In our modern, internet-connected world, businesses now face competition from all corners of the globe. To stand out from the pack, it’s essential for any business to maintain a sterling reputation in their field, and to make sure that potential customers are aware of it. That makes online customer reviews one of the most essential sales and marketing tools any business can have–as long as they are managed and utilized properly.

Despite that new reality, many businesses don’t have a firm grasp on the true value of customer reviews. From failure to solicit them from satisfied customers to ignoring negative feedback when it occurs, there are so many ways that businesses neglect to take advantage of what should be a powerful marketing asset. To help correct that, here’s a look at why online reviews are so important, and everything your business needs to know to make the most out of them.

Making First Contact

It is difficult to overstate how important customer reviews are to the success of modern businesses. According to recent statistics, as many as 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which had been the de-facto standard of word-of-mouth marketing for generations. That’s important to realize when you consider that customer reviews are often the first piece of information a prospective customer sees about a business since they occupy prime real estate on search engine results pages. At the same time, businesses with plentiful online reviews also gain increased visibility with higher search results placement, since search engines give added weight to businesses validated by real-world users.

Where Customers Leave Reviews

While many businesses maintain a customer review section on their own websites, there are a variety of other venues where consumers may leave reviews about businesses they’ve interacted with. Some of the more popular places include:

Many platforms that allow customers to leave reviews establish business pages automatically, leaving it up to the business itself to claim the listing and exercise control over it. That means that customers can leave feedback about companies that may not realize it’s even there. If that feedback is negative, failing to respond to it will amplify its effects until steps are taken to resolve whatever issue prompted the negative response.

Creating an Advantage

While it’s important to make an effort to make sure that customer reviews are always positive, there’s a silver lining in less-than-glowing reviews as well. Negative customer feedback represents an unvarnished view of a company’s operations, offering valuable insight into where improvements are needed. For example, if a common pain point involves product support, it’s a good indicator of where additional resources should be directed. At the same time, consumers will learn just as much about a business based on how it responds to unhappy customers, as it reflects the kind of experience they may expect to have, even in a worst-case scenario. Such a situation also allows the business to establish a plan for responding to customers, which is yet another way to stand out from the competition.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, online customer reviews can do as much to aid a business when handled well as they can to harm it when handled poorly. Either way, they can’t be ignored by any business that hopes to succeed in the modern, digital world. If your business needs some help managing customer reviews or designing a strategy to do it in-house, contact our sister company Rally Marketing today and they’ll help you make the most out of your most valuable marketing asset–your own satisfied customers.