If you think online reviews get lost in all the Internet noise, think again. Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.

Online reviews matter -- and that's why you need to create and maintain a process that encourages your customers to leave reviews, monitors the reviews they leave, and improves any negative reviews you might receive. Not only will creating a review process help you receive more -- and better -- reviews, it will also help you run your business better.

Here's the process we've developed at my company to manage our online reviews. It's helped us get to a 9.2 out of 10 on Trustpilot. Feel free to adapt it to the unique needs of your business.

After customers make a purchase, email them a customer satisfaction survey.

Forget online reviews for a moment. We want to know what our customers think about our products and services. Listening to your customers is the best way to improve your offerings -- and get ideas for new offerings.

Not every customer will respond to our survey, of course, and that's okay. The best way to improve your response rate is to provide outstanding products and services. Generally speaking, people tend to give reviews either when they are delighted or when they are upset; the middle ground, so to speak, tends to remain fairly silent.

If you want more people to respond to your surveys -- and to provide online reviews -- work tirelessly to improve the customer experience. We ask some of these customers to then review us on online review sites.

Bad reviews are a huge opportunity, not a problem.

If a customer who responds to our survey feels they had a problem with a product, we immediately work to solve it. Why ask for feedback if you're unwilling to act upon that feedback?

But what if an unhappy customer leaves a negative review online? Our customer service team constantly monitors the site and reaches out directly to try to solve the customer's problem.

The first thing we do is make the customer feel heard. Jump too quickly to trying to solve the problem and some will think you didn't take the time to fully understand the problem -- and how it made the customer feel. Listen, ask questions, and then validate the customer's feelings. Say, for example, "It must have been frustrating for you to not be able to...."

Then focus on solving the problem, confident that you know not only understand the problem, but what the customer really needs.

Once the customer is happy, we politely ask them to edit their rating.

Most will do so -- after all, customers don't want to leave negative reviews. They want to be happy.

But watch out -- if you don't keep an eye on your reviews, you could end up with a lot of angry people like these Expedia customers. With just a simple online search, a potential customer would find these negative ratings. Put yourself in their shoes -- would you want to purchase from a company with this profile?

Don't forget that ratings can vary by culture.

If you've ever conducted surveys involving people from more than one country, you know that scores tend to vary based on that factor alone. This is much like how one supervisor will rate an employee as "outstanding" while another will rate the same employee as "above average." The quality of the product or service doesn't change, but cultural norms do.

For example, Americans tend to be relatively generous with Net Promoter Scores, while Europeans can be much less so.

According to CheckMarket's proposed European NPS variant, the scale should be shifted one number for each category.

Make sure you adjust your expectations, and how you respond to feedback, accordingly: A "7" from a customer in France could be the same as an "8" in the U.S.

And if you aren't sure how to interpret results, no problem: Ask your customers for greater detail. Not only will you learn more about cultural norms, you'll learn more about the most important aspect of any business: Your customers.

Published on: Jul 31, 2017