The importance of online reviews for SMEs

Here, Alan Duncan, European marketing director at Trustpilot, talks to us about the importance of good online reviews for small businesses.

Consumers today are more empowered than ever. With a staggering range of retailers to choose from, customers can be quick to reject businesses when the service they receive isn’t up to scratch. While losing a few loyal customers might not be the end of the world for larger businesses, it can be catastrophic for SMEs to receive bad online reviews. So, what can SMEs do to make sure their customers are kept happy, remain loyal and ultimately become advocates for the brand?

Let’s look at the value of online reviews. Consumers have a multitude of ways to publicly express their feelings about the service they received from a company. What’s more, our own research indicates that 61 per cent of consumers check reviews before making a purchase online.

So, knowing how to manage, and deal with, both positive and negative reviews, as well as understanding how negative reviews can actually help a business, is extremely important for SMEs.

Positive reviews are great for any business. Not only do they demonstrate customer trust in a brand, they can also act as a great marketing tool to help promote products and services. Negative reviews can also be beneficial as they can play an important role in helping SMEs remedy customer frustrations.

Our research shows that the top three customer service frustrations, which often lead to negative reviews, include being passed around different colleagues or being put on hold, rude or defensive staff, and a lack of staff knowledge. To bring this to life, we recently created Café Zero to highlight consumers’ frustrations with businesses’ poor customer service.

When negative reviews are received, a simple first step is to acknowledge the complaint by responding to it. Our data shows that 84 per cent of shoppers said they would use a retailer again if they responded to a negative review by addressing their concerns. While a further 70 per cent also said retailers could win them back with the offer of a refund, discount or freebie.

So, while consumers can sometimes be easily frustrated and will often go online to voice their opinions, our evidence indicates that these complaints can be easily remedied and their trust regained. Here are my five top tips to do just that.

Feedback (even negative feedback!) can be a force for good

It can be difficult to read criticism about your business. However, it’s important to remember that knowing what your customers really think can help you to make the necessary changes needed in order to succeed. Feedback can provide SMEs with a great opportunity to highlight responsiveness and commitment to customer service.

Feedback helps to recognise problems

Online criticism can play a crucial role in helping SMEs recognise problems before they get out of control. By remaining vigilant and closely monitoring complaints for themes or recurring issues, it could help solve problems before they arise.

Feedback helps businesses improve

Making mistakes is human. Failing to rectify mistakes, however, isn’t. It’s important that SMEs don’t get bogged down with the number of complaints or negative reviews they are getting, but how they’ve resolved them.

Feedback can help businesses adapt

Feedback, even if critical, should form a key part of the development. If customers are continually complaining about a specific issue or department, it’s highly likely that it needs to be changed.

Negative feedback can help SMEs show they’re human

It’s important that negative feedback is never ignored. Own up to mistakes and explain why they happened. Being open and honest comes across very well while snatching victory from the jaws of defeat demonstrates a determined business.

The reality is that criticism is fundamental to enable SMEs to improve going forward. So, the next time your business receives a negative review, take a moment to consider what the customer is saying and use their feedback to ensure a positive business outcome.

Written by Alan Duncan, European marketing director, Trustpilot.

Further reading on online reviews

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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