Let’s talk about online reviews. Consumers often use them to determine whether they are going to give you their business, and they also use them to share their own experiences. They are undoubtedly one of the most important forms of social proof, but how do you leverage your online reviews to your advantage?

Understand, search, ask, respond, act.

Understand online reviews

Having a true understanding of how online reviews affect your business is key to utilizing their power.

  • 97% of consumers use online reviews to help them make decisions
  • Consumers read upwards of 7 reviews before deciding to trust a business
  • 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked
  • Google uses review count and score when factoring local search ranking

Word of mouth has always had immense power over consumer decision making. Online reviews have greatly elevated the way we exchange information regarding our experiences.

Have you Googled your business lately?

Maintaining your business’ online reputation means regularly searching the web for any buzz happening about your company. Part of responsible brand management means knowing how your reputation is being portrayed by others online. At the very minimum, a monthly Google search is necessary to retain control of your online reputation.

Become part of the online conversation happening about your business. If there isn’t a conversation happening, now is the time to start one.

Ask for reviews

Though the popularity of online reviews is steadily increasing, many online consumers still don’t leave them right away, if ever. It’s up to you to ask for them! Here are a few simple ways to gather online reviews:

  • Asking in your email newsletter with links guiding them where to leave the review
  • In-office signage in places people spend time the longest (check-out counter, dressing rooms, etc.)
  • Creating social content encouraging people to share a recent experience (again linking them to the desired review site)
  • On the spot!

If you feel you have developed a business relationship worthy of sharing online, ask them to leave an online review for you. Explain that the process is simple and enhances their future experience, too, because feedback is valuable for growth. You will be pleasantly surprised by the willingness of a happy customer.

Responding is important

Chances are you will receive a bad review or two at any given time in your tenure. Some will be constructive, and you might be able to salvage your relationship with said customer. Others will be rant-y and there won’t be much you can do to save face.

The power lies in your response. Responding gives you the opportunity to make amends and get a second chance to win the customer back. If that doesn’t happen, your potential customers will see that you made an attempt to correct the issue at hand.

To that end, don’t only respond to negative reviews. Respond to glowing reviews to let your customer know that you appreciate the time they took to shout your name from the virtual rooftops! And whatever it is you’re doing right, keep doing it!

Use reviews to improve

Use online reviews as learning experiences. Even the naysayers can teach us something about how we handle imperfections in our business processes. When you use online reviews to make your business better, your reviews are more than likely going to see more stars, too.

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