Small Businesses Finding More Value in Online Reviews

Today, there are a number of online review sites that allow people to submit praise and complaints alike for everything from public parks to small businesses, and this fact should not be discounted by owners hoping to make a splash in their local areas.

Today, data from the firm Dimensional Research shows that close to nine out of every 10 consumers uses some sort of online review to make buying decisions, and small businesses therefore should keep close tabs on these sites to see how they’re doing, according to a report from New York Newsday. However, it’s also important for companies to note that the ways in which these reviews are generated are coming under an increasing amount of scrutiny.

While there’s nothing wrong with small businesses soliciting positive reviews from satisfied customers, owners need to know that they can face significant fines if they simply post their own, the report said. For instance, the state of New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, recently cracked down on phony reviews posted by companies themselves, and levied some $350,000 in fines against 19 companies which did so.

While in many cases, bad reviews may be unavoidable, simply because companies can’t hope to please everyone all the time, the way they’re handled is obviously going to be of significant importance going forward, the report said. If a bad review goes unaddressed on Yelp or TripAdvisor, visitors to the site may see that and think a company doesn’t care. For this reason, it’s wise for owners to go in and reply to all reviews – positive or negative – to show that they are engaged and active in trying to deal with these potential issues. This may be especially important because even if a company has a good rating overall in this regard, consumers tend to be more drawn to reading negative reviews to see what issues they likewise might face.

“We try to monitor them on a weekly basis,” Joe Bruton, managing partner of Blackstone Steakhouse on Long Island, told the newspaper. “We try to reach out on a one-on-one basis and invite people back and make resolution of whatever experience they had.”

Owners hoping to keep their companies thriving may also want to make sure they’re properly covered when it comes to affordable small business insurance. Taking the time to reduce costs for such coverage, including general liability insurance, may help them to save thousands of dollars per year.