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March 17, 2011

10 Ways to Turn Online Reviews into More Loyal Customers

Companies like Google, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, CitySearch and many others have made it easy and convenient for customers to share their thoughts with the world. And they’re not just talking about what they had for breakfast.

They’re telling the world what they think of Your Business.

Smart companies are using these online reviews to attract and keep more customers. Here are ten ways you can use Web 2.0 tactics to turn online reviews into more customers who keep coming back.

1. Respond to Every Review

Like emails and voice mails, online reviews are easy to ignore. Especially the icky ones. But don’t. Instead, think of your online reviews as conversation starters. Someone has reached out to you. And when a person speaks to you, it’s bad form to ignore them.

So, the polite thing to do is to respond.

Your response might be just to thank them. Or you might ask them further questions about their experience. Or maybe you share some details about the product or service they mention.

By engaging them you are affirming their choice to do business with you and developing a better relationship with them.

2. Always Thank People for Their Reviews

When a customer takes time to give you a review, they are going out of their way. So thank them for their time and effort (even if the review is negative). Remember, their review can be valuable information for you to improve your business. And it might help you attract more customers. Isn’t this worthy of thanks?

3. Wait Before You Respond to a Negative Review

You open your web browser. You check on the latest reviews of your business. What you see enrages you. Someone has done more than just taken you to task. They have flamed you (or so it feels).

So the urge is to fire back, let them have it. But don’t do it.

Step back from your computer or move on to something else. Do anything but do NOT respond right away. Let the message of the review simmer in your brain. When you come back later you’ll have a much more reasoned response. And it will serve you better in the long run.

4. Never Post (or have someone post) a Fake Review

Because the Internet appears to offer us such anonymity, some folks believe they can manufacture reviews to make their businesses look better.

Don’t do it. You’ll get caught.

Fake reviews take your eye off the ball. Your goal should be to give your customers such a great experience that they generously offer you wonderful reviews that encourage others to do business with you. That should take all your time and effort.

Fake reviews are simply a distraction that will not help your business.

5. Leverage the Power of an Apology

When someone has a bad experience at your business (no matter what the cause) the fastest road to a resolution is an apology.

Your apology does two things. It shows them you care. And it tells them you’re willing to take responsibility for a solution. And, because most employees and businesses don’t apologize (or don’t do it well) then your apology will stand out.

6. Never Threaten a Reviewer Online

No matter how angry you are at a review, don’t strike back by posting threatening or even hostile comments. Remember, the whole world can see what you post.

If you feel an online review is so awful it warrants legal action then take your concerns to the website where the review is posted. They have guidelines and terms of service that the reviewer might be violating.

Also, try to contact the reviewer privately through the website’s private messaging service if they have one. Or simply ask (in your online response) that they contact you privately so you might discuss a resolution.

7. Be Consistent

Your business should have a policy and procedures for handling complaints. If not, think about how you might respond to negative reviews in various situations. Do you offer a refund? Do you invite them back for a do over? Based on the type of complaint, what do you feel would be reasonable and effective in getting customers to come back?

Whatever you decide, be consistent about it. Because many of your responses will be online, other people will see them. Inconsistency might cause other customers to feel slighted.

8. Use Online Reviews to Improve Your Business

The best thing about reviews is they are feedback direct from the people who matter most: your customers. And as customers they know best what it’s like doing business with you. So take their feedback seriously and use it to improve how you do and what you do.

9. Keep Your Attitude and Message Positive at All Times

When you respond to an online review, your purpose is to improve your customer’s experience. If their review is positive, your response affirms that. It shows them they made the right choice doing business with you. If their review was negative, your response might help mitigate the damage to your reputation.

Either way you help improve their experience of being your customer. And you do that by always focusing on the positive.

10. Tell Them What to Expect

The ultimate way to get a steady flow of online reviews from your customers is to give them an experience they want to talk about. The best way to do this is by going beyond what they want and expect from you.

When you tell your customers what to expect (and this message is based on what they want and what you do well) then they have a ruler to measure you with. You’ve made it easy for them to define their customer experience. And you’ve made it easy for them to talk about it.

Because your message is based on what they want, it’s important and relevant to them.

Because it’s based on what you do well, it’s something you can deliver on.

This positions you to deliver an experience worth sharing. And with online review websites your customers now have an easy and
convenient way to share their experience with the world.

And that will drive even more customers to your business.

Kevin Stirtz is a local search marketing consultant. He is a Certified Inbound Marketing Professional and he specializes in local search optimization and online reviews to help local businesses attract and retain more customers. Kevin lives in the Twin Cities metro area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Visit and

6 Responses to “10 Ways to Turn Online Reviews into More Loyal Customers

    The loyal customers to go online and leave a positive review about your business..

    avatar SEO Bedford says:

    Getting reviews good or bad is what every business need to gain exposure and succeed online these days. But what has been puzzling me lately is how to incite costumers to leave a review, be it on you Google Place Page listing or in any other service.

    avatar Shellie Anne says:

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE!!! Point by point it is really great. Thanks. I have shared it with innkeepers I know.

    They give a bad review because they are #1, emotional. Telling them “sorry YOU felt that way” is insulting. Also not directing the response “rebuttal” to the reviewer, but to the reader is arrogant, imo.

    We will NEVER know the whole story, no one reading it will, so best to come out on the side of “gracious host” no matter what is written.

    avatar Scott says:

    Insincere apologies are just that. I stood in a line and watched a lady go off on a Verizon employee. How crappy the phone was and the service. Screaming and cussing. Turns out she set the phone on silent. That was the reason the calls were being missed. I would have loved to see them disconnect her phone and send her on her way. If more did this the less the rest of us would have to deal with it.

    I do not agree with enforcing poor behavior for the sake of a sale. All of this Marketing has created a whole generation of consumers who just now how to act like children. They never take responsibility and it is always someone else’s fault. Many just need a boot out the door a few times for a serious attitude adjustment.

    As you can tell we will never be the biggest but we do have CUSTOMERS not child-like consumers. We work hard for them and they understand what a good business relationship is. CUSTOMERS deserve to be treated with respect and understanding. The rest we like to send to others for hours of apology therapy.

    Sadly never thought on these ways. Thanks.

    it best way to quality traffic on your site.

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