One star review on phone
From performing frequent searches on yourself to responding to reviews both positive and negative, there are many ways to keep your business's reputation in good standing. — Getty Images

More than ever, potential customers are relying on review sites to inform their purchasing decisions. In fact, a recent BrightLocal survey reported that “86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses.” So, it’s critical to know what reviewers are saying about your business and to respond well.

While you may be concerned about the effort required to keep up with reviews, failing to do so can lead to a bad reputation — and one that you may not even be aware of. Fortunately, it requires a relatively small effort once you establish a routine.

Commit to taking a few initial steps and then establish a habit of consistently monitoring and managing your reviews. You can then ensure your company is represented well and leverage online reviews to help you improve your business.

Know your reputation

If you’ve not yet investigated your online reputation, you can take some steps now to establish a good foundation for ongoing review management. Here’s how:

  1. Search yourself. Plug your company name into a search engine to see where it appears and what is being said, if anything, about your business.
  2. Monitor review sites. Check to see if you have a profile page on the big customer review sites, as well as any review sites specific to your industry. Then, if you do, claim it and update it with correct information. If you don’t, create one. Reviews impact your search engine rankings, so it’s beneficial to be on the major review sites.
  3. Analyze your reviews. Look at existing reviews of your company on these sites and plan your approach for responding to reviews.
  4. Respond to recent reviews. It’s best to respond to reviews shortly after they’re posted. Consider responding immediately to at least the most recent ones.

[Read: 3 Things You Need to Know About Customer Reviews in 2019]

It’s important to respond to reviews — it shows that you care about your customers.

Respond to reviews

It’s important to respond to reviews — it shows that you care about your customers. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to address any issues and share your side, if needed. How you respond matters, as does the timeliness of your response. Consider these tips:

  • Represent your business well. Your brand voice needs to be apparent and consistent in your responses. Be professional and respectful. Write well, because people will learn a lot about your business from your responses.
  • Express gratitude for positive reviews. Don’t just put energy into feedback on negative reviews. Be sure to thank those who took the time to give a positive review.
  • Thoughtfully respond to negative reviews. It might be tempting to defend your company, but start by appreciating that someone took the effort to be a customer and to write a review. Try to understand their perspective and express this understanding. It is appropriate to respectfully share your side of the situation, particularly if there are discrepancies between what they shared and what happened. If the review is accurate, consider explaining what you’ll do to fix the situation for that customer and so that it doesn’t happen again.
  • Don’t engage trolls. It’s best to ignore people who take pleasure in randomly harassing others online. Report them to the site manager if harassment continues.
  • Report false reviews. Alert the site manager of any blatantly false reviews so that they can address these issues.

Monitor and manage

Once you take the above steps, your ongoing process should be straightforward: monitoring and managing new reviews. Here are a few tricks to doing this:

  • Set up search engine alerts for your company name to see when you’re mentioned online. This can reveal reviews on sites you’re not checking or other forms of social chatter about your company.
  • Establish a person or team who will check for new postings on the review sites regularly. You can set up alerts with most sites, but it’s still wise to proactively visit.
  • Respond to reviews per the tips above.
  • Ask satisfied customers to post reviews. Upset customers are generally more apt to post a review than are happy customers. However, you may have many happy customers who are willing to share that positive feedback but just don’t think of it.

[Read: 3 Expert Strategies to Encourage Positive Customer Reviews]

At first it may be intimidating to examine what reviewers are saying about your company. However, with the right response and ongoing attention, you can establish a consistent and positive reputation. What’s more, when you read customer feedback, both positive and negative, you’ll learn what you’re doing right already and what’s not working well. This will help you improve your company goals. Also, having this attitude about reviews will be evident in your responses, which will also reflect well on your business.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Become a small business member and save!

Become an integral voice in the world’s largest business organization when you join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a small business member. Members also receive exclusive discounts from B2B partners, including a special offer from FedEx that can help your business save hundreds a year on shipping. Become a member today and start saving!