How to leverage online customer reviews

Kate Jones

Online reviews have the power to boost reputation, lift search rankings and most importantly, help the bottom line. Small businesses can leverage online customer reviews to establish themselves as credible authorities in their field.

Studies show online reviews increase sales by up to 58 per cent and 70 per cent of consumers will consult reviews and ratings before purchasing.

Here’s how to make the most of online reviews.

Remind your customers

Start increasing your online reviews by simply asking your customers to write them. By generating reviews on Google you’re likely to see a rise in local rankings and more reviews on Facebook can equate to more followers.

Author and marketing expert Joel House says only a small portion of customers will actually make the effort, but it’s worthwhile for your business.

“To get started you don’t need any fancy software or expensive systems,” House says.

“Simply add a note to your invoices, or a follow up email post sale asking your customers for reviews. On average 10 per cent of your customers will leave reviews, with 90 per cent of them being positive."

Consider reviews free, direct and uncensored suggestions on how to deliver a superior product or service.

Manage bad reviews

No one likes being the subject of a negative review. But if you don’t act on them, bad reviews can deter potential customers.

“In order to eliminate the negative effect of bad reviews, businesses should get in the habit of checking their reviews every morning with the emails,” House says.

“This way you can respond and help any upset customers immediately. In fact, even if you do receive a negative review, as long as you handle it quickly 95 per cent of customers will return.”

Follow up

Be proactive and respond to your reviews. It shows your consumers there’s a human behind the company name and builds relationships between you and your customers.

Some businesses may even take it a step further by giving their customers gifts in the form of discounts or special offers, House says.

“If a business owner wants to really take advantage of online reviews, they should follow up with every customer after they’ve left a review, whether good or bad, with a special thank you gift,” he says.

Make changes

Customer feedback gives small business owners the chance to improve their services. Consider reviews free, direct and uncensored suggestions on how to deliver a superior product or service.

Kate Jones

Kate Jones writes for the business and money sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She also writes for The New Daily, TAC, RMIT and is a news writing tutor at Monash University.

Image: Matt BiddulphFlickr Creative Commons license