It’s amazing that in such a short period of time, the existing review hierarchy has been brought down to the popular level. People have been recommending stores and restaurants to their friends for a long time, but starting about 10-15 years ago, the floodgates were opened as soon as anyone could sign up with Yelp or Yahoo and leave reviews of their favorite (or least favorite) places.
It used to be that reviews were conducted by professional authorities whose opinions were bound in books and sold once a year to the general public. Think of Zagat’s or Frommer’s, guides that became well-worn (and frequently out-of-date) as you’d walk through new cities figuring out what, exactly, to do and where, specifically, to eat.
That’s all changed, with new websites and mobile technologies upending the professional field of reviews and putting more power into the hands of consumers all over the world. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+, and Foursquare have all helped empower reviews by injecting them with a social layer. Reviews are no longer solely the realm of a few taste-makers; now anyone can post their opinion and influence all sorts of people from all over the world.
So why are online reviews so important? They can be hard to manage and bad reviews can be a turn off to new customers. Conversely, positive reviews can grow your client list and reinforce customer loyalty. Let’s take a moment to understand the why online reviews are so important and what they can bring to your business.
Social recommendations have always been strong. Think about how many times your friends have recommended a place that you ended up going to. When everyone’s talking about something, it’s hard not to be curious and want to try it out yourself. This appeals to us because we’re all inherently amateurs, meaning it’s not likely that we’ll have the requisite training or experience to review places professionally.
Because we’re not professionals, our online reviews are done purely for free. There are no publishers involved, and 99% of the time we’re leaving unsolicited opinions. Because most of the online reviews are done by amateurs, it’s unlikely the reviewer has a hidden agenda, and that’s why we trust these social reviews so much.
Reviews may help your customers find out more about your business, but did you know that you can use them to find out about your customers? Seeing what people are saying about your business on Yelp or Google+ is like having access to a free focus group whenever you want.
Find out what people think of your products or services, or even update your marketing strategy to respond to your customers’ concerns. Sometimes it helps to have the perspective of the customer to better respond to their needs.
A New Type of Customer Service
As a small business owner, you have take on a lot of different roles. Monitoring and responding to reviews lets you react in real-time to your customers’ concerns, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Customer service has leaped into the digital age by giving you instant access to customer opinions no matter where you are. There are also new tools that allow you to reward loyal customers in a moment’s notice, providing additional incentives for a return trip and a positive review.
Article on: Brandify Knowledge Center, 2 april 2013
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