The Internet is full of strangers conducting transactions with strangers. Letting potential customers know more about you is vital for gaining their trust and business. Transparency is an important thing for consumers when they are researching companies. They want to see how companies will respond when things go wrong. Of course, as business leaders, we never want anything to go wrong in the first place. How you respond can be just as important as avoiding the initial mistake. According to a survey by BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. Transparency provides credibility and social proof for consumers.

What is transparency?

Transparency is critical to maintaining consumer trust in the age of social media. Consumers want to know who they are doing business with, if their partners can be trusted, what products they are dealing with, the experiences of other customers, and how mistakes are handled. Successful businesses are able to communicate the entire truth and don’t feel compelled to delay the dispensing of information. For instance, in 2015, Airbnb dealt publicly with concerns about racial profiling by admitting their problem and addressing it quickly. If you are forthright with your customers, they can see they share your brand’s values and begin to trust that you are the team they want to work with.

Do customer reviews matter?

BrightLocal’s 2017 local consumer review survey found that customers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business — this was an increase from six reviews in the 2016 survey. One negative review on the first page of a search engine can make you lose out on 22 percent of business. So, having a far-reaching and open internet presence is vital to providing credibility and gaining consumer trust. What may be even more surprising is that 98 percent of customers search online for local businesses. Even if your customers are just down the street, they want to see what kind of reputation you have across the internet.

The cost of unhappy customers

According to Vision Critical, it is much more difficult to overcome negative reviews than to capitalize on positive reviews. Customers are three times more likely to share negative experiences than they are to rave about good ones. Not only are customers more prone to speaking up about negative experiences, but studies show that it takes 12 positive reviews online to overcome just one negative review.

Moreover, 59 percent of customers say they are willing to change brands or company in the search for better customer service according to Vision Critical. The good news is that 81 percent of customers who had negative experiences said they would prefer that the companies try to work through the problem. This means that being transparent in how you deal with negative customer reviews can help you retain customers, and possibly even find new ones.

Handling customer reviews

Negative reviews cannot be erased. And in the long run, this is a good thing for both consumers and businesses. Savvy online users want to know that the reviews they read online are legitimate. “68 percent of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores,” according to Econsultancy. Since the presence of bad reviews lends legitimacy to the positive reviews, it becomes very important that you always respond to negative reviews. Responding in a clear, compassionate, and friendly way lets your potential customers know that, even if you make your occasional mistake, you still value the customer and client experience. You may not be able to fix the problem, but you can demonstrate that you are not dismissing complaints.

In short, think of customer reviews (whether negative or positive) as opportunities. Your brand name becomes more visible, you can demonstrate your commitment to customer care, and the larger web footprint lends an air of legitimacy to your company. The internet can be a vast and impersonal void; engage openly and transparently with your customers so that potential new clients feel compelled to seek you out.