When my brother’s car broke down last month, and the dealership quoted him a ridiculous price for fixing it, we turned to the internet to find a local mechanic. He’s new to this city, and I’ve never actually needed to get my car fixed – so we went down the list of small businesses that came up.

There was the specialty shop where I had gotten my oil changed. We went there first without looking at any reviews. His quote was lower than the dealership, but we didn’t want to commit before shopping around a bit more. There was a little muffler shop with 55 reviews on Yelp – and what’s more, they were all POSITIVE reviews. I looked up the address for the muffler shop. It was located on a street I’ve driven down hundreds of times in the past two years, but had no idea it was there.

We drove up – I actually passed it the first go. The location itself is hidden by trees, and even walking by it on the sidewalk, I would never notice it. The little garage looked run down – and the lot is tiny. We walked in to a tiny room with just a desk, two chairs, and the owner at the computer. He was on the phone when we walked in. He asked us how he could help, we told him our predicament, and he said he would call us in 15 minutes with a quote after doing some research.

If we had walked in without seeing those positive reviews, I would’ve told my brother we should move along and find another option. He called my brother with a quote, and we decided we would have his car towed there. When we went back in with the car, he asked us how we had found him. When we told him he had great reviews online, he was genuinely surprised. As an unassuming small business owner, he had gotten two new customers simply because of word-of-mouth.

My brother and I were part of the 90% of consumers who read online reviews before visiting a business. According to a survey from business2community, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in a business’ revenue, and a negative review can cost you 30 customers.

There’s no longer any doubt when it comes to the power of online reviews. So, how can a small business owner encourage their customers to leave those reviews? 

Harnessing the Power of Online Reviews for Your Small Business

Provide consistently great customer service. This seems so obvious, but the owner of the muffler shop in this instance didn’t do anything extra to get customer reviews. He didn’t even know his customers were leaving those reviews. He simply provided great service for every single person who walked through his front door.

Strike while the iron is hot. Before a satisfied customer leaves your store, ask them if they had a few minutes to leave feedback about their experience. Let your customers know their opinion matter. If this is an option, you can have a dedicated computer or tablet to help make it a seamless experience for your customers while they’re still in your store.

Harness the power of email marketing. Not all of your customers will be able to take the time to leave a review in the store. With an email sign-up list, you can reach out to your customers shortly after they make a purchase. If they mentioned that they would post a review when they got a chance, you can use this as a gentle reminder. This can also be a good time to offer a coupon for their next purchase.

Respond to all reviews. Did you know that 95% of unhappy customers will return to your business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently? Most business owners avoid complaints, and only focus on the good reviews. This is a huge mistake. The customers who took the time to leave that negative review are passionate, and you can harness that passion to create a positive customer experience.

How are you encouraging your customers to leave online reviews for your business? 


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