For customers, it's never been easier to interact with brands. If you love the shirt you just ordered, you can leave a glowing review on the company's website. If the service at a new restaurant was awful, you can tell the world on a customer review site. If you can't figure out why your package hasn't arrived yet, you can ask the brand on social media.

Your voice as a customer is loud and clear.

Even as customers like being heard and having a say, businesses also benefit from consumer feedback. Online reviews and other feedback mechanisms can be used to improve nearly all parts of a business, from the quantitative (like higher ROI, profit, and click-through rates) to the qualitative (like the building of trust with customers, better brand reputation, and customer satisfaction).

If your business isn't yet using online reviews, here are five ways to start making them work for you.

1. Stop fearing the negative review

Many brands are reluctant to implement online review systems because they're afraid of airing their dirty laundry, but that's actually a misguided concern.

First of all, most online reviews are positive, believe it or not. Second, studies have shown that almost 85% of customers think user reviews are valuable, so your brand will please shoppers by having reviews. But don't think that means you need universally positive reviews; customers trust reviews' legitimacy more when some are positive and some are negative.

2. Choose wisely where to put your review form

Putting your review section in an easily accessible part of the site—at checkout, for example—makes your brand appear more trustworthy and customer-focused, which promotes customer loyalty and retention. And if customers can easily see and read others' feedback, your word-of-mouth marketing will improve substantially.

A/B (or split) testing shows that brands using online reviews can increase sales by as much as 58%, likely because 71% of customers are more confident in their purchases after reading reviews.

The homepage and the About page, the shopping cart screen, search results page, and social media business pages can also be effective places to ask for customer opinions.

3. Address bad reviews and incorporate them into operations

Never let a customer complaint, whether in an internal review section or on social media, sit. Make the best of a bad situation by reaching out to the customer and genuinely trying to solve the problem. Your brand will seem human and caring, and customers will feel valued.

Not convinced? Research from PeopleClaim found that 95% of customers continue to do business with a brand they once criticized if issues are handled quickly and competently.

Impressive as that statistic is, the benefits don't stop there. Handling customer complaints does satisfy the unhappy individual in the short-term, but it also helps you understand why your business is getting bad reviews in the first place. Really pay attention to negative feedback and use it to course-correct and to improve your company.

Offering better products, services, and customer support based on customer feedback will organically improve sales and ROI, and it will also improve customer retention by showing shoppers that you value their opinions.

4. Personalize your requests for feedback

The little things that are lost in an e-commerce transaction—sales associates greeting customers as they walk into the store, helping hands on the sales floor—can make a big difference in the overall customer experience. Personalizing feedback requests can help bridge that gap.

Instead of offering review fields on your site only, or queuing up a generic email blast, send out individualized requests for feedback. Using customers' names and being honest about why you're gathering shoppers' comments will make people more likely to write authentic reviews.

5. Get on social media and third-party review sites

It may seem safest to accept feedback only through channels you're able to control, like your website, but it's imperative to be on third-party sites, as well.

Research from Google finds that companies with reviews-based online ratings have 17% higher click-through rates than those that don't have them, which means your company will get in front of more potential buyers. Social media reviews also have a major impact on traffic. So major, in fact, that Sociable Labs found that three-fourths of people have clicked through a brand's site due to something they read on social media.

Don't let the fear of the unknown keep you from tangible benefits like those.

* * *

Online reviews can seem as if they offer only superficial or customer-focused benefits, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The beauty of customer comments is that they're good for the company and the consumer simultaneously, building everything from customer loyalty and brand image to cold, hard sales figures.

Companies bend over backward to drive profitability and please customers. Why not do it easily and efficiently with a simple online review form?

Sign up for free to read the full article. Enter your email address to keep reading ...


image of Jan Vels Jensen

Jan Vels Jensen is the chief marketing officer of Trustpilot, an online reviews community and technology platform. He is responsible for global marketing, growing customer loyalty, and building and managing Trustpilot's international brand.

Twitter: @janvjensen

LinkedIn: Jan Vels Jensen