The Worst Meatball Sandwich: How to Make the Most of Online Reviews

“Where do you wanna eat?”

“I don’t know…Where do you wanna eat?”Yelp Meatball Bad Review

What is today’s solution for this infuriating circle of indecision? For many of us, it’s Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, and all other variations thereof. Whether we’re looking for the best fresh seafood in Charleston, the most stylish Art Deco hotel in Miami, or the hottest jazz club to laissez le bon temps rouler in New Orleans, we rely on review websites to point us in the right direction.

So what does this mean for business owners? By now, most businesses have caught on to the fact that user-generated online reviews can have a significant impact on sales. The numbers presented in a recent Tnooz article speak for themselves:

  • 53% of travelers won’t book a hotel that has no reviews.
  • 78% of travelers say reviews help them feel more confident in their booking decisions.
  • 95% of travelers say reviews are trustworthy.

As a business owner, there are plenty of ways you can harness the power of user-generated reviews and make sure they are working for you, not against you.

Be authentic. It goes without saying that fake reviews are a no-no. However, our friends at Google recently offered some additional advice regarding customer reviews. For instance, if your company accepts paper comment cards, refrain from posting those comments online. Reviews should be posted firsthand by the customer to create a stronger sense of authenticity.

Be patient. Google also warned businesses against asking customers to write a review on-site. In addition to making the customer feel uncomfortable, this diminishes the authenticity of the review. It’s not likely the customer will be 100% honest with the employee hovering nearby. Wait until the customer leaves and then send a follow-up email.

Consider the source. Ask a tourist where you should go for dinner in New York. Then ask a local. I’m willing to bet that the answers will be vastly different. This variation is what inspired Bryan Choo to create the Singaporean startup known as TheSmartLocal in 2012. Choo recognizes the difference between tourist reviews and local reviews, and he capitalizes on the value of both. Ask yourself, who are your reviewers? Who is missing from that group, and how can you reach them?

Talk back. In a recent EVG blog post, Elizabeth Muckensturm wrote, “In order to convert sales, you have to engage in dialogue and develop a level of trust with your consumer base.” This means you can’t sit behind your computer screen reading reviews, silently thanking your fans and cuonline customer reviewsrsing your critics. Websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp enable you to comment on reviews, and research shows that customers truly appreciate the effort, so go that extra mile.

Embrace the negative. No one likes to be criticized, but let’s face it – that’s part of life and certainly part of business. If you come across a negative review of your business, compose a friendly, non-defensive response that offers a solution to the issue. Remember that online readers are potential customers, and even negative reviews can be good advertising when handled correctly. Hey, it worked for New York’s Joe Dough Sandwich Shop, home of “The Worst Meatball Sandwich That One Guy on Yelp Ever Had in His Life”!


Laurel ReeseProject Manager

Click to read Laurel's Bio
Click to read Laurel’s Bio


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