10 Ways to Turn Online Reviews into More Loyal CustomersCompanies like Google, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, CitySearch and many others have made it easy and convenient for customers to share their thoughts with the world. And they’re not just talking about what they had for breakfast.

They’re telling the world what they think of Your Business.

Smart companies are using these online reviews to attract and keep more customers. Here are ten ways you can use Web 2.0 tactics to turn online reviews into more customers who keep coming back.

1. Respond to Every Review

Like emails and voice mails, online reviews are easy to ignore. Especially the icky ones. But don’t. Instead, think of your online reviews as conversation starters. Someone has reached out to you. And when a person speaks to you, it’s bad form to ignore them.

So, the polite thing to do is to respond.

Your response might be just to thank them. Or you might ask them further questions about their experience. Or maybe you share some details about the product or service they mention.

By engaging them you are affirming their choice to do business with you and developing a better relationship with them.

2. Always Thank People for Their Reviews

When a customer takes time to give you a review, they are going out of their way. So thank them for their time and effort (even if the review is negative). Remember, their review can be valuable information for you to improve your business. And it might help you attract more customers. Isn’t this worthy of thanks?

3. Wait Before You Respond to a Negative Review

You open your web browser. You check on the latest reviews of your business. What you see enrages you. Someone has done more than just taken you to task. They have flamed you (or so it feels).

So the urge is to fire back, let them have it. But don’t do it.

Step back from your computer or move on to something else. Do anything but do NOT respond right away. Let the message of the review simmer in your brain. When you come back later you’ll have a much more reasoned response. And it will serve you better in the long run.

4. Néver Post (or have someone post) a Fake Review

Because the Internet appears to provide us such anonymity, some folks believe they can manufacture reviews to make their businesses look better.

Don’t do it. You’ll get caught.

Fake reviews take your eye off the ball. Your goal should be to give your customers such a great experience that they generously give you wonderful reviews that encourage others to do business with you. That should take all your time and effort.

Fake reviews are simply a distraction that will not help your business.

5. Leverage the Power of an Apology

When someone has a bad experience at your business (no matter what the cause) the fastest road to a resolution is an apology.

Your apology does two things. It shows them you care. And it tells them you’re willing to take responsibility for a solution. And, because most employees and businesses don’t apologize (or don’t do it well) then your apology will stand out.

6. Néver Threaten a Reviewer Online

No matter how angry you are at a review, don’t strike back by posting threatening or even hostile comments. Remember, the whole world can see what you post.

If you feel an online review is so awful it warrants legal action then take your concerns to the website where the review is posted. They have guidelines and terms of service that the reviewer might be violating.

Also, try to contact the reviewer privately through the website’s private messaging service if they have one. Or simply ask (in your online response) that they contact you privately so you might discuss a resolution.

7. Be Consistent

Your business should have a policy and procedures for handling complaints. If not, think about how you might respond to negative reviews in various situations. Do you provide a refund? Do you invite them back for a do over? Based on the type of complaint, what do you feel would be reasonable and effective in getting customers to come back?

Whatever you decide, be consistent about it. Because many of your responses will be online, other people will see them. Inconsistency might cause other customers to feel slighted.

8. Use Online Reviews to Improve Your Business

The best thing about reviews is they are feedback direct from the people who matter most: your customers. And as customers they know best what it’s like doing business with you. So take their feedback seriously and use it to improve how you do and what you do.

9. Keep Your Attitude and Message Positive at All Times

When you respond to an online review, your purpose is to improve your customer’s experience. If their review is positive, your response affirms that. It shows them they made the right choice doing business with you. If their review was negative, your response might help mitigate the damage to your reputation.

Either way you help improve their experience of being your customer. And you do that by always focusing on the positive.

10. Tell Them What to Expect

The ultimate way to get a steady flow of online reviews from your customers is to give them an experience they want to talk about. The best way to do this is by going beyond what they want and expect from you.

When you tell your customers what to expect (and this message is based on what they want and what you do well) then they have a ruler to measure you with. You’ve made it easy for them to define their customer experience. And you’ve made it easy for them to talk about it.

Because your message is based on what they want, it’s important and relevant to them.

Because it’s based on what you do well, it’s something you can deliver on.

This positions you to deliver an experience worth sharing. And with online review websites your customers now have an easy and convenient way to share their experience with the world.

And that will drive even more customers to your business.

By Kevin Stirtz (c) 2011