How to Leverage Online Reviews into More Business

Recently, some friends of mine were buying a pre-owned minivan to accommodate their growing family. While they were still in the dealership, they looked online (on their smart phones) for an auto mechanic who does pre-owned inspections to make sure the car was in good condition.

After the mechanic completed his inspection, he thanked them for their business and asked how they heard about his shop. They said they went to his shop because he had the best reviews online. He looked puzzled and asked, “Reviews?”

He didn’t even know his business was being rated online! Fortunately for him he was getting good ratings. Imagine if the opposite were true.

Because of online review sites, like Yelp, businesses are now gaining or losing business and might not even know why. Online review sites are becoming one of the most powerful ways of finding new products and services for consumers. If you’re a business, it’s now time to learn how to navigate review sites and use them to grow.

It’s important to recognize online reviews for what they are – word of mouth! And we all know word of mouth marketing is one of the best ways to generate more business. Everyone likes to see that a business helped “someone like them”. The places our peers visit and like will most likely be the places we like and visit.

Here are a few things to consider about review sites and managing your online reputation:

  • Yelp and other review sites offer a very public forum where your business will be talked about – be sure you’re representing your business in the best possible light. Be real. Be nice. People are smart and can spot a good business when they see one (the opposite is also true).
  • Review sites are powerful. Because it’s not an ad from the business itself but a review from peers, people are more inclined to believe what they read.
  • Some people are going to be your raving fans while others are never going to be pleased. Treat each review on an individual basis and always respond with grace.
  • Going online and writing a review about your business takes time. Be grateful for the attention and free advertising the reviewer is giving your business whether it’s a good review or bad.
  • Understand that people who review online are vocal people. Treat them with respect because you never know how big their audience might be.
  • Consider when to take things off the public forum. Maybe you’re willing to give the customer a total refund and that’s not something you normally do and you don’t want everyone else to see that. Ask them to contact you at your own email or personal phone number.
  • Keep your replies brief, positive, and humble – it goes a long way in online communication.
  • Make sure you claim your own business on the major review sites. This can lead to increased visibility and, of course, increased sales.

Steps to responding to a positive review:

  1. Introduce yourself as the owner of the business or one representing the business.
  2. Thank them for taking the time to post a review.
  3. That’s it! A simple thank you is usually good enough.
  4. You might consider inviting them to join you on your other online homes like your main website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, and anywhere else that’s appropriate for your business. *Caution* be sure not to sound too pushy. You want your “Thank you” to be genuine and not a sales pitch.

Steps to responding to a negative review:

  1. Do not reply immediately. Possibly even sleep on it for a night. This gives you time breath, calm down, and think about the best solution for the situation without “emotional retaliation”.
  2. Think about the review. Was it legitimate? Be honest. If it was, then see this as an opportunity to better your business.
  3. Consider what you’re willing to do to relieve the situation. What can you do to make them feel better?
  4. Write your response. State your name and title and first thank them for taking the time to review your business. If you can tell it’s not a very legitimate review (like just someone having a bad day) this is all you need to do. Thank them and be done. If it is a legitimate review then…
  5. Apologize if needed and briefly explain what you’re willing to do to correct the situation.
  6. Thank them again.

In the end, how you respond to reviews is all about customer service. You get business through marketing and sales. You maintain and grow your business through amazing customer service.

So get online! Make sure you know what’s being said about your business. Interact with your customers. Thank everyone, provide amazing customer service, and watch your business skyrocket!


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