Online Reviews and Reputation Management

Deb Szajngarten

Online review management

Credit: mayrum /

You’re hungry for dinner and feel like eating Italian food. If you don’t have a favorite spot, or just feel like something different, you probably open the Yelp app on your phone and search for Italian restaurants in your area. When the list comes up—so do the reviews.

Today, consumers check reviews for almost every type of local business before trying something new. In fact, 88% read online reviews before making a purchase, and they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.   So, how to you make sure that A) they find your business when they search, and B) your business receives positive reviews?

Review Sites and Business Listings

First, let’s identify all the places a consumer is likely to check for a review. I mentioned Yelp above for restaurants, but Yelp offers reviews for any and all types of local businesses. There are also hundreds of other review sites such as Citysearch, Foursquare, Google Local and TripAdvisor, to name a few.

It’s important that your business listing on each of these review sites is accurate and up-to date. Check to see that your business is described in the same way as your website and Facebook Page. Make sure that your hours and services or class schedules are accurate. If possible, add a link to your website so potential customers can gather more information about you than is available in a listing.

Soliciting Positive Reviews

Now, let’s talk about how to solicit positive reviews. The truth is that few customers will feel compelled to supply a positive review without being prompted, which means that the ratings they give you are most important.

Here are 6 ways to do this effectively:

  1. Ask your most loyal clients or students to write an online review about your business. This lets your customers know that you value their feedback and helps you secure high ratings.
  2. Set up a computer or tablet at your business for people to post reviews while they are there, happy, and thinking about your business.
  3. Ask your customers for a review during checkout. You could print a friendly reminder on the receipt or provide a separate card with the relevant information.
  4. Email patrons after their visit and ask them to review the service they received or class they took.
  5. Save emails and letters with positive comments and ask for permission to publish them as testimonials on your website.
  6. Don’t forget to say thank you! Remember that your customers are doing you a favor by taking time to provide a review.

Handling Negative Reviews

Perhaps even more important than securing positive reviews is how you handle negative reviews. Similar to the way you manage negative social media comments, it will help to keep these 7 guidelines in mind:

  1. Respond to negative reviews by resolving the issue briefly and politely. Try to update incorrect information.
  2. If it’s a very negative review, reach out off line by email or call the customer to offer some kind of resolution.
  3. Don’t leave negative issues unresolved. The longer they sit, the faster you’ll lose credibility with customers. Always try to address or respond to the complaint. If the review site doesn’t allow you to reply, try to reach out to the customer directly.
  4. Once an issue is resolved, ask the reviewer to remove or update their original review to reflect the positive outcome with your business and thank them if they do it.
  5. If the issue can’t be resolved, try posting a brief summary of the steps you took to fix the situation so other readers can see that you made an earnest effort to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.
  6. Thank the customer for visiting your business and offer a sincere apology for their disappointing experience.
  7. Consider extending an invitation to return by offering a complimentary service or class – but make sure to do this offline. You don’t want to create an environment where people complain just to receive a free service.

The Bottom Line

Reviews are important. They directly influence a new or potential customer’s decision to interact with your business. That’s why once your business is listed on all of the major review sites, managing the positive and, possibly negative, reviews you receive will help you maintain a solid online reputation.

For even more online reputation tips, check out our guide. 

Online Reputation Management Guide

About the Author

Deb Szajngarten

Deb began her career working on product public relations for large companies like Sony, Canon, and Samsung. She then migrated to the tech start-up world where she helped build Vimeo from a 12-person product to a thriving company. She's now Director of Brand & Reputation at Booker Software, where she's helping to build media visibility and grow their social media program. In her spare time, Deb is an avid yogi & martial artist.

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