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How online customer reviews can make or break your small business

Getting the online conversation started about your small business and handling reviews can be tricky – and grow your business when done correctly.

Reviews, ratings and testimonials can make or break the future of your small business. Understanding how to properly handle customer reviews and take them into consideration, all while maintaining a professional image and sticking to your values, can often be a challenge. Placing a high value on reviews and ratings can gain you credibility and trust before your customers even walk through the door.

The best way to find out what your customers truly think is simply by asking. Requesting customer feedback shows that you are willing to adapt to specific market needs and wants. Signage dedicated to leaving reviews might seem tedious, but giving customers a small reminder can prompt a significant response. This can be done through tabletop signs, stickers, posters on the wall or even a quick message near the point-of-sale. A little reminder at the end of their purchase to take two minutes to review your business may be all it takes to begin the online conversation. Incentivizing customers to leave reviews, such as offering a discount or coupon if they do, is almost assuredly the most effective way to receive consistent (and positive) reviews.

One of the benefits of online reviews is the ability for customers and business owners to interact with each other from afar. While customers usually start the conversation, business owners have the ability to respond to reviews and control the ensuing narrative – and should take full advantage of that opportunity. An article from Entrepreneur titled “5 Tips for Getting More Online Reviews for Your Small Business,” reminds small business owners to “respond to every review in a calm, helpful fashion and seek to turn any poor review into a positive experience.” Responding to all types of reviews will prove to customers that you know your business isn’t perfect but that you are willing to learn from your mistakes and grow from them. Not only does it demonstrate a willingness to grow, but it also shows that you respect and value the opinions of your customer base.

The reason you want customers to leave a review in the first place is to show other potential customers how positive their experience was with your business. A large contributing factor to this experience is the customer service that they received. Ensuring that you are providing your customers with the highest level of service possible will make them want to share that experience with others. Taking that extra step – whether it’s making a personal connection with the customer or helping them with any minor inconvenience they might come across – can go a long way to securing a positive review. Customers may not even remember what they bought from you, but how you treated them and the way you made them feel could make a lasting impression and prompt them to share their experience for all to see.

Through excellent customer service, encouraging/incentivizing customers to review your product or service and remaining engaged online, you will begin to organically create positive conversations around you and your business. Generating positive “buzz” around your business is the goal of any marketing strategy, especially in the early stages. Acknowledging all types of feedback and adjusting your service accordingly will most certainly result in better customer relations, creating a cycle of positive feedback that could sustain your business for years to come.

Visit the Nevada SBDC website for more information on how to get the most out of your small business marketing.

Sandra Rentas has been a Business Development Advisor for the Nevada Small Business Development Center (Nevada SBDC) for 13 years, which is located in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sandra Rentas
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