The Importance of Online Business Reviews

Amy LavinIndustry, Marketing

Running a service-oriented business in the United States doesn’t look the same as it did twenty years ago. Heck, it doesn’t even look the same as it did ten years ago. It used to be you could walk into a business, ask to speak with the owner, and he or she would be there to strike up a service deal.

Times have changed. We have shifted from a period when business owners would pursue clients directly, to one where clients choose which businesses they want to pursue. This changes the way we market, do business and seek out new clients.

Some of this change is a result of the increasing importance of being present online. Thanks to the Web2.0 lifestyle (where everyday internet users create content and share it with the world) that has come about in the last five or so years, most people exist in both the real and the online world. Because of that, word of mouth usually takes the form of an online review as opposed to a spoken suggestion.

Review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List have seen less growth for reviews than platforms like Google Business and Facebook Reviews ( While some might think online reviews are only for “bad reviews,” Forbes Magazine also mentions that two-thirds of all reviews are four or five-star ratings. With that said, Google Business, Facebook, and other similar platforms where people can express their thoughts about business have become an opportunity for companies to show off their recommendations.

So what can you do to get some reviews?

  1. Add a visible link and ask customers to review your business (Google Business, Facebook, Angie’s List are a few strong service-based platforms) on your invoice email (or newsletter).
  2. Promote the idea of leaving a review on your social media channels.
  3. Ask for a review over the phone or in-person after a service has been completed.

Some business owners are in the mindset that Google Business and other business review platforms don’t give a business a chance to “stand up for themselves.” All we can say to that is, unfortunately, these platforms aren’t going anywhere. As in all things worthwhile, these platforms require effort and time to manage, especially when bad reviews get posted. But, this too is an opportunity.

Here are a few suggestions for when you get a bad review.

  1. Listen to the reviews. Sometimes they give you great insight into your business practices that need to change.
  2. Respond to all reviews (good or bad).
  3. Try not to argue with the customer. Try being the operative word. In any case, be courteous. Remember that others will read your response and a snarky/sarcastic/mean response will serve as confirmation to other viewers.
  4. Apologize if you were at fault.
  5. Make it right, if possible. (That is why it is so important to leave your full name when leaving a review, businesses usually want the opportunity to make it right). If there is no full name or way to reach out, you can always leave your phone number or email address and invite the reviewer to contact you.  

Online reviews can be hard to manage. abc went through a period in which we weren’t getting favorable reviews. However, we took our advice and listened to those reviews, changed some policies, replied to those reviews, and tried to make it right. If online reviews seem overwhelming or discouraging (because if a customer is upset, they will most likely leave a review but if they are happy, they might stay silent, so “bad reviews” can seem to pile up), think of them as free marketing or opportunities to right a wrong with a customer.

People used to get recommendations from those they trust, friends, family, co-workers. Those word-of-mouth recommendations still exist, but more common are platforms like Google Business and Facebook. Potential clients are reading reviews from strangers, so be good to every one of your customers.