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We’ve all said it.   “Hey – this place has good reviews.”   You’re in a new town and need somewhere to eat…. your eye quickly searches for what?  That’s right.   STARS.    You want all the stars.   If you’re spending money….you want every bit of that star filled.   Nothing but the best will do for YOU.

When shopping on Amazon ….first click is “sort by stars” and “average rating”.    A measly 4 stars just won’t do.

Owning and operating a small business is substantially different than it was just 10 years ago.   Online reviews, social media and “stars” are powerful currencies previous generations of entrepreneurs didn’t have to mess with.

Everyone knows Yelp is sketchy with how their reviews are generated.  But step back and think…..Why are small business owners working so hard and even paying to get reviews?

BECAUSE YOU AREN’T GIVING THEM.

I believe, it’s incredibly selfish to take stars for your personal buying decision…but refuse to support the local business yourself.

Studies have shown people are more likely to leave negative reviews.   So get this.  That means….if you’re happy….you’ll keep to yourself and not tell anyone.  But if absolute perfection isn’t achieved …..you’ll unleash digital hell?

Come on.

Everyone uses online reviews….but very few GIVE reviews.   And I think it’s a pretty jerky move.   Word of mouth is great but it’s just not enough in today’s online market.

According to most Amazon sellers….. only 7-10% of people provide reviews.   Reviews are so important to online commerce, Amazon created it’s exclusive Vine Program where sellers offer free products targeted to participants based on their purchase and review history.  I’ve been a part of Vine for about a year.    Yes – I won’t lie.  It’s great getting free stuff to review.  I’ve received suitcases, a bed, 2 car seats, rice cooker, mattresses, sound machines, makeup, clothes,  food and dozens of other items.  It’s fascinating to see lengths and expense sellers are willing absorb to get an honest review.

According to a survey by BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.   THAT is fascinating to me.   You don’t know the person typing and you’re trusting them with your buying power.  They could be a complete nutjob but to 88% of people, online reviews are so important, they are willing to take a stranger’s word.

A few months ago, I was hired to teach English online .   I’ve written about it previously and it’s been such a fun and challenging venture.  Even though I’m participating in Amazon’s Vine program, it wasn’t until I accepted this job I became aware of how important ratings are to succeed.  Parents rate teachers by giving us “apples” and dag-nabbit we work HARD for those apples.  When parents don’t rate us…we are stuck in limbo and other parents won’t consider hiring us because we don’t have enough apples!  So we wait until we get the one considerate parent who reviews and pray we don’t get the mean parent who leaves a nasty one.

So, what’s the big deal?  I spoke to a few business owners and asked “what do stars really mean to your business“?

One of those business owners, was Alana Little.  She lived on my dorm floor freshmen year.  She is vibrant, passionate and her fashion and confidence is always endearing. I’ve watched her grow a jewelry business and it’s been incredible to see her success. Make Pie Not War has been featured in multiple national publications and received plenty of accolades.  When asked how important stars were, Alana responded:

“Reviews, good or bad, make a huge impact on whether or not to choose our products over a competitor. When a customer leaves a great review, my heart soars because I put 100% of my life into my business. When someone leaves an unfair review, it truly is disheartening and really does damage to my whole household.”

Another local business owner, I interviewed was Robert Marshall with SCV Audio Video. I actually met Robert because I did not hire him in 2013.  I got three bids for audio visual work but ultimately picked the WRONG company. Oh – they were so wrong. That mistake cost me dearly in time and money.   I had to sheepishly go back to SCV Audio Video and ask Robert to fix the other contractor’s work.   You can read my sad Yelp review here.  Anyways.  Robert says about stars:

“Online reviews are essential to today’s business environment. Any small business whether they love them or hate them has to play the game that Yelp and Google and Facebook have established.”

In other words, you simply MUST have online reviews to be truly successful.  Yes – it’s a game. But business owners must play to survive! If they provide you excellent service it’s polite to give them stars in return.

I finally spoke to Manny who owns a store-front business. Valencia Lighting is the premier lighting store in Los Angeles County.  If you need any lighting, ceiling fan or outdoor illumination you should stop here first.   Manny and his staff know everything that could be known about lights and make each customer feel exclusively special.  Trying to ask lighting questions at big box stores like Home Depot was a joke.   I spent weeks trying to get help and zero people could answer basic questions.  I showed up to Valencia Lighting and the staff went out of their way to help.  My last interaction with Manny was almost strictly through text.

I called and wanted ideas and he offered his cell phone number and asked me to text him pictures of ideas.  He not only responded within minutes but completed the entire order over text and had a final invoice emailed within the hour.  Furthermore, when the order was ready, he had a staff member waiting to bring everything TO MY VAN so I didn’t have to unload my kids.  This is a stellar business.  He clearly values customer service and when asked about online reviews responded:

“Reviews are a good way to identify strengths and weaknesses of a business.  And to understand what the customer experienced and where the company fell short.   We welcome all reviews including bad ones.  But luckily we don’t have too many bad reviews.”

I know you’re busy.

I know it’s not practical to review every single item and business you visit.  But if a company does an excellent job, it’s simply not good enough to only tell your spouse and close friends. Jump on google, facebook, yelp and type a few encouraging words.  It takes seconds and greatly encourages and motivates the business owners in your community.

Every year there’s a push for people to support small businesses with “Small business Saturday” and similar campaigns.   Additionally, local communities often encourage residents to “Shop Local” to revitalize the local economy.  It’s my opinion, it’s just not enough.  The community needs to support its small businesses by offering constructive feedback and rewarding excellent service with stars.

Furthermore, small business owners give back and support their communities with fundraisers, provide jobs, and generate sales tax to pay for community services and amenities.   If we really wanted to support small businesses, we’d be outrageously generous with our online reviews year-round.

Do you personally review businesses online?  Do you have a small business that depends on stars and online feedback?

Tags : 5 stars. five starsOnline shoppingreviewssmall business
    Brendie Heter

    The author Brendie Heter

    1 Comment

    1. Love this Brendie! I’m an author, and getting reviews really makes a difference to how many people read your book. I go out of my way to leave a good review for local businesses I frequent. I feel like good products and service deserves to be rewarded. Thanks for this great post!

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