Consumers look to review websites such as Yelp for advice on all kinds of purchases – cars, coffee makers, restaurants, shoes, power tools and more. Some of them even go there to find a good insurance agent. What effect is that having on your agency?
It could be substantial. According to the 2019 BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey, three-quarters of respondents trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends. That number increases to 89% for those in the 35-to-54 age bracket. Further, a 2018 survey by customer management software developer ReviewTrackers revealed:
● 94% of consumers have avoided a business after reading a negative review about it.
● 70% of respondents said that they apply filters to reviews based on the number of “stars” in the rating. 35% set the filter at four stars. Businesses with ratings of three stars or less disappear from the results.
● The good news for insurance agencies is that they frequently clear that bar. They received an average star rating of 4.53.
● The percentage of respondents who said that they had left reviews of insurance agents after a positive experience climbed from 14 to 18%.
● More than half of respondents expected businesses to respond to their reviews within 7 days.
Happy insurance customers are predisposed to give their agents positive reviews. Prospective customers are predisposed to trust those reviews. Conversely, negative reviews can cause serious damage to an agency’s reputation. How can agencies make sure that review sites help and not hurt their businesses? Francesca Nicasio of small business software maker Genbook recommends:
Make your profile as complete as possible. Include information such as your business hours, whether you require appointments, what forms of payment you accept, and others. An agency in Houston, Texas provides a short description of the business, a list of office hours, a small map and directions to the office, its phone number and web address, and staff photos.
Ask your customers to leave reviews on Yelp. This can be done in person, on the phone and during video calls. You can also request “People love us on Yelp” stickers for your door or window from Yelp. A Boston-area agency displays the Yelp logo on its website, linking to its page.
Advertise offers and answer insurance questions. To the extent your agency can offer special deals without violating state rebating laws, Yelp is a good place to promote them. For example, you might offer a gift card for a car wash with each auto insurance quote. Also, this can be a good place to answer frequently asked questions such as what people should do when making a claim.
Respond to all user reviews. As the ReviewTrackers survey showed, most people want to hear back quickly after they leave reviews. Still, almost two-thirds of respondents to the survey said they had not received responses. Responding to all reviews quickly can set your business apart from the competition. The Houston agency’s Yelp page shows a history of replying to compliments from customers.
Not everyone will be happy, however. Atlanta based Cox Media Group recommends that you 1) apologize for the user’s poor experience, and 2) take the conversation offline and offer to fix the problems. An agency in Chicago responded to a lengthy negative review with a simple statement of appreciation for the comments and a promise to review its procedures to improve service.
Prospective customers will find information about your agency online. You can make a difference by managing the information they find. If you are proactive, you can help ensure that they receive positive first impressions of your business.