By far the most detailed conversations I have had with small business owners this year is how to handle online reviews or feedback. Nearly every Search Engine Optimization expert will tell you that online comments about your business is one of the most effective ways to increase your Local SEO – and yet business owners are still concerned about the impact of that “one crazy person” who is just never satisfied with anything the business does.
The irony is that great hyperlocal businesses do this “right” all the time…. offline. In the store, they handle customer issues and complaints with grace and charm. They are humble when receiving praise. And the best businesses know that feedback is by far the most effective way to improve and grow your business. Understanding what motivates your customers and incenting them to come back, as well as tell others, is the key to a thriving local business.
Businesses can do this effectively online as well. We blogged about this earlier this year and it’s well worth re-reading. More recently, there was a TechCrunch post that highlighted some extremely interested facts about reviews. The finding was that businesses that had more negative reviews also received more inbound requests for information from prospective customers. The author doesn’t post any conclusions why this is true, but we have a strong assumption – potential customers enjoy authenticity. They want to know that the business they are considering has a human face – particularly online. If all you see is glowing reviews of a business or product, you can almost guarantee that it is not an authentic representation of all their customers.
More importantly, people like to know that you care about what they have to say. This is why we are so adamant on calling it feedback instead of reviews. A review is not generally something that you respond to – it’s meant to be a one-sided and non-conversational opinion. But feedback is conversational and generally meant to be constructive. Isn’t that what you want from your customers? And isn’t that what you want prospective customers to know and see about you?
As we wind down 2014, we predict that online feedback (and small business owners responding to feedback) will be one of the big stories in 2015. Local businesses will see the positive impact of extending the authenticity they share with their customers online and we’ll have more metrics to show how effective it is.
We also wanted to share how much of a pleasure it has been to offer small and local businesses our weekly updates. We hope you enjoyed our suggestions on how to improve and grow your customer relationships online and increase your online effectiveness. Following our own advice, we’d like to get feedback from you on what you’d like to learn about and discuss here in 2015. Please leave notes in the comments section on topics and suggestions. Happy New Year!
PS – Many thanks to @jpiekos for his awesome efforts reviewing, editing and suggesting content to this blog this year, as well as the photographer behind this week’s picture!