With so many people researching businesses thoroughly before purchase, online reviews from other customers are often seen to give the most authentic and genuine representation of a particular product and may significantly influence people’s buying decisions.

Every business has its challenges and receiving negative review feedback can be one of the biggest obstacles to deal with in the digital age.

Igniyte commissioned a report to pinpoint the effect of negative reviews (including forum posts, trolling and malicious comments) to companies. Of the organisations contacted, nearly a third of companies stated they spent an average of £20,000 per year putting these right, while almost a fifth invested in the region of £30,000.

Despite the shocking figure, it is very possible to crack the online reviews and ensure positive feedback is an asset to your business. The six-step strategy below explains how to get the most out of reviews – and without huge investment.

Begin offline

Many customers will not take the time to review a company unless they have a reason to. Suppling your consumers with first rate products and services which they will recommend is the first step. If you’re confident you’re offering a great product, customers are more likely to be confident in it too – and more likely to review positively.

Importance of customer service

Great customer service should sit at the heart of your company’s review management strategy. Great service will make your consumers feel valued, incentivising them to share their experience with others.

Make reviewing easy

If a customer doesn’t know where they can review your business, they are unlikely to take the time to do so. Ask for review feedback and include links to where consumers need to go on the footer of your company website, social media profiles (and other digital assets) to allow consumers to review your firm as quickly and easily as possible.

Ask your consumers

Obvious as it seems, consumers are more likely to review your company if you actually ask them to. This can be encouraged through email marketing, comments on packaging and by requesting feedback on social media. With any feedback received, and particularly feedback which is visible to other customers, it is important to acknowledge and respond to both good and bad comments. This shows your brand is interested, dedicated and responsible. Ignoring or deleting negative feedback may seriously aggravate customers, causing further problems.

Embrace mobile

Figures from UK telecoms industry regulator Ofcom suggest that, increasingly, UK consumers are using smartphones to interact with businesses online. Ensuring customers can both contact you and offer reviews via mobile is a great convenience which will set you in good stead.

Avoid bad practice

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) released an investigative report on review sites last year in reference to the organisation’s crack-down on fake or fabricated consumer information. So any route to accumulate reviews should be completely fair and genuine – with the CMA’s guidelines in mind.

No company performs without fault. Considering the points above will help in developing and managing a successful review strategy. This in turn will help you to retain customers, encourage referrals and create that all important great first impression.

By Simon Wadsworth, Founder and MD of Igniyte.