Using Online Reviews Wisely

It’s a rare business today that doesn’t have an online presence or, at the very least, one on social media.  Even if you are the smallest of the small businesses in the country with no website or social media, your clients DO have it and they love nothing more than to talk about anything and everything.

How they view your company and services will shade how others view them as well, and a well written post or video has the chance to “go viral” any minute of the day and suddenly expose your business as the best or the worst. It’s enough to keep owners up at night, but the real trouble lies in what they say when we intentionally ask them for their opinion.

Yes. Online reviews.

Oh, Amazon did it to us all – they built the model that everyone has come to expect and now, online reviews are all around. To get ahead of it, plenty of companies have created their own review component on the company website and teams of programmers spend thousands of hours every year figuring how to massage those reviews, combat fake reviews, and create solutions to the problems that customers expose in unflattering commentary.

So how can you avoid the challenges and still provide truthful – and realistic – reviews on

your website? Here are a few tips:

Be honest! No one is going to believe it if every review posted is five stars. Even the iPhone only averages about 4 stars and it’s in an awful lot of pockets.  Consumers expect (Again, thanks to Amazon) to see some bad reviews and if your website reviews suggest everything is perfect, they are going to go into the open market to find out what they may perceive as “the truth”. It’s important to remember, especially if you are in a commoditized space, that plenty of happy customers won’t comment when the hammer they bought worked fine. They will, however, rip you to shreds if that hammer, for some reason, doesn’t do the job. As a result, if you deal with commodities, chances are, your reviews are going to lean towards customer service instead of products. Do you have the systems in place to provide that great experience?

Review the reviews. The great thing about having the option to let customers review on your website is that you can ensure the chance to recover any poor customer experiences. By requiring email addresses for any reviews and not allowing a review to post without being vetted by your staff, many times, you’ll have the chance to fix something that went wrong and recover the customer. Remember, people are fundamentally lazy creatures, so if you make it easy for them to post a review right on your website, the search engine in question is going to direct them to you with only a click or two. Angie’s List, Yelp, and others take a little more effort to get to, so put your website in a place to “catch” reviews before they get on the open market.

Ask! As we discussed in both the prior bullets, customers who are happy and got what they think was a fair deal don’t usually say anything. At the same time, when they want to vent, they want to do it as easily as possible. Asking for reviews can help to drive up your sample size AND get bad reviews off the market since they have an immediate route to get the attention they need to vent. Anyone who has ever worked customer service knows that the first rule is to listen for a while before ever trying to fix an issue. Guess what? Asking for a review (and having a protocol to handle bad experiences) allows you to reach that client even if they made it out of the store before you could defuse an issue.

Reviews can be a slippery slope. On the one hand, your business needs to understand how customers are perceiving your services and personnel but on the other hand, “stacking the deck” with too many glowing reviews can cause potential clients to scorn you. Resist the urge to purge negative reviews, make sure lines of communication are open, and understand that you cannot make everyone happy.  If you’ll simply do that, you can use reviews – on your website or on multiple forums – to help propel your business.

Have a great day!


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