The public’s opinion of a small business can directly impact its success. One of the easiest ways for a business to gauge where they stand with the public is by researching exactly what they have to say through online reviews.
To further understand how valuable online reviews could be for business owners, we asked the professionals in the marketing department of FLCBank to provide their expert insight.
FLCB: What is an online business review?
AS: An online business review is the vocalized and published opinion of customers on their experience with any business or brand. Basically, it’s conversational feedback from the public both to the business they are reviewing and to other consumers. Reviews are everywhere—they can be on a range of topics. Customers can review products, movie-goers can review a theatre, and even employees can review work environments. Whatever it is that a business has to offer the public will garner opinion—reviews are just a method of communicating that opinion in an open space.
FLCB: Why should a business owner care about online reviews?
AS: If a business owner cares about the reputation of their business, they should care about online reviews. These opinions, whether positive or negative, are the reality of what your customers experience after interacting with your business. When a customer feels strongly enough about your business to either be a voluntary ambassador for or warning sign against it, it would be in the best interest of that owner to implement these comments into future operations.
FLCB: How can reviews impact your business?
AS: A good review from a trusted reviewer can bring in more business; transversely, when a business is littered with well-earned, negative reviews, it tells consumers that this is a product or service that is not worth their money and that they will be disappointed going forward with this purchase. While one or two negative reviews may not cause harm to your business, it becomes a problem when the same complaint comes from different customers. It could be a deterrent to potential new customers, and can also highlight a hole in your operation or products that you would not have known about otherwise.
FLCB: What should a business owner do if they receive a negative review?
AS: The first thing to do is address it with the reviewer—don’t be too afraid or too prideful to ask for specifics on what the problem was for the customer. Sometimes the reviewer may be a “troll,” (someone who is negative online just to be so), but other times a business owner is able to gain insight on where they are missing the mark, allowing them to restructure and improve.
Business owners should never engage in online arguments. Regardless of whether or not the reviewer is actually a troll, or if the business owner is in the right in the particular situation, online arguments will only do a business harm.
FLCB: Where are reviews found?
AS: There are a plethora of online websites that are dedicated to consumers voicing their opinions on products. They include starred ratings, comment sections, and space to include visuals. Businesses can also find themselves being reviewed on social media platforms, like Facebook, using the same communication ratings.
FLCB: How can a business owner ask customers to review their experience?
AS: Business owners can (and should!) ask their customers to review their experience. A simple ask at the end of a transaction is normal and common; a business owner may even consider including a survey or a place to leave comments in scheduled email newsletters. As long as the request is natural and not forceful, business owners should feel confident enough in their services to ask for feedback.
Asking for a review can help build credibility for your business. When potential customers research a business online and find that the majority of people have had a positive experience, the potential customer is more likely to convert into a purchasing customer.
How a business owner sees his or her business and how it is received by the public may differ. Reviews are a way for owners to gain direct insight into what their audience thinks. While the results may not always be positive, owners can use online reviews as a tool on how to improve and better serve their audience.