One of the many fantastic things about the Internet is the opportunity for people to express their opinions on almost anything. If you own a business, it's a way for customers to comment on your service or products. These comments are posted on the web as online reviews, either directly to your business's website or social media pages, or to other sites which aggregate online reviews.
How Important Are Online Reviews?
In the digital age, online reviews have largely taken the place of the word-of-mouth referrals. After all, it may be easy to ask your neighbor who mows his lawn, but harder to find someone you know who has ordered a pink infant-sized baby jumper from a fair-trade website in the past year. With the Web, potential buyers can seek out online reviews of products and services offered by various companies all around the world — including people who have frequented your business in the past.
So it's easy to see why positive reviews are like gold, while negative ones can be toxic and dangerous.
How Can You Monitor Your Online Reviews?
- Be proactive – Don't just read a few online reviews when you feel like it. Schedule time regularly (weekly is a good goal) to check for new reviews. Also, when looking at various review sites, take note if your recent positive reviews are not current; the older they are, the less impact they have on the opinions of others.
- Respond quickly to negative reviews – On the other hand, you may come across customers who express displeasure about their experience dealing with your business. Do not ignore these individuals, and do not procrastinate in responding. When you respond quickly, you send the message that you care about customer input and are taking steps to resolve the problem. (Note: Don't issue a "form-letter" response. People see right through those.)
- Keep the tone civil – Some online reviews can be scathing, juvenile, inappropriate, and downright unfair. Even if a certain review does awaken some strong emotions, do not mimic the reviewer's negative tone. Instead, remain calm and civil, and respond to the reviewer with class. If you get dragged into the virtual mud with a reviewer, both you and your business almost always lose.
- Address the issue and offer to make it right – If a reviewer has a legitimate complaint — even if it wasn't the fault of you or your staff — try to find a way to make him or her happy. Offer a refund or a discount on future services. You'd be surprised how many positive reviews are born out of negative ones that were addressed properly and in a timely manner.
How Can You Get More Good Reviews?
Ask for reviews
Make it apparent to all of your customers that they have a voice in how you do business. This means not only having a place on your website where people can post reviews, but also promoting the appropriate online review destination in print and inside the store itself.
Ask satisfied customers for reviews
One way to do this is to sign up for a service that automatically emails all of your clients to ask for their reviews. This increases the odds that happy customers will take the time to sing your praises online. Also, if a customer expresses his or her satisfaction to you verbally, be sure to respond by saying, "Thanks! Feel free to tell the world by putting that in a review online!"
Encourage people to read your reviews
Display a link or button on your website, Facebook page, and anywhere else you have an online presence. You can even do this along with certain promotions like those on "daily deal" websites. Not only will potential customers read your glowing reviews, but your current customers are more likely to add their positive feedback as well.
If you need help with the task of online review management, check out ReputationDefender's "Reputation For Business" for more suggestions and assistance.