By Mikkel Drucker, VP Marketing, Trustpilot

The growth of social media and online reviews means the voice of the customer is stronger than ever. The majority of potential customers have already formed an opinion on a brand before setting foot in a store or clicking the checkout button. Many businesses are beginning to embrace this evolution in customer relations: in our recent study of UK and US business executives, 79 per cent agreed that online reviews play a highly important role in influencing consumer decision making.

Despite this increased understanding, businesses are still nervous about incorporating online reviews into their marketing strategy. Our research has found that half of businesses are concerned that online reviews would result in negative exposure with almost a third choosing to refrain entirely from displaying their reviews online. Although it can seem daunting for businesses to open themselves up to criticism online, social media empowers consumers to voice their opinions regardless, so it makes sense for businesses to tackle online reviews head-on and reap all the advantages they can.

One company that has fully embraced this approach is mobile device recycling company, Mazuma Mobile. As Mazuma relies on consumers having the confidence to send valuable mobile devices in the post in exchange for cash, trust and transparency has been integral to its business success from the outset.

Since joining Trustpilot five years ago, Mazuma has become one of the first British companies to reach the 100,000 reviews milestone on our site. By fully embracing online reviews, Mazuma has been able to build customer loyalty and advocacy online. As Charlo Carabott, managing director and founder commented recently, online reviews provide value by “showing a potential customer how many other people have benefitted from the service”. Having realised this from the beginning, Mazuma has actively encouraged its customers to share feedback online, allowing positive customer experiences to be converted to additional sales. The results speak for themselves, as the company boasts a 5 star rating and a TrustScore of 9.8 out of 10, making it is one of the most successful businesses on Trustpilot to date.

In addition to transparency, one of the most important aspects for businesses to consider is the way they deal with negative feedback. As shown by our Trust Economy research, 89 per cent of British consumers are influenced by negative reviews online, so it’s important that businesses take time to address them properly. By acknowledging and resolving customer complaints via a public platform, businesses can ensure that negative experiences are frequently turned into positive ones, while potential customers can see this in action.

Moreover, negative reviews can enable businesses to garner customer insights to be fed back into the business and highlight sections of the customer experience that need to be improved. By factoring feedback from negative reviews into long-term planning, businesses can minimise customer experience issues and seek to resolve in advance the potential negative feedback that comes with them.

With 77 per cent of consumers now consulting online reviews before making a purchase online, it is more important than ever that businesses establish a transparent customer feedback process to stay ahead of the competition. Whether or not a business champions the voice of the customer, is rapidly determining its success in the long term, and those that don’t evolve their communications strategy accordingly will fall behind.