cherish those positive reviews that can serve to boost their business and build a positive reputation. Hotels can tout their 5-star rankings on various travel sites such as Travelocity or Trip Advisor (which can be brutally honest). The website Yelp, which reviews businesses in a more local setting, has been gathering and sharing data, pictures and reviews for 15 years. According to Yelp, since its inception in 2004, there have been over 184 million reviews contributed to their website cumulatively: "Our business revolves around the connections made between the consumers who read and write reviews and the local businesses that they describe.”
As a credit union, you are not only competing for customers locally but are increasingly facing online competition from national FI's. Your online presence and reviews become increasingly crucial in the courting stage for new members. In fact, 82% of people prefer to do their research online prior to making any buying decision. You must be aware of how you show up in search and what is said, remembering that online reviews appear frequently and don't disappear as easily. Investing resources into this aspect of the business is needed in order to expand your credit union's brand trust and manage its reputation.
How to get more reviews?
Now that we agree on the importance of online reviews, the next question is obvious: How can we get more positive reviews? Certainly providing better products and service than larger institutions is one way to make getting positive reviews more likely. But you can't stop there. You should be taking some action to drive those review numbers higher.
Make sure you are listed
Claim - and fully complete - your listing on the major sites such as Google, Yelp and Facebook so that the opportunities are available and easy to find. Then pay attention and make sure you answer every review, both positive and negative. You can also target bank-specific review sites such as DepositAccounts.com, MyBankTracker.com, Credio.com, and WalletHub.com—these sites are for meant for consumers with bank accounts.
Ask for the review
Now that you are set up with multiple places to get reviews- start asking! It might surprise you how willing people are to leave a review if you simply encourage them to do it. When should you ask? Studies have shown people are more likely to leave a review for a financial institution after a recent interaction with it. You can make it part of any text or email communications that are a followup for that interaction.
What about negative reviews?
When it comes to credit unions in particular, great member services are at the crux of a successful business strategy and at the heart of their business model...The Credit Union Difference. So, a bruising review on a local website is even more important for a credit union to address due to the local nature of their business and the proximity of its member base (and potential members) within the community. Consumers want reassurance that whatever the issue might be, it was resolved in a positive manner in the event something similar were to happen to them.
It might be tempting to think a negative review spells automatic trouble when it comes to online ranking and leads to further negative publicity. However, while a negative review is nothing to cheer about, how it’s handled can make a huge difference. Simply responding to online reviews, both good and bad, is actually rewarded through search engine algorithms. They are able to recognize when businesses take the time to address and respond to customer/member comments and reviews. In some cases, this can have the added benefit of flipping a member’s negative rating into a positive one, which is even more valuable.
Surprisingly, a negative review can provide a unique opportunity to showcase your branch’s member service skills and a strong product line. In some cases, a solution can be offered online, and in others it might be more appropriate to discuss the situation in person. A resolution in the member’s favor might not always be possible, such as in the case of an unapproved loan request. However taking the time to more thoroughly explain your policies on these decisions (keeping details private), or even offer to review it again, can go a long way in maintaining the relationship.
The important thing to remember is to stay on top of on-line reviews. Consider establishing a team of individuals to keep up-to-date with online posts to ensure comments are seen and responded to. This attention and effort shows you care about your members and their experiences. In this world of digital banking and social media, maintaining a healthy online presence and reputation is more and more important, and can provide an opportunity to connect with your members while keeping a finger on the pulse of your business. You work hard to make sure your members are happy...make sure the people who search for your credit union online can see that.