You probably know that customer reviews are important. You know that when people say good things about your business online, others may see it and be a deciding factor in their purchasing decision. However, if you’re not actively generating and responding to online reviews, you may miss out on several benefits.

When done correctly, a customer review campaign can drive your brand awareness, customer satisfaction, reputation, and ROI. Yes, even the negative reviews can boost your business if you know how to handle them.

Ask and They Will Review

The very act of asking a customer to write about your business can feel daunting. However, data suggests that customers enjoy this chance to further their relationships with businesses. About 70% of customers will leave a review if the business asks them to do so. It really is that simple. Even better is if you use third-party websites (like ConsumerAffairs) to help increase the credibility of those reviews.

Responding to these reviews (both positive and negative) is a critical piece in ensuring trustworthy and authentic reviews. If you primarily interact with customers online, this process can be even easier. Make it part of your follow-up process and include a URL to your ConsumerAffairs profile page. Whatever you do, make it as easy as possible and be authentic.

As more people leave online reviews, they spread the word about your brand. Whether their friends see the review on social media or it helps your business rank higher on search engines, each review boosts your brand awareness.

Respond to Negative Reviews

One of the most gut-wrenching things about owning a business is getting a negative review. After you put so much of yourself into your company, it can sting when someone doesn’t have a great customer experience. However, when you allow online reviews to guide your marketing and sales strategy, negative feedback can actually help. If handled correctly, these comments can help you legitimize your brand and increase customer satisfaction.

90% of consumers visit online review sites before they visit a business for the first time. Most of these review readers know that every business is bound to have some negative reviews. In fact, a company with nothing but glowing feedback can be suspicious. 95% of the audience will suspect that the reviews are fake or the business is censoring if they do not see a single low score.

Potential customers are particularly ready to forgive a bad online review if the business responds in a timely manner. And since 89% of the audience reads the business response, this is the perfect moment to allow your customer service skills to shine.

If you show genuine concern for the customer and offer solutions, you can turn the negative review into something that makes potential newcomers trust you more. Furthermore, you get the chance to remedy the situation with the person who had a bad customer experience. If you go out of your way to make things better with the reviewer, they may amend their review or even become repeat customers.

Listen to the Reviews

Negative and positive reviews can help you make important business decisions in several areas. What clients say can allow you to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. In turn, this analysis can help you make important business decisions.

For example, if you see several online reviews that mention a particular salesperson being incredibly helpful, you can bet that this employee is a strength for your business. Do what you can to keep that person happy and in front of customers. Similarly, if many online reviews mention how they appreciate your organic ingredients, fast shipping, or responsiveness, you can highlight these strengths in your marketing. Reviews that point out weaknesses can help as well. Negative feedback may make you aware of a shipping problem, a situation with an employee, or another major problem. Once you respond to the review, be sure to solve the problem too.

Sometimes online reviews offer insights into your opportunities and threats as well. For example, clients may write that they wish they could come by more often, but the hours aren’t good for them. With enough of these statements, you may consider changing your hours. On the other hand, clients may point to competing businesses, which you can consider threats. This part of the analysis can also help you increase your ROI. For example, you may see that nobody comes at a certain time of the day, so you can invest labor hours into a different time instead.

Put Reviews Front-and-Center

Not only should you allow customers to review your business, but you should ask them to do so. Then, you can use what you find to let more people learn about your company, keep your clients happy, make important decisions, and know where to put your limited resources. Don’t be afraid to put the feedback out there for the world to see; you may be surprised by the returns.