The Small Business Guide to Online Reviews

Online reviews might seem like an afterthought to business owners who have to wear many hats and put out daily fires. Bad reviews can also seem like a business owner’s worst nightmare, largely because it’s something they may have little control over. 

But they’re absolutely essential, as online reviews (be they on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, or your own company website) can be one of the main drivers of future and potential customers to your business website. According to a survey by Bright Local, 86 percent of consumers said they read reviews for local businesses.

While bad reviews can break you, a glowing review can help you flourish. 

Not only can good reviews let potential customers and search engines know the value of your business and attention to customer service, but enough positive reviews can always overshadow and outweigh a negative one. 

So striving for good reviews should be atop the entrepreneur’s priority list. Here’s your guide on how to get them and how to respond to negative ones. 

  1. Ask them in person. If you sense one of your store customers are extra pleased upon checkout, it doesn’t hurt to gently encourange them to leave an online review. But to buzz around your store or restaurant asking every single customer to leave a review might be repetitive and time-consuming. Instead, you can ask your customers to leave an online review by leaving signs or reminders in various places around your shop. For instance, you can obtain stickers from Yelp to add to your front door or window. You can leave a discreet sign on tabletops, or leave a message on the bottom of receipts or business cards. 
  2. Ask them online. You can launch an email campaign. If you haven’t started an e-mail list yet, start by gathering the emails of past customers who have ordered online. You can install a customer e-mail software as well as a pop-up on your website encouraging customers to sign up. A dedicated email encouraging customers to leave a review might be most effective if you offer them, let’s say 10-15% off a future product or service or a free gift with a future purchase.

    You can also schedule a social media post on Facebook or Instagram asking them to leave an online review.
  3. Reply to every review, good or bad. Of course, when opening your business to reviews, you expose yourself to negative ones, too. But don’t fret. Responding to every single review in a professional and helpful tone can quickly redeem your online reputation. Responding to bad reviews may not sound fun, but it’s a critical step in managing online reviews. Equally important (and much more pleasant of a task) is responding to positive reviews. Even just thanking them for their time will do but if you have time to get personal in your response, then go for it!

    This approach to replying customer reviews will speak volumes about your attention to service and communications. 
  4. Show off your good reviews. Some reviews dazzle so much they can be repurposed to attract more customers. You can copy-paste a glowing review and showcase it on your website’s homepage, or on a social media account. The positive review paired with a product image can work together to entice more business, as well as more customer reviews.

Stellar customer service is the foundation of it all. You can deploy all the strategies above but at the end of the day, a strong attention to customer service is the best way to fuel and generate positive reviews. In-store signs, e-mail or social media campaigns will not generate the results you want if you are ho-hum about how you deliver your product or service. Not only should you as the business owner develop and follow stellar customer service guidelines, but you should routinely train your employees to go above and beyond as well. When customer service becomes your business’ moda operandi, positive customer online reviews will naturally begin to pour in.