Online Customer Reviews: Do they help or harm?

Online reviews are more widespread than ever because they matter both to consumers and businesses.

Most customers are online shoppers in one way or another so you'll know how important reviews are in helping them make more informed buying decisions.

Reviews give customers genuine insight into any product or service and shine a light on a company's reputation.

So, why do so many companies shy away from opening the perceived floodgates of online customer reviews? Quite simply, they fear bad reviews.

But is this fear grounded in reality? It seems not. We recently reviewed some research from the folks over at Yelp and the reality is, that online customer reviews are actually very good for your business. Here are just a few of their findings:

• 75% of reviews posted on review websites are generally positive.

•  95% of unhappy customers will return to your business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently.

•  71% of customers say reviews make them more comfortable that they’re buying the right product/service.

•  70% of people consult reviews/ratings before buying.

•  People are 63% more likely to buy from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.

• Customer reviews create a 74% increase in product conversion.

So why should you want more customer reviews?

• Because listening to your customers is good business sense.

Any forward-thinking business should listen to the concerns of the people that matter the most: their customers. The most successful companies use customer feedback to improve their products and services. That's why customer review matters. It can make a real difference to the way your company develops future products and services, and how you engage with consumers.

• Because you’ll get invaluable insight into what your customers want.

Customer feedback helps you discover exactly what your customers’ preferences are. When you ask your customers to give you product and or service feedback, you’ll find what they like and don’t like about it – it’s that simple.  When you know what’s working and what isn’t, you can tweak things to better serve your customers.   Tracking your reviews on our site gives you real-time feedback on what matters to your customers so you can act on them.

• Because you can show your customers that their opinions matter.

By asking your customers for feedback, you’re telling them that you really value their opinion. Your customers will feel important because you’re treating them as such and they’ll feel involved in shaping your product.  When your customers are listened to and heard, a positive feeling is directed back to you as their supplier or service provider which can eventually result in more sales and customer retention.

• Because reviews are powerful free advertising.

If you consider that 75% of reviews are positive, online reviews can be seen as a gold mine for great conversations about your brand.  People respond better to independent reviews (because they are independent) than they do to your own marketing messages (because they know they are being sold something), so there’s considerable power in terms of influencing future customers.

So now’s the time to embrace the power of customer reviews.

If you’re consistently listening and seeking feedback, you’ll always have a pulse on what’s working for your customers and what’s not.  Ultimately, being closer to your customers, seeking their feedback will lead to better business, better sales, and simply great customer experiences. With customer feedback, businesses can amend their products and services to meet customer needs and expectations, which leads to increased customer satisfaction and more profits.

Your customers are your most important business stakeholders. That’s why it’s important to hear their feedback. But collecting customer feedback is just the first step to ensuring a successful customer experience. It’s what you do with the feedback that truly matters – and that’s when you feedback to the customer - online of course!

(The author is managing director of, the online wellness resource. The views expressed are his own)

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