Leveraging user reviews to improve reputation

Ratings are important for businesses because for many consumers, there's no better barometer of a service's quality than the experiences of their peers.

A 2010 comScore Local Search Study revealed that 59 percent of consumers consider ratings and reviews to be an important factor in choosing where to take their business, ClickZ reports.

Facilitating and monitoring user reviews correctly can have a positive effect on a businesses' bottom line. The news source recommends asking consumers to provide reviews of their experiences. This can be done using 3 X 5 notecards passed out at a cash register with instructions on how and where to leave feedback, a verbal reminder at the time of purchase or in subsequent emails following a transaction.

In addition, owners should be aware of Google's latest development to its Places page. According to the company's blog, it has removed third-party reviews from sites such as Yelp and Citysearch in favor of its own user reviews. This means companies should shift their content[-]building focus toward Google directly.

Properly handling a bad review is almost as important to customer perception as receiving a positive one. The media outlet recommends responding in a timely manner, acknowledging the issue, not becoming abusive and keeping responses brief.