Businesses know all too well the power that can come with online reviews, whether good or bad. Customers rely on online reviews to help make buying decisions, and reviews can also make a big difference in a company’s overall search engine optimization, making it more likely that potential customers will find them when searching online. To be competitive, businesses need a strategy for getting and using positive online reviews.

Options for displaying customer reviews include posting them on your company website, enabling review functionality on your company Facebook page and other social media, and motivating customers to leave reviews with online directories, like those provided by Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and Better Business Bureau.

So how do you get those reviews to be positive, and what do you do once you have them? Here are some tips for using reviews to attract more business:

 

Ask.

As sales people, we know that we get more if we ask more; asking satisfied customers for reviews on a regular basis can boost the number of positive reviews a company receives. Customers tend to be most motivated to post a review when they’re unhappy with something, and we do not want to let those reviews overwhelm the good ones. Fortunately, a request is often all a happy customer needs. Post a sign, give customers a card when the job is done, or send a follow-up email asking for a review.

 

Make it easy.

If you want reviews in the BBB directory, on your website, or somewhere else, provide customers with direct links. In your follow-up e-mail, for example, say something like: “Thank you so much for your business! If your experience with us was positive, please consider leaving us a review on our BBB profile (include link) or send it directly to us (email address) to use on our site.” You might also consider providing an online form on your company website allowing customers to offer feedback and leave reviews.

 

Respond.

It is a good idea to regularly check sites where you may be reviewed and do regular online searches for your business name — it’ll help monitor your online reputation. This can be important for addressing negative reviews, but remember that responding to positive reviews can be just as important. People generally like to know that a business takes the time to read their comments, and participating in this kind of online dialogue can encourage old customers to return and show new customers that you’re a business that cares about customers.

 

Be honest.

Make sure everything you do is genuine and honest. There have been instances of businesses getting caught posting fake reviews in order to inflate their reputation or cover up negative reviews. This can damage a company’s reputation and is one of the reasons BBB verifies that reviews are from actual customers before allowing them to be posted.

 

Publicize.

When asking for feedback, get permission to use comments in company promotions, on your website, or on social media. Let customers know whether you plan to use their full name, just their first name and last initial, or something else before posting. When you get permission, share the positive feedback widely. Thank reviewers on social media and include what they said. Use them as testimonials on your site and put them in your marketing materials to share what your customers think about you.

 

Address negative reviews.

Before you ask for any more feedback, address valid negative issues that you learn about online. If customers see that you have not responded to or addressed previous problems, they may be concerned about your sincerity.

 

All businesses should want to interact with their customers as much as possible — it’s a way to demonstrate your value and build loyalty. Online reviews, when they’re monitored and used correctly, offer an easy and effective way to strengthen your customer network.


Sean Spence is the regional director of Better Business Bureau Columbia. 

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