Customer reviews are being collected at a variety of sites on the Web. The major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing provide local business listings, which provide a venue to collect reviews from customers. However, there are also a variety of other websites that also collect reviews and customer comments. Businesses need not consent for these reviews to be collected and displayed on the Web, and unless a review violates the terms of service for the collecting website, it is rarely removed. If you own or manage a business, if you have not yet been reviewed online by a customer, you will be.
So what should you do? First, you should search the Web for mention of your business. I’m always surprised when I talk with business owners who have invested in a website, but they never check their business Web visibility. The Web is a community, much like a geographical community, except that it’s much easier to check your prominence and your reputation on the Web. Every business should make Web visibility checks, including searches for customer reviews, a regular business practice.
Next you should determine how to promote public feedback for your business. Business owners often get nervous at this point. They’re comfortable using surveys to gauge customer satisfaction, but they are very uncomfortable about asking customers to leave public reviews online. However, it’s time to take the plunge. Customers and clients will eventually leave reviews for your business on the Web. Accept it and solicit public feedback and reviews from your most satisfied clients. Change your business processes to ask for reviews at a time soon after you’ve completed a transaction with a customer, and train your staff to make it a regular practice.
Finally, to really stand out in comparison to your competition, you must use this customer feedback to improve your business. If individual employees have been praised in reviews, you should make it a practice to publicly recognize their great performance. If an employee has been criticized in a review, you should also make it a practice to privately counsel that employee and then change your staff training to correct any problems. If reviews identify shortcomings in your business processes, then change them! After you’ve taken action, you should respond to customer reviews to thank the reviewer for feedback and to report any action you’ve taken.
You can decide to use customer reviews to grow your business or you can be like the duck in the shooting gallery, moving but going nowhere, and taking shots from customers. Unless you make customer reviews a part of your business operations, you’ll be a target.