As the number of customer opinions on the Web increases, so does the amount of money being spent by businesses on managing these opinions.
That’s according to a recent report by Wall Street Journal (“Hoping to Fix Bad Reviews? Not So Fast”), which cites a BIA/Kelsey study saying that small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. are expected to spend $700 million over the next year on online reputation management tools, platforms, and services.
The forecast serves to highlight once again the importance of user-generated content on the Internet – and the urgency for businesses to respond to such content.
The WSJ report also cautioned business owners about paying for services that promise to remove negative reviews on selected review sites, including Ripoff Report and Yelp.
Daniel Holloway, the manager of local business outreach at Yelp, which has about 27,300 active local-business accounts, says reviews can only be removed by Yelp’s own user-support team. About 27 million user-generated reviews were posted on the site between January and March, up 59 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to Yelp’s most recent quarterly report.
The number of businesses currently monitoring online reviews posted by their customers is already up by 24 percent, but according to BIA/Kelsey, just 5 percent actually pay for reputation management services.
To encourage more effective (and more affordable) management of bad reviews – and avoid falling into the sales trap and questionable tactics of some companies who cannot possibly deliver on what they’re guaranteeing – the report emphasized the importance of following up on all complaints. “Rather than becoming defensive, listen to what unhappy customers are saying and make changes if necessary.”
Businesses are also advised to look beyond Yelp and regularly track all the important review sites, including social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Google+ Local (formerly Google Places). Luckily – ahem, ahem! – our new app, ReviewTrackers, is designed to do exactly that….