Online ratings and consumer reviews have become an important element of many people’s purchasing process. Customers increasingly rely on online word-of-mouth in making everyday buying decisions. While small business owners often fear reviews on social networks may harm their business, social media actually offers a tremendous opportunity for open communication with customers.
Those who use online ratings and reviews in making buying decisions are savvy consumers. They are able to weigh the importance of many positive reviews against one or two negative ones. So don’t panic if someone writes about how your restaurant served them a steak that even your dog would send back, or that their three-year-old gives better pedicures than your day spa. Reach out to those who have had a bad experience and ask for a second chance to prove to them that their experience was not up to your high standards.
More importantly, rather than taking a reactive approach to ratings and reviews, be an active participant in the online consumer dialogue. Encourage your customers to review your business. The more positive comments prospective customers read about your business, the less influence any negative reviews will have.
Do not ignore what is being said about your company online. Engage in proactive online reputation management. You will discover that your customer relationships will grow stronger, helping sustain your business, even during uncertain economic times.
Josh Walker CEO CityVoter, Inc. Cambridge, MA