With the ever changing world of technology, receiving positive online customer reviews is now just as important as word of mouth. Traditionally, small businesses would rely on word of mouth to survive. But lacking the reach, and advertising budget of their larger competitors, they know their loyal clientele will be critical to staying afloat. They also understand that superior service will be critical to sustaining, and growing, their customer base.

With every customer now able to easily share their experience with the entire world, customer reviews have become even more important. In fact, according to one recent survey, 93% of consumers now first look for local businesses online, and 87% base their purchasing decisions on customer reviews. What’s more, 92% indicated they would be less likely to use a business if it had bad reviews.

This means that having people who willingly advocate for your business has never been more important. But why is this so? And what can you do to make sure your business is getting the recognition it deserves?

The value of positive customer reviews

A good online customer review is about so much more than simply complimenting your products and service. It’s a public endorsement of your business, and a recommendation to others to purchase from you. Customer reviews are also well trusted, with 79% of consumers considering them on par with personal recommendations from family and friends.

For small businesses, positive customer reviews provide a number of additional benefits, including:

  • Legitimising your business: When you don’t have a well-known brand to rely on, customer reviews can help give new customers confidence. Good reviews speak to the quality of your products and service, and provide an assurance that you deliver on your promises.
  • Helping refine your offering: Customer reviews will provide insight into how your products and service is being received. For better or worse, they will help you understand what your strengths are, and what might need more attention.
  • Generating leads: Whether they are on Google, your website, or a review site, positive reviews should lead to more customers. They do this by increasing your reach, recommending your products and services, and promoting your point of difference.
  • User-generated content: Coming up with new ways to engage customers is a challenge for most small businesses. Customer reviews can also be used to communicate further with your target customer base. They can Help maintain the dialogue, and encourage new and repeat business.

Even negative reviews can be beneficial, if handled correctly. These days, most consumers are fairly savvy, and actually expect at least a few less than perfect reviews. However, it’s important to show that your business is willing to engage with negative feedback, and takes criticism into consideration.

Tips for encouraging reviews

The best reviews are usually those actively initiated, and willingly provided by the customer. These tend to feel more sincere and insightful, and generally provide the most honest and helpful feedback. However, that doesn’t mean you should just wait around for happy customers to voluntarily promote your business.

If you want to increase the number of positive online customer reviews you currently receive, there are several things you can do. Specifically, you should try:

  • Asking customers for a review: This may seem obvious, but many businesses don’t do it. This request could be a direct request to key customers, or a simple line in all post-sale follow up emails. Either way, you will need to be aware of your preferred review site’s restrictions on asking for reviews. For example, here’s Google’s review guidelines.
  • Responding to every review: When a customer leaves a review, they want to know that they are being heard. Replying to their review gives them this validation, while showing potential customers that you are engaged and open to feedback. Respondingin a positive and thoughtful way will also allow you to address any criticisms raised.
  • Focusing heavily on service: If a customer believes they have received exemplary service, they are far more likely to voluntarily leave a review. And, that review is more than likely going to be very positive. As such, in addition to improving your customer experience, a focus on service should also improve your online customer review volume, and score.

Want to discuss this further? At MT Corporate Advisory, we understand how important reputation is to a small business. If you need help refining your approach to managing customer reviews, or just want to discuss ways to grow your business, give us a call!