Close up on a pair of hands operating a smartphone. On the phone's screen is a chart labeled "Review summary" with the amount of one- through five-star reviews measured in bars. At the bottom of the screen is the overall review score -- 4.8 -- and the corresponding number of stars.
Online reviews are a good way to gauge customer opinion while also reaching new audiences. — Getty Images/HAKINMHAN

The best marketing tool is word of mouth, and in the digital age, this is achieved via review sites. Customer reviews have become a huge part of many businesses’ online presence and marketing strategies. Reading testimonies from other people can help sway a prospective customer to purchasing your products and services. Here are five popular customer review sites for any type of business and how to manage them.

[Read more: How to Encourage Customers to Leave Good Online Reviews]

5 customer review sites to know

Almost any website that lists businesses will allow users to post reviews about them. Some review sites focus on specific industries or products, such as travel experiences or cars. Here are five of the most popular general review sites for businesses and products that every business owner should know.

Google

If someone doesn't know where to start to look for a product or service, chances are they'll go to Google first. As the leader amongst all search engines, Google performs over 3.5 billion searches a day. It also allows users to easily leave reviews for any business or product and shows those reviews in a starred ranking system in related searches. Business owners can manage their presence on Google through Google My Business. This is a tool that allows managers to oversee their search results and maps, update their listings with accurate information and directly respond to posted reviews.

Amazon

Amazon is a popular site for users to read reviews of products they’re interested in and compare them to similar products. After purchasing a product, users can write reviews about their experience using it, and the review will appear directly on that product's page. Amazon’s review system has been modified so that the reviews customers see are targeted based on their browsing history and buying experience. This system means that customers are more likely to read reviews written by people with similar buying patterns, making this review system more personalized.

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

Yelp

Yelp is a platform that helps users find local businesses. Users can write and publish reviews based on their experience going to these businesses. Not only does the site give business owners the opportunity to address these reviews, they also offer small business training on how to respond to them. Yelp's reviews can be helpful or harmful to a small business, depending on their content. Customers who see repeated positive experiences are more likely to choose that business. If there are only negative reviews on a business’s Yelp page, they'll likely look elsewhere.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving marketplace trust between businesses and consumers. Despite popular belief, it is not affiliated with any government agency. The BBB rates businesses, brands and charities on an A-plus through F letter grade scale. Users can log on to the website and search for specific businesses or businesses within an industry to see how they are rated. They can read customer reviews and complaints, as well as see the BBB rating and the reasons the company earned that accreditation.

Yellow Pages

The giant yellow phone book is now an online resource. Yellow Pages is an online internet directory that helps customers find businesses in their area. It allows users to post reviews about their experiences with those businesses on their site. Companies can claim their business on Yellow Pages, then manage and respond to reviews on the site.

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

When your business responds to all reviews, it shows prospective customers that you care about your perception.

4 steps to manage customer reviews

Reviews are just one side of the customer relationship. As a manager or owner, you'll want to make sure your business perspective is being heard, as well as that all the information in the review is accurate. Here are some tips to help businesses manage their customer reviews.

Claim a listing on customer review sites

Many review sites allow businesses to claim themselves and create their own profiles. Not only does this allow businesses to provide accurate information, but it also lets them see and respond to the reviews they are receiving. By claiming a listing or adding a profile on a review site, you let customers know that you're both a legitimate business and a responsive one.

Encourage customer reviews

Whenever you interact with a customer, be it in person or online, ask them to post a review to one of these sites. This is especially important after any positive transaction, as most customers are more likely to leave reviews after a negative experience than a positive one. The more varied types of reviews you have, the more well-rounded you'll seem to customers.

Create a system for monitoring reviews

Develop a system with your team to monitor reviews on various sites. With the overwhelming amount of review sites, it can be hard to manage all of them. Select a few that are the most visited and have the most impact on business, and continually monitor them for feedback.

Respond kindly to all reviews (positive and negative)

When your business responds to all reviews, it shows prospective customers that you care about your perception. Many businesses only respond to negative reviews out of defensiveness. A business should respond to every type of review, telling customers how much they appreciate their acknowledgement of a positive experience and showing how they plan to improve after a negative one.

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.

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Published March 25, 2021