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CUSTOMER REVIEWS: Why they’re important and how to leverage them

Reviews are a small business’s secret weapon to winning new customers. Gone are the days of word of mouth—today customers build their opinions and trust online, using online review sites such as Yelp in the same way an older generation relies on family and friends to make purchase decisions. According to Forbes, 90% of customers decide what to buy based on online reviews, and 94% will use a business with at least four stars. This major reliance on digitally sourced reviews means small businesses must win online—from building a strong collection of praise to handling less glowing recommendations. Below are a few tips for leveraging positive reviews, as well as managing negative comments.

Establish an Online Presence: The first step to receiving rave reviews is setting up a space in which customers can leave their thoughts. Sites such as Yelp serve a variety of industries, from restaurants to hardware stores, while TripAdvisor serves a more niche audience. Additionally, it’s important not to discount social media in the endorsement space.

Leverage Your Loyalists: One of the easiest and most reliable ways to get good reviews is by employing your best customers to post positive comments. Consider offering your customers an incentive to write a review, such as a discount at their next visit.

Call Out Inaccuracies: If you come across reviews that you don’t believe accurately portray your company, whether it be business hours or core values, it’s a good idea to respond with the correct information in a timely manner to dispel any misunderstandings that could have a negative impact on your profits.

Admit When You’re Wrong: Many customers take to review sites to air their grievances. Whether it be the service they received or the food they were served, today’s customers aren’t shy about laying it all out on the line. If your business receives this kind of negative comment, own up to the misstep if you are at fault. A personal, genuine apology and promise to improve can go a long way—not only to the disappointed customer, but to others reading through the reviews.

Taking control of your online reviews can help prospective customers build trust and drive traffic to your business. And while it can be daunting to receive criticism, the feedback gleaned from these reviews can aid in your business’s ability to improve on service and offerings. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to review your services, and always approach the online space as you would in person—with open, honest communication and a smile.

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