The bane of many a small business is a bad review, especially if it’s unearned. What often makes matters worse is that often you cannot even respond to the review. I’ll throw into the hat good reviews that you could also respond to. All that has changed now as Google has opened up its reviews on Google Places and now allows local businesses the opportunity to respond to these reviews.

This is a change that many have asked for and, for once, Google have listened. It’s an important change given the emphasis that Google does place on these reviews and Google Places listings in general. As a business owner with a local search listing, I suggest you not waste any reviews you do receive – they are wonderful PR and reputation management opportunities.

When it comes to reputation management, being able to respond to a poor review is important. Customers will often lodge a complaint with a business and leave a poor review at the same time. Even though their complaint is handled to everyone’s satisfaction, they rarely return to update their poor review. You can at least respond to the outcome of the complaint – you may even find the customer adding their response.

PR is an important issue in today’s marketplace and good reviews are gems. You can add value to these positive reviews by responding yourself. I would advise against simply responding with a ‘thanks for a great review’. Use the opportunity to sell your business. By this, I mean you should respond with a positive message. For example, ‘thanks for the positive review. We are proud of our product and customer service history and continue to strive for improvement’. You could also use a good review to up-sell services; for example, ‘thanks for your kind words and don’t forget you can add xyz when you’re ready to expand your xyz’s capabilities’.

Whatever you do, don’t waste a review, either positive or negative. They are unique opportunities online to communicate with your customers in a very public way – and consumers are turning to these reviews in increasing numbers. If you are not sure how to respond to a review, Google offer some suggestions that are worth looking at. You can read their suggestions here and read about the change to Google Places policy on reviews here.

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