6 Tips for Improving Local Business Reviews

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by on June 30, 2012

Consumers are increasingly relying on online customer reviews to learn more about local businesses. Whether at home, work or on the move, people are using reviews to make decisions about offline purchases. In early 2012, 72% of online local consumers in a survey stated that they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, up from 69% a year earlier.

Only 15% of people responded that they never used online reviews, according to the Internet survey, with 85% using them.

Customer Review Trends

This trend shows that as consumers become more familiar with online reviews, they are placing more trust in and are valuing the opinions of others, unknown to them.

Most large online retailers, like Amazon, eBay and Best Buy, have encouraged and leveraged online crowd reviews for years. This consumer experience is likely part of the growing confidence in local reviews. These ratings and comments have become a pillar of many people’s shopping experience, both familiar and anticipated. Consumers are gathering information faster and, as a result, making quicker decisions.

Even local shoppers now seek out reviews, 77% of local consumers said they like to read from two to ten reviews when deciding which local business to use.

Google is trying to raise the bar on quality. It purchased Zagat, trusted for ratings and curated reviews of restaurants. The company recently started requiring a person to create and use Gmail and Google + profile accounts before writing a review. This may further increase transparency and credibility.

Reviewers are also now given an option to either publish their name or “a Google user” along with their rating and comment. This may yield more content. With additional reviews and businesses included, reliability should rise, and better reflect the overall opinions of real people.

6 Tips for Local Businesses

Small business owners are also paying more attention, especially those keen on increasing their visibility and gaining more customers connected to the networks. Many businesses are enticed into managing their business reviews, creating a process to acquire reviews and monitor their reputation.

If you are a local business owner interested in tips for how to get started or making your review acquisition more effective, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Ask for reviews from any customer that makes a compliment to a staff member because it is a positive signal, and follows naturally from your interactions with them.
  2. Do not offer incentives to customers for writing a review. If inclined, they will do it for free. Offering to pay might not be well received and damage your relationship. Remember these are some of your biggest fans.
  3. Make it simple for customers to comply. Hand the person a postcard stating your request along with concise steps.
  4. Make the request immediately after the compliment. Customers will give feedback promptly, if at all. Requests made at time of service offer the highest completion rate.
  5. If you have a current email address for the customer, send a reminder via email within three days. In the email, supply links to multiple review websites, since they are likely to see one where they already have an account. Email messages can contribute to a large percentage of your completed reviews.
  6. Acquiring reviews across multiple websites builds a more natural and credible footprint for your business. It is a second reason for sending multiple links in the followup email.

Finally, if your staff is shy or embarrassed about requesting reviews, encourage them to say that their Internet marketing sherpa is helping them improve your online presence, and the postcard program is a good way to encourage online reviews. It may make people more comfortable, hence improving your results.

Have any experiences to share about dealing with customer reviews for your local business? Please comment!

Related Posts:
Why Online Customer Reviews Matter to Local Businesses
Are Real Customer Reviews Valuable to Small Businesses?
The Impact of Social Media on Business

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