When it comes to the online reviews of your company there are a couple of critical things you need to be thinking about. First, they're important and you can't ignore them. In fact, according to Bill Tancer, online data expert and author of Everyone's a Critic: Winning Customers in a Review-Driven World, 82 percent of consumers research them before making a purchase. But maybe you're annoyed about that one negative review that's just sitting out there on Yelp wrecking your company's reputation. What can you do about it?

Here's Tancer's advice.

Provide incredible customer service.

Tancer holds up Jay the locksmith, a 20-something guy in New York City who set out to have the highest rating on Yelp, a designation sure to drive more customers to his service. The first thing he did: Research the locksmiths getting the lowest ratings. "He noticed reading through them all that people didn't show up on time. They were sketchy. They overcharged," Tancer says. "And he thought to himself, 'Well, what if I were like the Four Seasons of locksmiths? What if I provided incredible service and was really courteous to people and maybe went above and beyond, and oiled the hinges of the doors of a person's apartment when I came to let them in after they were locked out?'" As a result of going the extra mile every single time he helped a customer Jay the locksmith soon had a bevy of five-star reviews and his business flourished.

Pay attention to the negative reviews.

Even though you might feel defensive about the negative things customers are saying about your company, it's crucial that you pay attention to the channel and objectively consider everything being said about your brand. "Once you do, and once you do so with an open mind, you might see ways to improve your own business or you might come up ideas to how you can improve your service or your product to get higher reviews," Tancer says.

Plant subtle cues that help customers want to leave a positive review.

Don't come right out and ask for positive reviews. Instead, ask a customer how they heard about your company and when they mention a particular online review site, acknowledge how important the channel is to your business. Then, after you've thoroughly delighted someone with your product or service, he or she will genuinely want to promote your company.

Take heart--reviews are becoming more personalized.

Tancer says two customers who have the same experience with your company can rate it differently. For example, Tancer found one review of the upscale Yountville, California The French Laundry praising the staff for waiting until everyone had cleared their plates before removing them. Another, seemingly from a younger, Millenial-type patron, blasted the restaurant because servers walked past the table four or five times before taking plates away. "Exact same experience, two different perspectives," he says. "And I think the future for reviews is solving for that perspective." In other words, the good news is that in the future review sites will take into an account a consumer's perspective and filter reviews accordingly. Already websites such as Makeup Alley and Sephora are beginning to ask visitors about their skin qualities before giving them reviews.

Tancer says he visited a Sephora store in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife, who asked a salesperson whether a moisturizer would be good for her skin or not. "Rather than giving an opinion... the salesperson walked us over to an LCD display... and she brought up all the reviews for that specific moisturizer, and then we filtered based on my wife's skin complexion to come up with reviews that would be most germane to her," Tancer says. "And I think we'll see a lot more of this."

Published on: Nov 25, 2014