In this day and age people are used to expressing their opinions, and they happily enjoy that privilege. Online reviews are the perfect example. According to a survey done in the U.S., over the past 3 years consumers’ willingness to leave reviews is consistently increasing.

And they also like to read them every time they’re making a purchasing decision. 97% of consumers read online reviews before buying something, and 9 out of 10 of them say they’re more important than any type of information provided by a salesperson.

Online reviews are a valuable asset for your business, and should be treated that way. Even when they’re negative, they have a positive side effect. People are skeptical towards something that is “too good to be true”, so they expect to see someone unsatisfied as well. If their complaints are properly answered, your business reputation is safe.

You can learn from what people are saying online about you and your service and products, and take the necessary actions to improve and drive your businesses forward. Following are just some of the valuable insights and information you can obtain from your customers’ reviews…

1. Learn what your customers’ problems are and what you can do to solve them

First and foremost, online reviews (especially negative) tell you what makes your customers unsatisfied about your business. Instead of reacting impulsively and defensive, use this constructive criticism to solve their problems and improve your service and products. Only happy customers are loyal; and they’ll appreciate that you care for their opinion.

Look at what your customers really like about what you offer, what they hate about it, and what they think you should do to improve it. Find the common denominators, what they agree upon. Fix the issues, improve your delivery, cut or add the features they (don’t) want, provide extra training for your customer service staff… Your efforts will be recognized by new and old customers as well. By learning what made them leave and then solving the problem, you can potentially win back clients you’ve lost before.

2. See what your strengths are, what your customers think you’re good at

From the more positive customer reviews you can learn what about your business works well with buyers, where you excel at. Stores can easily see which items in their offering their customers favor the most. Restaurants can read their visitors’ most beloved and talked about meals and desserts. Businesses can learn what about their customer service works well and encourage such behavior.

Customer reviews are an opportunity to better understand the hearts and minds of your buyers, their thoughts and emotions about your business. Based on this information you can plan future steps for your company and potentially expand your service or products.

3. Use online reviews to improve customer experience and build closer relationships

Look at reviews, especially third-party, as another channel to closely communicate with your customers and provide support. Make sure you’re on top of your online reviews, and reach out as fast as you can to show them that you care. Your customers need to know that you’re listening and that you’re working on providing a solution.

Respond to both positive and negative reviews. With the first you’re encouraging people to engage with your brand, and with the second you keep your business reputation. Customers’ approval drops by as much as 50% when businesses don’t answer their complaints. When customers feel like they’re talking to a wall, they’ll leave, but often not before they make greater damage by expressing their opinion on different channels until they finally get your attention.

Are you analyzing your customer reviews already? How have they helped improve your business so far? What else have you learned that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments.