Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Small Business guide: the value of review sites

With review sites offering testimonials from past customers on all kinds of online businesses, from mail order businesses to energy suppliers, they are a great way for potential new customers to check out different companies. But it isn't just customers who benefit. Smaller, lesser known businesses also have a chance with review sites to get their name out there and gain positive recognition. For example, current Ovo reviews have shown that these sites can help small energy suppliers compete with larger, established businesses, and it's the same story whichever online industry you’re in. Provide a good service, gain good reviews and more customers will come.

The power of review sites

What it is about review sites that make them such a powerful tool for small businesses in particular? In comparison to larger and well-known businesses, small companies are a relative unknown. This can act both for and against them. On the upside, if customers don’t know what they are getting they can go into a transaction with an open mind and be pleasantly surprised. Because they don’t have a powerful brand name to trade on, lesser known companies often charge less. They may also make an extra effort and provide exceptionally good service to win customers over. On the downside, entering into a contract with a lesser known brand can be risky endeavour for customers. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case that smaller, up and coming businesses provide good value.

Review sites take some of the risk element out of the equation for new customers. They provide an assurance that other customers have engaged with the business and (hopefully) found them to provide a good level of service. Review sites also break down the experience of past and present customers into various fields. For example, there may be ratings on the level of service, value for money, special deals or other criteria. This helps new customers to rate what is most important to them and select a business accordingly. What is most important for one customer, for example price, may not be the top priority for another. Review sites also provide the opportunity to add personalised comments, which again gives potential customers more information.

What does this mean for the small business owner? In a world where so much business is won and conducted online, it is imperative to have a grasp of the importance of review sites. Going back to basics, this means being aware that the customers of today have a strong influence over the customers of tomorrow. It is essential to provide all customers with a consistently good level of service, for any one of them might write a review.

Dealing with bad reviews

Bad reviews happen and they need not mean disaster, however. What is most important, besides trying to ensure they don’t happen again, is that potential customers see that a business owner is prepared to listen to criticism and take any necessary action about a particular issue. Respond politely and, if necessary, state that you are looking into the problem and are taking steps to remedy it. If it is a one-off, then drastic action may not be necessary. But always respond to reviews, whether they are good or bad, in a polite and professional manner. 

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