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Ben Spradling

It will not floor business owners to read that reputation is important. Given how much more valuable positive reputations have become during the past six-plus months, the point may be worth re-emphasizing.

A recent EY Future Consumer Index Survey focused on post-pandemic purchasing behavior revealed that only 21 % of consumers trusted brands and just 20 % reported trusting retailers. For businesses with reputations that could use some work, those responses may be a reminder to put in that effort. But for businesses that already have a solid standing in their communities, now is the time to take centerstage.

As the marketplace becomes increasingly virtual, online customer reviews have evolved into one of the most powerful tools businesses use to illustrate their superior trustworthiness. More than 80 % of consumers who responded to a Bright Local Consumer Review Survey said they read online reviews for local businesses, and 91 % stated they are more likely to use a business with a positive review. Online customer reviews can build trust with customers, convert searches into leads and even boost your local search rankings. It’s easily accessible feedback that separates your company from others in your industry.

So, how can you leverage online customer reviews to promote your business?

  • Prioritize responding. One of the best ways to improve your online reputation is to respond to reviews, especially those that may be a little less than favorable. A negative comment is a public opportunity to work with the customer to find a solution.
  • Follow up with customers. Reach out to customers a week or two after they make a purchase to see if the product or service you provided exceeded their expectations. request that leave an honest review and share feedback that will help your business be better.
  • Monitor review sites. Carefully check online review sites to ensure your reputation is solid and customer demands get answered in a timely fashion. It might be beneficial to add checking those platforms into your weekly calendar.
  • Offer easy feedback options. Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by including a links to specific customer review sites on your website. And, if you want to be especially proactive, pose questions on your social media accounts, or remind customers to provide feedback at the point of purchase.
  • Share positive reviews. Be proud of your positive reviews. When you’re corresponding online via your social channels or email marketing messages, encourage customers to read your online reviews. You can even share customer reviews with your staff, to help boost employee morale and encourage better customer service.

It’s important to also remember that any efforts to bolster customer reviews of your business should in no way comprise authenticity. A study performed by Spiegel Research Center revealed that consumers are 270 percent more likely to purchase a product with five reviews than a product with zero reviews. So, there is the temptation by businesses to fraudulently generate positive reviews on their own.

But when consumers detect the reviews they’re reading aren’t entirely legitimate it can severely damage trust. Maintaining that credibility is a leading reason why so many companies choose to become accredited with the Better Business Bureau, because every reviewer is validated prior to posting.

If managed correctly, online customer reviews can supply your business with a valuable reputation boost. At a time when consumer trust is at a premium, your customers’ experiences carry the potential to make your business stand out.

Information on leveraging customer reviews to boost your small business’s profile is available at trust-bbb.org.

Ben Spradling is the Better Business Bureau Western Washington Marketplace Manager, BBB Northwest + Pacific. He can be reached at ben.spradling@thebbb.org.

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