Making the most of online customer reviews

Online customer reviews increasingly make or break businesses


Online customer reviews, on sites such as Yelp and Tripadvisor and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, can be a double edged sword.

Great reviews can have an enormous positive impact on your business, drawing in customers and helping your business expand its presence on the net. According to a study published in 2012 by Harvard Business School, an increase of one star can lead to a 5% to 9% increase in business for small non-chain restaurants.

But poor reviews can have absolutely devastating effects. Another recent study showed that 4 out of 5 people choose not to buy something based on a bad review. Consumer and user reviews just carry so much weight these days, and online customer reviews really can make or break a business.

More and more people use the internet as a first port of call to do their shopping and research services. So it’s inevitable that they will try to glean as much information about you as possible so as to inform their purchasing decision. One of the best ways to work out if something is any good is to see what other people think about it and hey presto, we have the birth and rise of an increasing number of very powerful customer review super-sites.

Managing a way through the potential peril of online customer reviews…

  • Okay let’s get the obvious out of the way! Businesses that provide excellent products and services, and go the extra mile to delight their customers will of course fare better in the online review arena than businesses that have inconsistent or poor levels of service. Treat every customer like they’re a mystery shopper and you greatly increase the likelihood of receiving great reviews and reduce the potential for poor feedback.
  • Try to encourage customers to leave you honest feedback. Actually listening to your customers is good for business in general. Whether it’s online or offline, customer feedback helps you refine and improve your product and service. And natural, honest online comments from real customers are gold dust. Just don’t bribe people and don’t try to censor where you have control over content.
  • Learn from what people are saying and respond to them with good grace. Thank them for taking the time to offer their opinion whether good or bad. Answer any issues that need addressing. This shows you are a business owner that listens to customers, is striving to provide excellence and is quick to rectify anything that isn’t 100%.
  • Don’t shy away altogether from putting yourself out there on review sites and social networks (assuming you do provide a great product or service!) If you don’t have any reviews, people are more likely to lean towards a competitor that does have some feedback. You are essentially flying under the radar.
  • Review site and social network comments plus comments on your own website are great for increasing your web presence in general.The more reviews you have the higher you rank on the review sites, the more people talk about you on the social networks, the more people visit your site, helping your own site rank better in the search engines and so on. It all knocks on.
  • Don’t write loads of reviews yourself, don’t get your bezzy mates to do it for you, and don’t pay online services to write reviews for money. The big sites such as Yelp and Google+ Local are wise to this. They run software that can detect dodgy looking reviews and they will be removed. Consumers also aren’t daft. There are loads of obvious signs that reviews just don’t stack up. Having bogus and unnatural reviews will only breed mistrust of your product or service.
  • And finally, if someone posts something negative on your website, Twitter or Facebook, or a third party review site, always respond back in a positive way. Apologise and explain the situation without making it look like excuses. Offer them a second try of your product or service if appropriate. Whatever happens don’t respond in a negative way to a genuine customer review. This adds fuel to their fire and undermines your credibility. On the flip side, malicious and anonymous comments that overtly attack your business for no credible reason should either be removed where possible, reported or ignored. Do not waste your time pandering to random and malicious haters and saboteurs!

Customer-feedbackReading, responding and worrying about online customer reviews can be stressful, but when reviews are going well they boost your own morale, boost interest in your product or service, boost your website traffic. and ultimately boost your sales.

Just strive to be excellent at what you do and the good reviews will follow.