Whether they’re crowdsourcing for big-picture opinions or just seeking a few tales of user experience, you can bet that prospective buyers—whether B2B and B2C—will make a critical stop at product and service review sites to find out what their user peers think before committing to a purchase.

New research from location marketing firm Uberall explores how small- and medium-sized businesses feel about online customer reviews across platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram, Google and more. Here’s a closer look at the results:

More than 90 percent of SMBs think online reviews are important

When asked how important SMB business owners thought online reviews were, 54 percent said “very important, while 28 percent believe said “moderately important.” In addition, 9 percent believe that online reviews are “slightly important” to their business and 9 percent don’t think they are important at all.

“Online reviews are essential to SMBs,” said Florian Huebner, founder & co-CEO of Uberall, in a news release. “SMBs typically play in a crowded marketplace, making positive reviews a critical differentiator and a major lead-generation tool.”

More than 90% of small businesses say reviews are critical—how’re yours looking?

63 percent of SMBs encourage customers to post reviews online

Asking customers to share an online review about their experience is a good way for smaller and mid-sized businesses to receive constructive feedback about someone’s experience. And today, more and more SMBs are asking for these reviews. Sixty-three percent ask customers to leave a review online—whether it’s positive or negative—while 37 percent do not.

“Business owners are clearly seeing the value in asking customers to leave reviews online once they’ve left the store or business,” Huebner said. “Both positive and negative reviews help businesses pinpoint which areas they need to adjust and which they can keep as is.”

More than 90% of small businesses say reviews are critical—how’re yours looking?

86 percent respond to reviews—but frequency varies

Once a customer posts a review online, it’s up to the business whether they’re going to respond to it or not. And, it turns out, most of them do. According to Uberall’s study, 37 percent of SMBs always respond to online reviews, while 25 percent say they respond “frequently,” but not always. In addition, 26 percent say they “sometimes” respond and 14 percent mysteriously never do.

And of those who dorespond to customer reviews, 81 percent respond to both positive and negative reviews, while 6 percent only respond to negative reviews and 12 percent only respond to positive reviews.

More than 90% of small businesses say reviews are critical—how’re yours looking?

“A constructive dialogue between a business owner and customer is good for both parties,” said Huebner. “This interaction shows the customer that the business truly cares about them since they’re willing to have such a personalized conversation. For a business, their response could play a major role in whether or not they decide to return.”

Most SMBs respond to negative reviews to rectify a problem

When asked why an SMB would be likely to respond to a negative review, 32 percent said “to implement solutions to issues that are being clearly cited by customers as problematic.” Other responses were “to show other potential/future customers that we are attentive and care” (29 percent), “to discover quality control failures in your place of business” (20 percent), “to win back an unhappy customer” (20 percent) and “other” (1 percent).

More than 90% of small businesses say reviews are critical—how’re yours looking?

“Negative reviews allow SMBs to see potential areas of their business where people think they can improve on,” Huebner said. “If a customer leaves a negative response, a proactive way for the SMB to minimize the damage is to respond to their concern or problem. Showing that they value their customers’ opinion presents a positive image and can ultimately help keep the business—or win more—in the future.”

83 percent respond to customer reviews within a few days

Uberall’s survey found that SMBs tend to respond relatively quickly to customer reviews. Forty-three percent respond “within a few days,” while 39 percent respond either as soon as they’re posted or within 24 hours. Other responses included “within a few weeks” (7 percent), “once a month” (5 percent) or “less than once a month” (6 percent).

More than 90% of small businesses say reviews are critical—how’re yours looking?

“Most SMBs believe that responding to customer reviews while they’re new is a good way to show that they’re taking the customer seriously,” said Huebner. “Allowing time to go by before responding shows that they aren’t a high priority and can leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth, costing future business and revenue.”

Download the full report here.

For the survey, more than 300 SMB owners were asked a series of questions about their relationship with customer reviews and the role they play in their overall business strategy.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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