Regardless of how large or small your business is, consumers turn to the Internet every single day to see how others feel about your products and services. There are over 2.7 billion people out there in cyberspace and over 72% of them turn to review sites like Google PlacesYelp, andUrban Spoon to see how others feel about you before spending a penny inside your storefront. Long gone are the days of not establishing an online presence because even if your business doesn’t need a website, your fans and critics will spread your name just the same. That’s just one of the many reasons why you need to start encouraging user reviews for your business.

Send Consumers Directly to Google Places & Yelpgoogle laundromat

There are two main philosophies out there when it comes to user reviews; either try to keep them in-house on a company website or send customers towards third party destinations that let consumers post reviews independently. Both have their merits and drawbacks, but we recommend sending customers to Google Places so consumers know that all of the reviews are completely legitimate. Since Google always shows local businesses on the top right-hand side of their search homepage, it’s also a nice way to gain instant traffic and trust.

Let’s say that we perform a Google search for “Laundromats in Orlando, FL”. There are over 40 local businesses that fall into that category, but the store that’s listed 1st (Tower Place Coin Laundry) is there simply because it has the most reviews and its own static website. In fact, Advance Coin laundry down in 7th place has a great 4.8 rating, but its mere 5 reviews (and no website at all) kept it from being as visible as Tower Place.

So what can we learn from this little tutorial? Encouraging your customers to leave feedback on Google can work wonders for your business’s online exposure. Ask consumers to review your business directly after they make an in-store purchase, since that’s the time that they’re most likely to brag about you and your products/services.

Use Apps to Automate Reviews after Purchase

If your business is primarily online, then customer reviews are even more important for your overall exposure. After a purchase is made, why not give consumers an option to be redirected to your Google Places page so they can leave instant feedback of how they felt the transaction went? This actually serves two purposes; the feedback itself is helpful for future clients and your website will probably rank higher due to the positive feedback on Google as well. It’s a great one-two punch for visibility.

If the customer will be waiting for a package in the mail, then send a short note in the package requesting feedback after the item is tested and/or used. While a lot of people won’t bother, there are still a decent amount of people out there that love giving feedback and you’d be surprised at how much of a difference this simple, cost effective strategy can make in the long run.

Don’t Panic Over Negative Reviews

google places reviewsFinally, don’t worry too much about negative reviews because every business gets them. Instead, think of a bad review as a way to find out when things go wrong for your company and an opportunity to keep a customer that would otherwise shoot straight to your main competitor’s doorstep. The best way to handle negative customer reviews is to reach out to that person directly through a written response that minimizes future damages while showing that you’re a business that cares. For example, try responding with something like, “We’re so sorry that you had a bad experience in our store this week. Please contact one of our managers as soon as possible so we can make this right.”

In some cases, the customer will go back and change their review from something harsh to a comment that’s much more favorable to your business. Even if they don’t though, the entire world will be able to see that you reached out and tried to turn around a bad situation…which speaks volumes of your company’s character. Besides, as more reviews are posted and a bad review drops off the first page, chances are that it will never be seen again.

That brings us right back to our earlier screenshot of the #1 ranking Laundromat in Orlando, Florida. Remember their 3.3 overall ranking and how it appeared that they were doing great? Well, it turns out that two of the last three visitors to that business had a horrible experience and left scathing reviews about a year ago. Google has this business at #1 for their local market nonetheless and since they have their own website, a good portion of the folks in Orlando will click the direct link anyway. The lesson to be learned here is that while we all hate receiving bad reviews, they’re definitely not the end of the world. Twenty mixed reviews are more valuable than ten fantastic ones, so do yourself a favor and start building local hype.