Not Paying Attention To Online Customer Reviews Could Hurt Your Small Business.

Online reviews have been around for a long time. Yelp, Zagat, Google Local, City Search and other online destinations are (or were) leading destinations for local reviews of local businesses.
But there’s a problem.
A recent study by local online marketing company Yodle indicates that small businesses are not paying enough attention to how important reviews are and how they can impact a business.
  1. Only half of small business owners think positive online reviews are important Many small business owners are not recognizing the importance of online reviews despite the buying decisions of 90% of customers being influenced by seeing positive online testimonials  (source: 2013 Dimensional Research Survey).  Only 50% of survey respondents think that it’s important for their business to receive positive online reviews and almost one in four (23%) believe that it’s unimportant.
  2. Most small business owners aren’t receiving or asking for online reviews. More than half of SMB owners (55%) don’t receive any online reviews, while one in five (19%) get an average of only one to five reviews per month.  Almost 1 in 4 SMB owners (24%) don’t know if they receive online reviews.  Despite the low number of reviews that small businesses are receiving, only 13% of owners are approaching their customers about posting reviews.  The biggest reason cited for not approaching customers is “I haven’t thought about it” (43%).
  3. A significant number of small business owners aren’t responding to or monitoring for online reviews. Although seven in 10 consumers have a more positive view of a company if they see them responding to an online review (source: Bazaarvoice Conversation Index), less than half of our survey respondents (43%) who receive reviews actually do this.  More than two in three SMB owners (68%) also don’t even spend any time monitoring for online reviews and all but a handful of the remainder spend just one to five hours per month on this activity.
  4. Small business owners don’t effectively leverage customers’ online reviews. Only 14% of survey respondents post customers’ reviews to their websites. The remaining SMB owners that have received reviews and have a website (37%) do not post this content.
  5. Many small business owners believe that the online reviews system is unfair.  More than six in 10 SMB owners (61%) think that review sites favor businesses that pay to advertise with them, while only 10% don’t believe that to be the case.  Half of SMB owners (50%) also opined that small businesses are unfairly impacted by negative reviews compared to larger business; only 20% of the survey respondents contradicted that opinion.  Additionally, more than four in 10 survey respondents (43%) stated that online reviews are unfair because they do not verify that people who leave reviews are actual customers, with a similar number (41%) “not sure” if they’re unfair.

I asked a Yodle spokesperson what a small business owner SHOULD be doing and here’s a few words of advice.

Get in the game. Understand that consumers care about online reviews and it impacts their buying decisions. You need to ask existing customers to post reviews and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Respond to reviews. It makes a big impact on consumers if they see that you’re taking the time to address a customer’s review whether it’s negative or positive. Replying to a negative review can be particularly impactful. It can help turnaround a bad situation and illustrate that you really care about a customer’s experience with your business.

Monitor for reviews if you’re not currently doing that. How can you respond or know how your business is being perceived if you don’t even know what’s being said or written about you online?

Post customer reviews and testimonials on your website. As an SMB owner, you want to make sure that you’re highlighting endorsements that you receive on your website given that many potential customers are likely to visit it before deciding whether to work with you.

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