Online review sites are becoming more and more vital to consumers as they research businesses and products online. Sites like Yelp and Google Local allow customers to post their reviews for others to read, making them a powerful influence in consumer buying decisions. According to the MIT Technology Review, for every one dollar U.S. consumers spend online, another five or six are going to off-line purchases that are influenced by online research. In fact, 97% of Internet users in the U.S. gather shopping information online. Yet many business owners still have not ventured into the world of online reviews, even though their customers are researching them and making purchasing decisions based on the online reviews they find.
Here are some tips to help you get started and take control of your online reviews:
Check Your Current Review Status
Make a survey of the main online review sites to see what people are already saying about you. You should also take a look at reviews for your closest competitors.
Major Review Sites
- Google Local Business Listings
- Yahoo! Local Business Listings
- Insider Pages
- Merchant Circle
Be sure to review these sites periodically, to make sure you know your current status online and can respond to any critical comments in a timely manner.
Register Your Business
Now that you know what’s out there and what people are saying, you need to register your business on the most active sites, so you can respond to customer questions and criticism. Registering also let’s you add company information, photos, promotions, a website link, and more on most of the above sites.
Learn From Bad Reviews
If your survey of existing reviews turned up some negative comments, be honest with yourself about their value and validity. Does the customer have a point? What can you do to improve your business so that no one else has the same negative experience? Be vigilant about taking customer feedback to heart in an effort to continually improve your business… making your business customer-focused is a surefire way to encourage positive reviews in the future.
Ask for Reviews
Once you’re confident that you are delivering positive experiences to your customers, you’re ready to start asking for reviews. The time to ask is after your transaction is complete. And don’t pressure for good reviews, simply let customers know that their opinion counts. You can ask in person by handing customers a card or receipt with your preferred review site’s address on it. You can add a link to it in follow-up or thank you emails, or you can add a link to review sites on your website.
Respond Quickly and Genuinely to Bad Reviews
Be sure to stay on top of your reviews and respond promptly to negative comments. Try not to be defensive. Even if you think the customer is way off base or irrational, other potential customers will also see your response. You don’t want to seem defensive or rude. Be courtesy and apologize that they had a bad experience. Then see what you can do to resolve the issue. Often, a negative reviewer will update their comments if an issue is resolved to their satisfaction.
Keep Your Perspective
Remember that one bad review won’t kill you. In fact, if you are successful at encouraging your customers to provide you with online reviews, then the numbers will be in your favor. Your goal should be to have a large number of mostly positive reviews. Potential customers are realistic about the nature of the internet, and understand that some people will never be happy. But if they see that the majority of reviewers love your business, they will try you out for themselves.