When Carmen Popa opened her acne treatment center, Luminosity Acne Skincare in North Carolina, she quickly realized how valuable online reviews were to attracting new customers. “Clients often mentioned that it was the positive reviews that encouraged them to try out my business,” she says.
Research shows that online reviews strongly influence buying behavior, with nearly half of American consumers stating that they are more likely to visit a business after reading a positive online review. That makes review websites such as Yelp, Google Places, and Citysearch online archives of consumer opinions on how a business compares to similar shops.
Even so, many small business owners don’t take the time to actively monitor and manage reviews, thinking their sole focus should be on day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, there are cases where negative reviews have crippled a business, or even led to its demise. This means business owners need to not only respond to negative reviews, but also promote the positive ones. Here four key tactics for how to do this.
1. Pay Attention to What Customers Say
Monitor review websites by using Google Alerts, which is free. Or subscribe to a reputation management service to monitor all mentions of your company across the Web. Some review websites will even notify you via email when new reviews are posted.
2. Generate More Reviews, More Often
Most satisfied customers won’t take the time to post a review unless you specifically ask them to. Make it easy by signing up for an online service that automatically emails your customers to request they submit a review. This simple technique has proven to dramatically increase the number of positive reviews you can generate. These services can link to your customer database so you know the reviews are from your actual and recent customers.
3. Promote Your Reputation Across the Web
Make sure that a ‘read my reviews’ button is prominently displayed on your website and on social media pages. This provides a compelling call-to-action for customers to read and also write reviews. To get started, create a separate web page that lists your reviews, preferably updated automatically or linked directly to your business’ profiles on reviews sites. You can also add links to your reviews in a customer newsletter or in a promotion. Jim Lankes, owner of Divine Skin Spa in Arizona, says including a link to his more than 500 customer reviews is a big reason why his business has sold more than 10,000 daily deals in two years.
4. Respond Quickly, Personally, and Appropriately
Create a policy for responding to negative reviews and designate one person to act as the spokesperson in these situations. When a negative review appears, respond in a timely fashion, ideally via a private message, assuming you can determine the reviewer’s identity and contact details. Acknowledge their dissatisfaction, describe how you plan to resolve the cause of it, and invite them back for a discounted or even a free service.
Lankes, of Divine Skin Spa, goes a step further. He refunds the customer’s entire purchase when they are dissatisfied. He sees the monetary loss as a necessary expense in defending the reputation of his business. If the customer doesn’t respond, or isn’t willing to let you compensate them for the negative experience, craft a thoughtful public response to the review that explains how you have fixed the problem and attempted to resolve the situation with the customer.
People weigh the opinions of others heavily, even when they don’t know them. That said, they are more likely to trust a business owner who takes time to respond to reviews with the goal of improving their service. Customers will naturally gravitate to businesses that display a human element. Remember, when it comes to managing customer reviews and promoting your reputation, the best defense is always a good offense.