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Managing Online Reviews For Small Businesses

Increasing your online presence means managing your online reputation, and today, a business’s online reputation is formed through customer reviews online.

Deciding between two lunch spots?

Customers consult online reviews.

Does the new salon down the street specialize in curly hair?

Customers consult online reviews.

Is the local groomer the best spot to take Fido?

Customers consult online reviews.

A 2013 survey conducted by Dimensional Research found that 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. So if you want to be the lunch spot that serves the diners, the salon that books the appointments, or the dog groomer that receives the reservations, you’ll have to take control of your online reputation. The payoff can be big: a Harvard Business School study has shown that a one star rating increase can result in a 5% – 9% increase in revenue. While surprising, the claim made in this study makes sense when you look at the search results for local business reviews. Prominent online review sites are featured near the top of organic search results and often appear above even a business's own website. Online reviews may be the first piece of information your prospective customers discover on the web. Depending on your reviews, this could be very good or very bad for your business.

The below 5 tips will set you up for success in managing your small business’s online reviews.

1) Claim your review listings

To take control of your reviews, you have to gain the access to do so. Nearly 40% of businesses haven’t claimed their listings on OpenTableYelpAngie’s ListGoogle Places for Business, etc. Don’t be a part of that statistic and claim your space! Be sure to check your business’s information for accuracy (address, phone, website, etc.), and upload photos to show off your establishment. Remember, this is your opportunity to present your business to new and existing customers, so choose wisely.

2) Respond to negative reviews

Negative reviews are frustrating, but even the most admired businesses get them. The difference is how they handle these criticisms. Our advice is to respond to them quickly and head-on. Now that you’ve claimed your listing, you typically have access to reply to reviews.

  • If the complaint is valid, apologize and fix it.
  • If done publicly, you’ve now turned a negative review into a revealing interaction of a business owner who values their customers.
  • If you view the complaint as inaccurate (the complaint could be for a different business) or not valid (there is a reason you charge extra for truffle fries), respond to the reviewer in private.
  • By replying to a review you’ll definitely get more information, and offering a small make-good to invite the customer back to revisit is worth 100 times its weight in brand goodwill. Negative customers are often the most vocal, so converting them into advocates may be worth a complimentary dessert.

3) Respond to positive reviews, publicly

“How’s my driving?” We’ve all seen that bumper sticker slapped onto the bumper of trucks. How often have you called the 800 number because the driver used his blinker correctly or let your car merge in front of them? Responding to positive reviews isn’t necessary, but that’s why when you do, it makes your business standout. Address constructive reviews first, but if you can make the time to attend to your brand champions they’ll pay you back four-fold.

Real Life Example: We love how engaged Halsted Street Beach Tanning Salon is when it comes to their online reviews. Responding to their positive customer reviews results in a community and establishes a relationship with the business. Plus, as a prospective customer, I can trust that my business will be valued (read: I just booked my first spray tan)._

4) Generate more positive reviews by encouraging your customers to write reviews

Businesses that don't proactively grow their online reviews are often left with a disproportionate share of negative reviews. You’ve got fans. They’re your customers who visit every week, or maybe even every day. They’ve referred their friends, and sing your praises to the line of customers behind them. Imagine the power of these customers’ reviews if they were taken out of your store and shared online. Many people feel uncomfortable asking customers to leave online reviews, but with Belly's platform this process can be fully automated right from your Belly iPad!

5) Collect feedback in-store

It’s clear that customers want to share feedback and, according to a 2013 Belly Merchant Survey, 69% of small business owners want that feedback but would prefer it to be nonpublic. Offer a way for your customers to provide feedback in-store. Online reviews are now the standard, but if you offer a way for your customers to provide feedback in-store, you’ve provided an alternative outlet for less-than-positive sharing to occur.

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