You may have read my previous article about reviews – Creating a Review Cycle for Your Business. As the Internet grows bigger the chances that someone somewhere is reviewing your business online is greater. The small business owners I advise are proud of their business and want to do the best for their customers.

Small business have consistently scored themselves  high in customer service in the  Network Solutions’ Small Business Success Index. Yet these small business owners are very sensitive to negative reviews and I can see them becoming anguished. My advice to my small business friends is to remember that in the service business a 100% satisfied customer service is a goal to work towards but not always achievable.

Don’t get defensive and stress over negative reviews. You should view it as a step to help you with your business. Look for the take away from the reviewers message.

Reviewers :

Your best reviewers are your existing customers who will make the best effort to give the business owner the feedback directly – using either a face-to-face (f2f) conversation or the phone or email. If your business uses comment cards or sends out customer satisfaction surveys, these customers may give you their feedback.

If your customers are not satisfied with their experience, they may not feel comfortable addressing it with the business themselves. They will seek out places where they can post their experience or they may just talk to colleagues and friends about their experience with you.

It is important for your business to provide them an easy way to give you their feedback especially if they are not satisfied. This is your opportunity to address it, make changes if necessary and also retain the customer’s business.

Review Sites :

The sites to pay close attention to are the ones that get the best traffic and deal with your business vertical. Some examples :

  • Yelp for restaurants (of course yelp has many more verticals )
  • TripAdvisor for travel related business
  • Angie’s List (this is a review site you have to join for a fee)
  • Amazon – I look at reviews for products here even if I am not buying from here. The product pages come up high on search results.

You may find this article A Review of Review Sites on kk.org interesting listing a few other review sites for other subjects. Check if the review site is full of negative reviews about all the businesses listed, research and weigh your options. One way of doing this is to check the rankings of the website on Alexa.com or other sites. Look to see if the comments are getting responses.

Points to consider when studying reviews of your business:

  1. Look for the take away, is there a symptom that is common to all the reviewers?
  2. Respond to the reviewer to seek more feedback if necessary
  3. Make the follow-up personal with a phone number or email address that can help you get more details
  4. If the review is a rant and there are no specifics, you may be tempted to ignore the review rightfully. Remember your response to that review will be looked at by all your prospective customers so it is important to respond.

As a rule of thumb, when I look at reviews personally before buying products I read the negative reviews as well. If the product gets 7 positive to 3 negative I am fine with that. I am also thankful for all the folks on sites like Amazon, Yelp and Trip Advisor who take the trouble to write detailed reviews of products for others. I have had many great experiences following the advise given on Trip Advisor.

For an example of a reviewers dilemma see the reviews of the Residence Inn Hershey Park PA on Google Places and on Trip Advisor. It is clear to me that I should follow the Trip Advisor reviews and Marriott should pay more attention to the Trip Advisor reviews as well as they seem to be doing.

What is your strategy for reviewing reviewers? Do you monitor reviews of your business?

Shashi Bellamkonda is the Director Social Media for Network Solutions a company that provides domain names and online tools for small business customers and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and serves as a member of the Marketing Advisory Board of SCORE . The employees gave him the title of “Social Media Swami” Shashi has contributed to the Washington Business Journal, American Express OPEN forum, SmallBiZtrends and other tech blogs like Smallbiztechnology.com and Techcocktail.