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The Power of Customer Reviews

“Waaaayyy better than the rest”, “what an improvement”, “It was not worth it”, “I’m not going back”, “What a bargain!”, “Fantastic customer service -  I will return for that alone”, “Yes, yes and yes!” These are all opinions and they matter. Whereas customer was once king, increasingly, customer opinion is now king. As easy as it was to once write-off negative criticism, those days are no longer. Regardless of what you promise or offer as a business, you should know that customers listen as much, if not more, to what a review might say about your establishment than ever before. In this day and age, the best way to stay ahead of the curve as a business owner is to embrace this reality and not neglect it. 

If there was not already enough evidence of this trend, the data speaks volumes. According to statistics by Invesp, 90% of customers read online reviews and 88% of them trust what they read about those companies reviewed. What that signals is that more people read reviews as not just part of their purchase, but in fact, as part of their pre-purchase research, before even buying a product or service than ever before. Moreover, be aware that they are listening to virtual strangers; these reviews that carry so much weight are often from anonymous sources, and not even their closest, most trusted friends. 

So, in this so-called “reputation economy”, what is the best way to capitalize on the power of reviews? Embrace it. Integrate them, use them and optimize what and how people are saying about what you offer. As a business, make these reviews part of your overall strategy of building brand awareness and as a show to customers that what they say matters, let them improve how you work and do business. Here’s how to do just that; below is a list of the three most important online review platforms, so that way you can focus your efforts, one review at a time:  

Google My Business - the place to start

There are a wide variety of platforms, but Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool from Google that helps business owners manage their online presence across the search engine, offering the greatest impact for brands seeking exposure. According to Statcounter Global Stats,  92% of organic searches come from Google worldwide, showing you just how powerful a GMB listing and its reviews are! 

So how does it work? GMB complements your business website by giving you a public presence on Google and spreading your details via Google Search, Google Maps and Google+.  When people leave a review, this can have a powerful effect. You as a business owner can collate, quantify customers reviews and reorder them -  allowing you full access to accentuate the good over the bad. The system ensures transparency by listing your main rating, but it will funnel out bad reviews and it allows you to respond directly to them. Again, this shows your customers that you hear and care about what they are saying! Interacting in this public manner reflects the value you put in your customers and the feedback that they leave. Moreover, positive reviews are that much more likely to be read and increase your business’s visibility in the search results. You can also encourage customers to leave feedback by clicking on a link you have created to write reviews for your business. 

It goes without saying that as a next step, you should then devote time to how best to respond to reviews in the most effective way. 

TripAdvisor - crowdsourced review hub

TripAdvisor is an essential guide to restaurants, bars and hotels and serves as a platform to rate and review just about any business in the world. When the founder of TripAdvisor created the company, he recognized the value of opinion:  increasingly users gravited away from the old world of expert opinion towards crowdsourced reviews, so he began focusing exclusively on collecting original consumer input. This has revolutionized the travel, service and hospitality industry. Would you believe TripAdvisor now has 200 new reviews a minute? Allowing users to filter reviews by keywords, by customer service, location, value for money, or preferences, it is a customized experience for a customer to learn as much as they want to and inform their next purchase, which could be your establishment or not.

Recognizing the danger of fake reviews, TripAdvisor has invested significantly in fraud-detection measures and increasingly, flags suspicious businesses to protect their reputation. As a business owner, you should be familiar and encourage reviews on this site because so many people use it. Moreover, if you want to really capitalize on those positive reviews, your business can partner with TripAdvisor through a simple cost-per-click advertising, sponsored placements, and instant booking. If someone leaves a review you want to address, there is a seamless way to respond, publicly, for your current and future followers to consider.

Facebook -  opinion forum in your integrated community 

Social media offers platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Yelp and LinkedIn as a way to engage in an open public forum. This allows you to promote your products and services across different platforms for all the world to see. For the slightly, more personalized, but no less effective means, there is a Facebook. Like the other platforms, Facebook has a review section on your business’s page where a customer can post opinions, ratings and even recommendations. But Facebook is slightly different, or at least it can give the feel of something more special and private.

Indeed, unlike an open opinion forum, Facebook has the veneer of being a tad more personalized because it is integrated within the Facebook community and means your need a Facebook account. The reality though is that Facebook has a wide audience and most folks and businesses have a Facebook account so it may feel exclusive, because you have to log in, but boy, oh boy, is it ever public. 

Also, do not be fooled. According to a consumer review survey, Facebook is the number 1 site that customers use to review and recommend businesses.   If you are new to all this, Facebook walks you through how to get your business recommended and gives you the option of a systematized way of seeking reviews. So if your business has no Facebook presence, don't wait another minute. It is time to get started and pump those reviews!

As you can see, there are several ways to promote your business and get customer reviews. But the underlying understanding in each is the same 1) recognize the power of customer reviews 2) diversify the many options there are for customers to review your business. Use the big players that we have listed above and stay on top of it. You want customers to shout their positive reviews from these digital rooftops for all the world to hear because people are listening!

Jessica Brown
Jessica is a globally renowned writer specializing in International Relations, Economics and Political Affairs. A graduate from Brown and Cambridge Universities she now focuses on helping small to medium businesses grow their bottom line.
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