As a small business, your reputation is everything. If people trust you to do good work, you'll secure repeat and referral business. If they don't, your company will struggle.

In 2021, your reputation as a business owner is largely determined by the number of online customer reviews you have, their quality, and how you handle your review management. It makes sense, then, to do what you can to generate as many four and five-star reviews as you can.

In this article, I'll explain why reviews are so important to drive website traffic to your small local business, a few simple ways to get more of them, and what to do once reviews start rolling in.

Download Now: 20 Review Response Templates

Does your business need customer reviews?

First, let's start with the basics. Does your business need customer reviews? Well, no, your business doesn't need reviews. It won't cease to exist just because you don't have testimonials to display on review websites. But reviews can be incredibly helpful. They can also be a part of your overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to make sure your business shows up on Google.

Think about yourself and how you interact with reviews. If you're anything like me you will read some of the 5-star ones and A LOT of the 1-star ones before you decide to use someone.

If you don't have a collection of Google reviews, Yelp reviews, Thumbtack reviews, etc. you'll have a hard time getting new customers for your small business. That is why customer reviews should be a big piece of your business plan and marketing strategy.

Fortunately, the work you do to get reviews will pay off. In every business I have worked in we put a big focus on getting good reviews from our customers. It not only led to revenue and referrals it also led to improving our services and getting better as a company.

No, you don't need customer reviews. But if you want your business to thrive, you'll get them.

Getting Reviews: 3 Simple Strategies

Customer reviews are important. The question is, how do you get them for your local business? Here are three tips to help:

1. Provide great service.

The best way to get reviews is to do great work. When people appreciate the services you provide them, they'll be more likely to share their positive experiences with others.

Great service starts with having knowledgeable professionals at your company that can bring credibility to your business when they meet with customers. It can also be as simple as being polite. If you are a home services company you may consider having your technicians wear booties inside the home.

Great work will also help you avoid negative reviews. This is important because Qualtrics shows that 94% of people claim negative reviews have convinced them to avoid businesses in the past. The more negative reviews your business has, the harder it will be to secure new customers.

2. Ask your customers.

Your customers love the work you do, right? So ask them to review your company on Google, Yelp, or your Facebook business page, or whichever platform is most important to your business.

You will find it best if you can incorporate it into your existing process and even try to automate the review process. For example, if you are a home service, legal, or medical professional you could ask for a review at the point of service with a 10% discount at their next appointment. If you are a lawyer or a dentist, you could have an email go out after meeting with your customer or patient asking for a review.

Make it as easy as possible for them to review you. An email can have a direct link to your pages or whoever is providing the service (doctor, lawyer, technician, restauranter) could have an iPad with the review page set up for people to fill out.

Try out different things and be willing to test a lot to see what works for you.

3. Offer an incentive.

Just because you ask for customer reviews doesn't mean you'll get them. You may need to provide customers with an incentive for helping you out in this way.

You could, for example, offer discounts on future purchases in exchange for a review. Or you could agree to send customers a gift card to Amazon or Starbucks once they share their experience with your company on a few different review websites.

The incentive you offer will depend on your business and the unique customer base you serve. Pick the right one and your review count will rise.

You will find that a small gift card to a really strong potential review will be well worth the investment. The important thing to note here is that you can provide an incentive for providing a review, but you can't provide incentives for people to only provide positive reviews. This is an incentive, regardless of if their review is negative or positive. Just think: you can't buy positive reviews.

What to Do After Your Business Gets Reviewed

You've taken the ideas we've shared in this article to heart and the customer reviews are rolling in. Congratulations! But don't rest on your laurels just yet. There's still more work to do. Follow this three-step process after your business gets reviewed:

1. Evaluate.

First, read through every review your business receives so that you can evaluate them. Then separate reviews into one of two categories: positive reviews and negative reviews.

  • Positive Reviews: Hopefully, most of your customer reviews fall into this category. If they do, your business should have a respectable score on review websites. To make sure it stays that way, take note of the things happy customers like about your company. That way you can double down on them in the future.
  • Negative Reviews: It doesn't matter how amazing your small business is. Eventually, it will receive a bad review. Your job is to find useful information in these complaints so that you can improve. Look for detailed reviews that actually explain problems, rather than short quips that are only designed to tear you down.

Once you've evaluated your customer reviews, it's time to respond to them...

2. Respond.

Every customer review deserves a polite response. Why? Because 89% of consumers read company responses to the reviews they receive. They want businesses to show a little gratitude for positive comments. They also want to see how businesses react to criticism.

So thank every reviewer for their review. Then, if the reviewer left a positive comment, consider offering them a small incentive—first access to a new service, a discount on an old service, etc. This will show customers how much you care and encourage their loyalty.

If the reviewer left a negative comment, take a minute. It's easy to get riled up when a customer criticizes you and/or your business. But angry responses on review websites never go over well. Don't publish anything until you have a level head.

Just don't take too long. 53% of customers expect companies to respond to their reviews within a week. And 33% expect a response within three days.

When you're ready, write to your negative reviewer in a respectful manner. Apologize for their subpar experience and offer to try and fix it. Then try to move the conversation to a private forum, such as the telephone or email. That way your company's public reputation can remain untarnished.

Negative feedback tip: Write out a response you want to say in a Google Doc, take a little break, then write out what you need to say in the review forum.

3. Take action.

Lastly, do something with the reviews you receive!

Positive feedback should be promoted. Seek the reviewer's permission. Then post their glowing testimonial on your website, share it on social media, put it in your email signature. Do what you can to let people know that your customers love your business.

Then ask reviewers to refer your company to their friends and family. If they liked your services enough to write a review about them, they'll probably be willing to promote you to their circles of influence, too. Referrals are an excellent way to fuel business growth.

You should take action on negative customer reviews as well. Assess each and every complaint you receive. Can you spot any trends? If so, look to improve your services.

For example, if multiple customers complain about your tardiness, schedule more time in between service appointments. Or give customers a time range, i.e. between 2 pm and 4 pm rather than a specific time of arrival. If you are running late, let customers know.

Treat negative feedback as an opportunity to grow and get better. If you do, your small business will be much more successful, guaranteed.

Final Thoughts

Getting reviews is important to the long-term success of your small business. But what you do with your reviews once you receive them matters, too.

Take time to evaluate, respond to, and take action on every review that comes in for your business. If you do, you'll build a deeper connection with your customers, inspire them to be more loyal, and learn how to improve your business in ways you never thought of before.

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Originally published Dec 27, 2021 8:00:00 AM, updated January 12 2022

Topics:

Customer Reviews and Testimonials