Reviews can be a nail-biting experience for any entrepreneur, but in the modern world of Yelp, Angie’s List and Consumer Reporters, business owners must look to review sites to drive sales to their businesses.

According to recent surveys, up to 88 percent of consumers check out online reviews before choosing a company or business to patron. Rather than ignoring this new feature, take advantage of it to help customers trust in and choose you.

Restaurant owners, online vendors, store owners and specialists would do well to keep in mind how reviews play into their business plans, while those with more focused or obscure companies can generally focus only on avoiding bad reviews. For those who do need to look at reviews, here are five tips on using review sites to drive sales.

  1. Encourage potential customers to examine reviews

The science is clear on the benefit of reviews: the presence of reviews increases the conversion rate for potential shoppers. Up to 63 percent are more likely to purchase a product if a review is present, and this increases almost double for review sites that interact with and respond to customer inquiries and reviews. A customer that sees reviews for your business—and even better, sees you interacting with and acknowledging these online reviews—will have greater faith in your business and is more likely to make a purchase.

That means you want customers to know how and where to find these reviews. Quote Yelp reviews on your menu, or your website; make sure your business is listed online and direct customers who have had positive experiences to online review sites when possible.

  1. Motivate customers to leave good reviews

It’s important not just to convert good reviews into new customers, but to convert pleased customers into positive reviews as well. Politely requesting a customer consider leaving a positive review won’t make most customers uncomfortable and a pleased visitor will likely agree that you deserve another positive review.

This doesn’t have to be a glowing review to be worth its response, either. Customers find a business that has exclusively positive, five-star reviews suspicious, while one or two negative reviews can give off a more reasonable impression without immediately raising alarms or turning them away. An honest review with positives and negatives will do better for your conversion rate than no reviews or a host of fake, positive reviews.

  1. Address complaints in negative reviews

Bad reviews can kill business similarly to no reviews, but you shouldn’t delete or ignore an angry customer’s comments. Instead, engaging with the customer and showing customer outreach and marketing can reassure other potential customers that you want to ensure they’ll have a good experience.

A quick response and when necessary, a publicized change in policy can protect your reputation and even further improve your company’s image as one that is both responsive and responsible.

  1. Let customers describe your services and products

Potential customers, who look to sites such as BestAdvisor, know you’re trying to sell yourself to them, which means even the most accurate product review will be looked at with suspicion without a customer review to confirm it. Let customers describe your product themselves, and showcase their wording and reviews on your own platform. This way you can reassure customers that they’re getting what they expect, as confirmed by other customers, rather than the business owner.

  1. Monitor reviews regularly

Make sure you check out what reviews are out there. Amazon, Google, Yelp and other top review sites will accumulate responses for you to check out and examine. If you’re in a business that isn’t review-driven, you only need to make sure no terrible reviews have gotten online, but a restaurant, online vendor or service provider will need to take into consideration what customers are repeatedly saying. Remember that only a small portion of your customers, happy or unhappy, will ever leave a review, which means whatever you do find it probably just a small representation of how your customers feel.

Let review sites give your customers peace of mind, and let them help you identify areas of improvement and what works well. Review sites can be an excellent boon to your business if you learn how to incorporate them into your business model responsibly.

Author's Bio: 

An online entrepreneur