When running your business, how much do online reviews help?

Two University of California Berkeley professors tried tackling this question by analyzing nearly 150,000 Yelp reviews of 328 restaurants in the San Francisco area. The study was meant to assess what affect Yelp’s 27 million new reviews each month and 70 million unique visitors might mean to the restaurants as reviews can make or break this type of business. Their conclusion was that a half star increase in a restaurant’s rating resulted in a 19% increase in seats filled during peak dining hours. This applied so long as the rating was at least 3 stars to start. They also found that for restaurants rated in guidebooks or newspapers, Yelp rating changes made little to no difference in patronage.

With people looking more and more toward online sites in deciding what business to use, there are a few things you can do to insure that social media is helping your business. First, fill in business profiles on the sites that may drive business. Include business hours, telephone number as well as attractive photographs. The goal is to make your business as inviting as is possible.

If a client is willing to give their email, send them a ‘thank you’ for their patronage. While you are at it, try and get them to complete an online review by directing them to Yelp, Citysearch, Bing or another site.

When you get a negative review, there is no need to get defensive. Criticism is part of business. Seriously consider the critique, assess whether their is some truth to it and make corrections. If you can contact the customer, be authentic and do what you can to improve that customer’s experience. Where it is an unfair criticism, realize that this happens from time to time, ignore it and move on.

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