Truckers concerned about the havoc online reviews can wreak on their fortunes can take heart: The latest crop of online review software enables you to establish a powerful command center to monitor and influence your company’s reputation.
“Penske has been handling online reviews and social media comments for many years,” said Randy Ryerson, Penske’s director of corporate communications. “Each time a customer provides feedback positively or negatively, it should be taken as an opportunity to improve the customer experience and follow up on it.
“This good-faith effort online also demonstrates to others that your company is responsive and taking action when and where appropriate,” he added. “Resolving an issue also provides an opportunity for the reviewer to improve their review or online comment.”
Brian Helton, marketing and media relations director for Mercer Transportation, said, “Any online review should be taken seriously if you are sincere about delivering better service.”
You can optimize your handling of online reviews with best-of-breed dashboards that allow you to keep tabs on every major review site on the web, see what’s being said about your company in real time and respond lightning-quick— whether it’s to accept an accolade or engage in critical damage control. You also will be able to use many of these packages to create a reviews domain on your own website, cultivate reviews from your customers and ensure that those reviews also get posted to the major review websites and on social media.
These days, putting together a formalized review management strategy has become especially critical given that many truck drivers are not shy about reviewing companies online.
Drivers “frequently write and read trucking company reviews on trucker forums,” said Joe White, owner of CostDown Consulting, an industry consultancy. “A significant level of poor ratings there can harm hiring efforts.”
Richard B. Cribbs, senior vice president at Covenant Transportation Group, agrees: “My wife and I have chosen restaurants based purely on the reviews. Drivers can do the exact same thing — as they are choosing a carrier to drive for.”
Said Peter Mühlmann, CEO of Trustpilot, an online review management business: “We live in the consumer era where influence has truly shifted from companies to consumers.”
Marc Ferrentino, chief strategy officer at Yext, another online review management solution, also said that consumers can profoundly affect commerce.
“Reviews are one of the most important signals consumers consider when choosing where to shop, eat, stay or do business,” he said.
Eighty-five percent of people searching the web for goods and services now trust online reviews as much as they do recommendations from family and friends, according to a 2017 study from BrightLocal.
And more ominously: The study found that 49% of review readers won’t do business with a company that is rated below four out of five stars on review sites.
The good news for truckers looking to manage their reputation with online review dashboards is that it’s a buyer’s market. Dozens of packages are available to check out and determine which best fits your business goals and style. Websites featuring run-downs on all the major packages include Finances Online, Capterra, G2 Crowd, Software Suggest, Software Advice and GetApp.
While different fleets have different needs, key features you will want to look for in any online review software management solution include:
• Real-time monitoring of major review websites. This is really the first job for any decent package. A single, negative review that goes viral can do significant damage to your company. Real-time monitoring is essential to ensure you are continuously aware of reviews being posted about your company in every major corner of the web. Review Trackers is one of the many packages that offer this service.
“Many online review sites allow the company to respond,” said Matt Palmer, communications and brand development manager for Groendyke Transport. “The key is responding with curiosity and a willingness to help, rather than a defensive tone.”
Nick Kreyer, director of marketing at Transport America, agrees.
“It’s common for all businesses to receive at least some negative online reviews, and it isn’t necessarily the worst thing for them,” he said. “It’s how that review is handled that’s important.”
• A reviews domain on your website. Many packages, including Trustpilot, offer users the ability to create and manage a reviews domain on their website. This will help offset unfair reviews that appear elsewhere. Many online review experts recommend allowing positive and negative company reviews to appear in the reviews domain to establish the overall authenticity of the domain. But of course, that’s a call each trucker needs to make.
Jeremy Williams, marketing manager for KSM Transport Advisors, is lukewarm on establishing a reviews domain on a company website.
“Many consumers may question the validity of online reviews directly on your website and wonder whether they’re biased in favor of your company,” he said. “With so many good, trusted third-party review sites available, you’ll likely get more out of monitoring and responding to comments on third-party sites than building out a review portal on your own site.”
Aimee Schmalzle, senior director of digital at Ryder System Inc., said: “It really depends how you implement it. Many times, companies can appear unauthentic when they maintain and cherry pick the reviews they wish to publish.
“A best-practice approach is to invest in a platform, such as Reputation.com, to centrally manage your online reputation,” she said. “It helps to consolidate sentiment and reviews from across the internet into one platform so you can effectively respond and manage your reputation.”
• Search engine optimization. All the new content you will be continually generating with a new reviews domain on your website automatically should boost your company’s rank in search returns, since search engines reward sites publishing useful content. Some packages, such as Grade.us, take this SEO boost a step further by ensuring the format and rendering of each review you publish on your site is SEO-optimized.
• Review solicitation. Best-of-breed packages offer the ability to solicit reviews from customers on your website, via social media, e-mail and smartphone text, at your call center and at other key points of interactivity with your customers. These review solicitation modules, such as the one found in PowerReviews, also often enable you to autosyndicate these reviews to the major review websites or to popular social media networks.
• Q&A capability. Some package makers, such as Turnto, enable people to post questions on your reviews domain, which can be answered by a company spokesperson or another reviewer. Given that users of Amazon.com’s review tools consider this capability de rigueur, they may expect the same at your reviews domain.
• Sort-by-star-rating tool. Most Amazon users have grown accustomed to being able to autosort reviews for any given product based on star rating. The reason: Sure, five-star reviews are influential. But thorough shoppers also look at three-star and lesser reviews to verify that the five-star reviews ring true.
• Customizable reports. Most packages come with pre-designed reports and alert systems that can be relied on regularly. As you become more familiar with the package, you may want to customize your reports.
• Monitoring of competitor reviews. Nearly as important as what is being said about your company is what’s being said about your competitors. Some packages, such as Review Push, include this feature. It offers powerful insights into online reviews detailing your competitors’ triumphs and stumbles.
• Tight Facebook and Google integration: Given that a significant percentage of reviews appear on Facebook and Google, some package makers — including Reputology — have made it easier to deal with these reviews by providing the ability to reply to reviews on Facebook and Google directly from the package dashboard.
• Artificial Intelligence. While AI has only recently made its way into the online review packages, it still is worth taking a look at what’s available. Package maker Yotpo, for example, recently added AI-powered widgets to its solution. These pull up reviews featuring topics that are most important to the consumer reading your reviews.