Customers are using local search results and review sites as part of their online research prior to making buying decisions. With mobile search capabilities and the emergence of a multitude of review sites, online research prior to purchase is easier than ever and growing every day. Smart small business and local business owners are monitoring the online conversations about their business and have a process in place to gather customer reviews and feedback and get them online. (If you are not actively gathering five star reviews from customers, read this.)

85 percent read reviews before purchases

Besides creating a positive online presence, there is hidden treasure in those reviews and it is real-time consumer data. Your customers are giving you not only custom market research, but data-rich information on customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, product use, and customer service. This is a goldmine of information you could be using to improve your business.

Evaluating Customer Reviews

Any business owner who has had those moments where they wondered why all their fool-proof plans and exhaustive work wasn’t turning into profits knows how powerful it is to know the customer’s perspective. Your customer feedback, whether in the form of written reviews or ratings, provides a health check for your business and you need to pay attention.

Raving Reviews. Five star reviews are great obviously, and it is important to get feedback on what is working well to re-create over and over that exceptional experience for the customer. Properly positioned and optimized to show up in all the right places online (review sites, your website, in online searches) great reviews drive new and repeat business as effectively, if not more effectively than any other marketing activity. When prospective customers read, “It’s the Best. You have to experience what I experienced!” over and over again, they believe it and they spend their money trusting they have made an informed decision.

73 percent of consumers trust reviews

So-So Reviews. Middle of the road four star and three and a half star reviews are indicators that things are good but there is room for improvement. No one has ever been wowed by an underwhelming three-star “It’s good” review and these reviews don’t stand up to a competitor whose bring five-star power on online search results. Time to put the thinking cap on and dig into these reviews. What are customers saying could be better? What are competitors five-star reviews raving about that is missing in your product or operations? Look for indicators of little changes that will go a long way in improving your business, upping customer satisfaction and reviews, and growing your business.

Negative Reviews. The facelessness of the internet gives some unearned power to the generally disgruntled reviewer and sometimes that power can be mishandled. People have bad days. An unjustified random negative review may pop up. It’s okay and consumers are forgiving of that. Consistent great reviews will negate those reviews but if negative reviews are more consistent than a one-off event there is no denying that despite a business’s best efforts there are problems that need to be addressed. As human nature goes, dissatisfied customers will be more detailed with their issues and concerns. Keeping with the health checkup theme, negative reviews give a list of unhealthy problems you can fix to improve your business and ensure it is in tip-top shape.

It’s important that all negative reviews are given a positive and effective response online with future customers in mind if the website allows it. Letting your old and future customers know that you value their feedback goes a long way in earning their trust. Internally, address the issues and interactions that are effecting the customer experience immediately. Remember, while you and prospective customers are reading these bad reviews online, more customers are having the same experience with your company or product and getting ready to write more reviews. What changes can be made? What processes can be streamlined? What personnel can be hired, fired or transferred to improve the customer experience? Incorporate changes that make your business better and get you better reviews as soon as possible

The Importance of Follow Up

Consumers have the ability to research products and services any time, from anywhere. They are searching at work, at home, and even in the parking lots outside your storefronts. Following up after the sale to make sure your customers are satisfied and getting positive reviews online needs to be part of your business strategy. Online reviews provide the opportunity to respond directly to customers, thank them for their loyalty and address any issues. A business’s response to a negative review online has the power to influence and impress future customers despite the unsatisfactory experience of one customer. That is why a fast and empathetic response from the business is so vital to managing your online reputation. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by showing that you care about your customers.

55 percent consumers use mobile search

Reviews from your customers provide high-profile marketing for your business and invaluable feedback you can use to improve your operations. If a small business wants to grow, creating an online presence with positive reviews is one of the most powerful steps it can take to get in front of consumers ready to make purchasing decisions. Evaluating those reviews and working towards a five-star reputation builds a competitive edge when customers search for services or products. Make it quick and easy to leave feedback and reviews, respond to negative reviews to show you care about your customers, make the improvements that your customers are asking for, and you have yourself a winning strategy to grow your business.



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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.