A while back I reported on the situation some local small businesses face, when their businesses get negative reviews on review sites.
Review sites can be very useful from the consumer’s standpoint, because they give valuable input. There’s no doubt they are more popular than ever.
Taken to extremes, or when inaccurate, online reviews can be devastating to small businesses with retail outlets, such as restaurants, shops, dry cleaners, beauty salons, repair facilities and more. It becomes the business owner’s fear … that someone, possibly a competitor, will have it in for them and set about trashing their reputation online.
This past week saw some interesting news on that front, so I’d like to update you:
(1) First comes the news that Yelp, one of the largest review sites, will soon begin to allow small businesses to correct inaccurate reviews and otherwise comment on them. According to the New York Times’ Bits blog, there will be some after-the-fact editorial oversight, to make sure the proprietors’ comments do not turn into arguments, or disparage the reviewers.
(2) Then there is the report that Google is experimenting with displaying ratings right in the search results — see image above. (Reported originally here). Thus, a business that gets a one-star rating on a review site may see that devastating one-star rating appear right in the Google search results. Matt McGee notes at SearchEngineLand.com that it is still experimental, and not implemented across the board at this point. But what it shows is that Google has the technical ability to extract ratings and may someday display them regularly in search results.
What these two developments mean is that reviews are more important than ever. Hence, all the more reason for business owners to be vigilant about reviews, and have the ability to respond. So Yelp’s move comes at a good time.
Reviews are turning into serious business for small businesses. If you run a local, mostly-consumer oriented small business and are not checking review sites periodically … if you or one of your staff do not make it part of your regular routine to check reviews and deal with any negative reviews … then it’s time to start.
Also, think through your policy for how you intend to respond. Any business owner who disparages a customer for speaking his or her mind, is likely to find it blowing up in their face. Smart business owners will understand that even the way they respond to negative complaints is being judged by consumers. They will use their response rights wisely.
If a review is inaccurate, keep the response fact based and unemotional. If the review is negative but accurate, use the feedback to improve the weak areas and set out to improve your ratings through better service and/or better products.
More information about how to respond to Yelp reviews here: Small Businesses Now Can Fight Back Against Inaccurate Online Reviews
One thing is true for every consumer-facing small business — ignore reviews at your peril.
Image credit: SearchEngineLand and Google Operating System blog.