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Agent to Agent: Why Online Reviews Matter

Paul Kerrigan Progressive 192x200.jpgBy Paul Kerrigan

Online reviews are becoming an increasingly important part of the online shopping experience and the research consumers are conducting to find the right product or service. Just think about your own online shopping habits on a site like Amazon, for example. You likely click on a few of the product reviews and they can impact what product you end up choosing to purchase. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal, July 2014).

Reviews not only provide useful information for shoppers, but they can be leveraged as a useful marketing tool for agents. Think of it as an opportunity to participate in a dynamic conversation with your customers that can build trust as well as damage control when needed.

Reviews continue to grow in importance as a ranking factor for local search. When deciding which websites to present and how they rank, search engines take into consideration online review signals and recognize them as relevant content for a shopper. Google+ pages, for example, require a business to have at least 5 reviews for them to start showing up in Google search results. This can become a differentiator for your agency and a way for it to stand out among your competition. Our research suggests the average insurance agent has only 2 online reviews and they’re usually more than a year old.

And perhaps the biggest area of opportunity that exists is the business intelligence you can gain from better understanding your customers’ experience, which we’ll discuss further.

Tools Available to Agents

Vendors exist to help automate this process. Progressive, for example, utilizes a vendor to help streamline the process for its agents. These are typically single platforms that help to automate the process of following up with your customers after an interaction. Think of these tools as more of a customer experience management platform. Not only is the goal to obtain online reviews, but you’re also going to get great business intelligence and active feedback along the way. We typically see an 8-10% open rate for our emails and of those who open them, about 1% will write a review.

You’ll know how your customers are feeling about their experiences with you — what you are doing well or need improvement on, which producers are getting good reviews or where you need to spend more time. This type of feedback allows you to course correct to address issues or capitalize and celebrate successes.

One example we can share is from an agent who was piloting our program. He was using the system and received a rating from a customer with only 1 star. After following up, he learned the customer didn’t feel the agent was timely in his responses. That was because the agent was on vacation, but didn’t have the appropriate out of office notifications posted. It became a useful piece of information that the agent could remedy the next time he was out of the office.

How a Platform Might Work

After an interaction with your agency, a customer receives an email to rate his or her experience. One thing to note, because communication is done by email, it’s important to make sure you’re obtaining an updated, valid email from your customers.

If the customer, gives you a poor rating (a 1 out of 5 for example), you can follow up with the customer to try and remedy the issue and address it before the customer posts a bad review of your agency online. If the customer gives you a positive rating (say 4 or 5 stars), the system will follow up and ask them to write a review for you on the platform of their choice. You can program in a number of review options including Facebook, Google My Business and Yelp. Providing options is important because some of your customers may be more comfortable giving their review in Facebook, while others may prefer Yelp. But as you would imagine, getting people to post on your Google My Business page is also important given the search engine implications.

This process is important because it helps you to catch negative feedback before it snowballs, allowing you to address it with the customer before it can become a negative review. It also allows you to solicit for positive reviews. One negative review won’t crush you, but how you handle it is very important. Research shows that negative reviews can outweigh the impact of your positive reviews, so preventing negative posts is vitally important.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Find a process for obtaining updated and relevant email addresses from your customers: Find a way to bake it into your process. Try to get both business and personal emails from customers. Customers are likely spending more time in their work email during the day than their personal accounts. Agents that have the most success have around 400-500 emails in the system and continue to build upon that number as they add new customers.
  • Build slowly and naturally: It’s not good to go from 0-30 reviews in a day. The speed at which you gain reviews is monitored and review sites could penalize you if they think you’re gaming the system or posting fake reviews. Also, don’t post reviews from a computer in your agency.
  • Keep an eye on your competition: Monitor the sites where your competitors are getting their reviews. Are there any industry specific sites that can be leveraged? Remember not all reviews are created or weighted equally, so being strategic in your approach can help with success.
  • Don’t just post 5 star reviews: While it’s important to try and prevent negative reviews, not all need to be 5 stars. Shoppers may not believe what they’re reading because no one is perfect. If you do receive negative feedback from a customer, follow up with them immediately.
  • Incentivizing (or paying) for reviews is frowned upon: Facebook, for example, has policies to safeguard against that.
  • Diversify the sites you are leveraging for reviews: This can help to minimize the impact of accidental removal of reviews due to filters or algorithm changes on a specific site or search engine. This is also a valuable tactic because reviews are often syndicated to other sites allowing them to have greater visibility and the increased coverage may be counted multiple times in ranking algorithms.
  • You may need to follow up with customers more than once: Set up your systems to email customers right after an interaction and then again at day 30, if they don’t respond.
  • Share the positive feedback you receive with your staff: Everyone enjoys a pat on the back and it’s a great way to boost office moral. You may also use the negative feedback as a learning experience for your staff. Anonymize it and share it with the team so you can avoid replicating mistakes.

Paul Kerrigan is marketing services manager for Progressive. For more information about Progressive’s services and marketing tools, visit ForAgentsOnly.com.