The Short Answer:
Competitor reviews let you know what other businesses in your area are doing right and, more importantly, what they’re doing wrong. This insight lets you know what new best practices to apply to your own business and what unpopular practices you should avoid or correct.
The Long Answer:
Depending on your industry, there are a number of specific instances you can use competitor reviews for. The common trait that all of these ideas share is that they give you an inside look into the strategies being used by your competitors.
1: See Behind the Scenes of Your Competitors
People tend to be candid in their review writing, especially if they had a good experience. Without having stepped foot inside the offices of your competitors or having had direct experience with their sales process, you can’t know everything they’re offering their clients.
For example, real estate agents tracking the reviews of other top producers in town might learn what other agents are doing to go above and beyond. Maybe they are available via text around the clock, or they buy Starbucks for their clients before touring properties. Perhaps they partner with a childcare service to help prospective clients who want to tour without distraction. The list could be endless.
This information can help you increase the satisfaction of your own clients when applied correctly.
2: Learn What Not to Do
The inverse of the previous idea is true as well. People don’t shy away from sharing truly awful experiences. Sometimes the negative experience is obviously something you’ll avoid doing (ex. lying to clients, unresponsiveness, etc.). However, you can learn things that bother prospective clients that maybe you didn’t know were issues.
For example, a first-time homebuyer might not realize that it’s pretty common for loans to get sold, sometimes even before they’ve made their first payment. If a loan officer doesn't communicate this to their client and the client ends up being late on their first mortgage payment, the loan officer could end up with a bad Yelp review
In short, knowing common complaints can help you avoid making those same mistakes. In time, that will mean fewer negative online reviews.
3: Learn About Services That You’re Not Offering
Reviewers might mention (and praise) above-and-beyond services that other agents provide. You can learn from the reviews and incorporate the services that make sense for you.
An insurance agent, for example, might learn that a competitor does in-person policy reviews or has taken the time to help someone insure obscure valuables. Most insurance agents would be able to do those things, but to learn through a positive review that people like these services is valuable information.
Getting access to this level of information might seem like overkill, but with each review, you can extract little nuggets of wisdom you can apply to your own business.
4: Professional Trait and Skills Development
Online reviewers give pretty decent assessments of the things that were done for them, but also of the skills and traits of the person they worked with.
For example, if a salon owner or massage therapist is reading competitor reviews commenting on things like the professionalism of the salon staff, the modern decor of the waiting area, or the specialty treatment that brought them there in the first place, this is great information to have. Making updates to your own business to meet the praiseworthy standards other businesses are getting is a good place to start.
Even on the flip side of this same idea, maybe your salon already has those amenities (and more), but people aren’t writing about them in your reviews. Use this information to get more reviews and feedback from clients who discuss these important areas of your business.
5: Post-Sale Follow-Up Tips
People typically write good reviews at the height of their happiness (and at the height of their frustration too). Competitor reviews might contain hints for you to apply to your own business for what to do after a sale to make your clients even happier.
With real estate, this time frame will be after the deal is done, the client is in their home, and life is good. Maybe the agent sent over a creative closing gift, something outside the realm of typical closing gifts. Perhaps they paid for a complimentary lawn care service. -- something that really helped push that happy client to take the time to log online and write a review.
6: Discover Coupon Ideas
Reviews can give you a better idea of the specials and hooks competitors might be employing to get new clients in the door.
For example, an HVAC professional could find out from competitor reviews that they offered a coupon through Yelp or Groupon. This could work a few ways. First, if there’s a noticeable uptick in reviews in a small period of time, you can check out what coupon ran and replicate their success. Or you might learn that a good coupon turned bad because the competitor couldn’t handle the increased business.
Either way, use reviews to learn whether or not a coupon or discount would be the right move for your business.