The Internet has fundamentally changed the way that buyers and sellers interact in the marketplace. E-commerce sites make it easy to comparison shop and purchase, while crowd-sourced online review sites help customers make more informed buying decisions.
As a result, reviews—good and bad—spread faster and reach more people
than ever before. Typically, business owners will find that positive
user-generated content adds credibility and provides the chance to
interact with customers. On the flip side, unhappy clients are often
quick to voice their displeasure on websites and social channels, and negative reviews can quickly take a bite out of sales.
According to a 2011 BrightLocal
survey, approximately 70 percent of consumers use the Internet to find
local business, and nearly all of those read online reviews when
deciding which business to patronize. In addition, an overwhelming 86
percent of respondents claim online reviews influenced their decision—so
they clearly carry a lot of weight.
The question is: How should businesses deal with them?
Join the conversation: If your firm or site has no
customer feedback, reviews or testimonials, you may be viewed as less
trustworthy than the competition. Make sure your company is listed on
the major search engines and solicit customers for help promoting it on
Google, Yelp, Bing, and other key sites.
Face the negative: If people are disparaging your firm, or your name, the best approach is to respond quickly and publicly, and in
an accommodating manner. Don’t lash out against the criticism; use the
opportunity to minimize problems
and resolve issues. Negative reviews are not fun, but they can be an
effective way to win over critics. By showing accountability and
attempting to solve the problem, you’re giving potential (and existing)
customers more reason to trust you. If people walk away from a
discussion pleased with your response, they are more likely to have a
better impression of your brand.
Don’t be so fake: According to Gartner, as many as 10 to 15 percent of social media reviews
will be fake by 2014. Instead of honest customer reviews, praise, and
feedback, we’ll unfortunately see a growing number of reviews that were
These might come from a company trying to bash a competitor or a company
trying to boost its own profile by posting glowing reviews. Remember,
reviews are all about public perception—and the public can pick up
pretty quickly on phony feedback. Should you attempt to improve your own
reputation through positive anonymous reviews, it could come back to haunt you.
Therefore, transparency is paramount. On the other hand, if you see a
review bashing your business that you know is erroneous or fake, contact
the administrators of the review site with details. With enough proof,
sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Insider Pages have deleted false
Customer feedback is incredibly important for any business looking to be
successful, and online reviews are increasingly valuable. Get in the
game now. How you manage your online reputation can help make the
difference between five-star success and one-star failure.
Kate Grusich is a senior account executive with Cookerly PR. A version of this story first appeared on the Cookerly PR blog.