When you search Google for a doctor, plumber, restaurant or any other business listing in a particular geographical location, besides a list of matches (conveniently marked in the map of the location) with their website and phone number listed, you can also read independent reviews on these businesses:
Some of these reviews have been left by people right there on Google (there is a field to leave one for each business you see), while others are being pulled from such review engines as CitySearch.com, Menutopia.com (for restaurants), TripAdvisor.com (for hotels), and others. Some of the reviews posted do give businesses really excellent recommendations, while others are less than flattering. It is an extremely helpful function, and I am glad Google is providing it. It helps transform the world of business (and customer service) into a much more transparent (hence, better for the customer) world.
The part that businesses still have to learn is that now they have a job too, and that job is (a) to monitor what is being said about them online (of course, this is not limited to reviews only, but includes microblogging platforms, blogs, forums, etc), and (b) react to it. Many businesses that operate offline, and may not even have a website, presume that the online space is not something to even bother about. Oh, you bet it is!! Whether you have a website, an affiliate program or a Social Media strategy is irrelevant. Things are being said about you online, and you better know what is being said, and respond accordingly.
At CitySearch.com, for example, businesses can provide their comments to reviews:
Marriott, for example, is doing this on TripAdvisor.com:
If you care about your business, you should be doing it too!
Here are 10 free online tools that can help businesses (or anyone, really!) monitor what is being said about them online:
- Google Alerts
- Social Media Firehouse (by Yahoo!)
Whether you like it or not, the world is becoming more and more transparent, and the sooner your business realizes that the online space has a potential to be a true two-way street, and that it can either make or break a business, the better for you. I always read online reviews before booking a hotel, picking a doctor, or going to a restaurant; and so do thousands (if not millions) of other consumers.