The Complete Guide to Customer Reviews for Small Business in 2024

The Complete Guide to Customer Reviews for Small Business in 2024

The Complete Guide to Customer Reviews for Small Business in 2024

Customer reviews are vital for the success and growth of your business. In fact, 87% of shoppers check Google for reviews on a local business before patronizing the business. More business reviews can bring in additional customers — and revenue — but even negative feedback can play a part in building customer loyalty. Responding to negative (and positive) reviews in a thoughtful manner can show that you care about your customers and increase trust in your business. 

That’s where customer review management comes in. In this article, we cover the role that reviews play in your business, why it’s important to engage with them, how to best respond, how to use reviews in your marketing strategy, and more.

Why Customer Reviews Are Critical for Small Businesses

Customer reviews are a digital representation of a customer’s experience and can be included on review sites like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, as well as e-commerce sites like Amazon. Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn also allow customers to leave reviews. 

Reviews act as personal recommendations, and positive customer reviews make a big impact on your business’s online reputation and, ultimately, your sales. The number of reviews matters as well. If your business has been around for ten years but only has a handful of reviews, it might signal to potential customers that others who have used your business weren’t satisfied enough to leave a good online review. 

We discuss how to encourage customers to leave positive reviews and how to best interact with reviews later in the article.

Benefits of Customer Reviews

There are many positive impacts of having customer reviews that your business engages with, like:

  • Increased trust for potential customers
  • Improved customer experience when the business responds to reviews
  • Enhanced brand reputation when the business engages with its customers
  • Better online reputation
  • Highlights what improvements you can make to your business

Even if a customer leaves a less-than-stellar review, but the business has a respectful, thoughtful response, it shows that the small business owners care about their customers. 

Importance of Customer Reviews for Business

Consumers consider others’ reviews generally reliable. Although there are fake reviews, potential new customers are keen to read through reviews to understand whether the product or service is worth their time. They want to know whether the product or service works well, whether the business owners are responsive, and what the general customer experience is like. 

That’s why it’s so important to gather as many positive reviews as you can and to respond to any negative reviews. Even if a customer has a bad experience, business owners can still turn them into loyal customers if they give an attentive response. Your star rating is also a big influence on customers’ purchasing decisions. 

Why It’s Essential to Claim Your Google Business Profile

You may not realize it, but your small business might already have a Google Business Profile — and if you don’t, you’ll want to make sure you create one. Your Business Profile is what appears when someone Googles your business, including your hours of operation, your business address, your business phone number, and your website. 

It’s essential to keep the information in your Business Profile accurate and up-to-date so customers know when you’re open, how to find out more information about your business, and how to reach you with questions. Making sure your customers know this information can improve your Google review star rating by reducing frustration. You can do so by either creating or claiming your Google Business Profile. 

In fact, businesses that claim their Google Business Profile:

  • Are 2.7x more likely to be considered more reputable
  • Get seven times more clicks
  • Are 70% more likely to attract location visits
  • Are 50% more likely to lead to a purchase

To create or claim your Business Profile, you’ll head to Google Maps and then follow Google’s walk-through for how to claim your Google Business Profile. You’ll then be able to respond to Google reviews by logging in to your Business Profile. The same is true for Yelp: You’ll want to claim your Business Profile there as well.

How to Get More Customer Reviews

You know how the saying goes: It never hurts to ask. The same is true with business reviews. You can ask for customer feedback in many ways. It can help to first determine one or two review platforms that are most impactful to your business and pursue reviews on those platforms specifically.

If you’re among the local businesses running in-person operations, you can ask during or after service. Make a verbal request or hand out a card or a small gift with a note encouraging customers to leave a review. One local business in my area hands out mini-branded bottles of hand sanitizer with a card attached that asks for reviews. If someone praises your business, that can be especially good timing to ask for a review. Another method is sending out a request to your email list with simple instructions for how to leave a review and why it matters to your business.

How to Respond to Customer Reviews

Review management means responding to online customer reviews. An effective response means the business owner remains calm and positive — whether the review is positive or negative. On review sites like Google and Yelp, you’ll need to sign in to your business profile to respond to reviews as the business. On Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites, you’ll need to be logged in to your business account. You can flag reviews if they seem fake or don’t comply with the site’s policy. 

Let’s look at two review response templates that you can use for your business in the future:

Responding to positive feedback

ABC Flower Shop gets a review from a customer raving about the great customer service and the beautiful flowers. They point out that one of your employees, Amanda, was extra helpful. Your response could be something like this:

“Thank you so much for taking time to leave a review. We’re so glad you had a positive experience at our shop and that our flowers met your expectations. We look forward to seeing you again soon!”

This response is upbeat, brief, and encourages the customer to return. A response like this will improve customer satisfaction with the customer you respond to as well as with any new customers that read the response.

Responding to negative feedback

ABC Flower Shop gets a review from an upset customer who claims that their Mother’s Day flowers died the next day and says that they will never return to your business. The customer doesn’t leave many details. Here’s how you could respond:

“Thank you so much for your feedback. We’re truly sorry to hear that our flowers didn’t meet your expectations. We would love to discuss ways to correct this issue. Please reach out to Suzanne at [business email and/or phone].”

You may be tempted to blame the customer for not caring for the flowers properly, but this could only instigate the customer and come off as blaming them. Instead, keep a steady head and discuss possible fixes to the issue going forward over the phone. Giving the name of an individual the customer can talk to also helps them feel supported.

How to Use Reviews for Marketing

Reviews can be great marketing tools. You can pick out reviews from review platforms, as well as customer testimonials, and use them to enhance your marketing strategy. Customer testimonials are endorsements from a customer who has had a positive experience and wants to recommend your business to others.

There are many ways to use the good reviews you accumulate to market your business. You can highlight product reviews and testimonials on your company’s website through specific landing pages, sections, pop-ups, or carousels. (Most websites provide templates for this sort of thing). Also, you can include positive reviews in a case study or white paper as social proof. Social media is another effective way to share reviews.

If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you can print out reviews and frame them to display for new customers to see. Additionally, adding reviews to any paid ads can act as social proof for potential customers.

Customer Review Management Tools

There are many sites where customers can leave reviews, so it can be difficult to manage each of the sites individually. You can piece together a strategy for managing your online reviews, or you can use an online reputation management tool. Podium and Birdeye are two popular options, but the problem is that their pricing isn’t listed on their websites. 

That’s why Nav is here to offer you a better option: The Social Health feature in Nav is free to use and alerts you when you receive a new review on Facebook and Google (and more coming soon). You’ll receive a Social Health Score from Nav, which is a five-point score aggregated across platforms that shows you how well you’re managing your online reviews. Nav is your small business partner, online and off.

This article was originally written on January 12, 2024.

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