How do Canadian SMEs manage reviews online?

Published on 8/1/2022 by Tessa Anaya

When consumers shop online, they look to small business reviews left by previous buyers to guide them through the buying process. How can companies implement a review management strategy that promotes and improves their product, as well as builds consumer trust? We share insights from a study of SMEs who manage their online reviews. 

Capterra survey to help SMEs learn how to manage reviews online

More Canadians are using the internet since the start of the pandemic, which means more consumers may be looking for information about products online. Online shoppers may expect to be able to read reviews online, and businesses who don’t have these available could be negatively impacted.

To help SMEs get ahead of customer expectations when browsing reviews online, we examined customer review trends based on our survey of Canadian consumers. In our second article based on the study, we focus on the answers of 400 SME employees of companies who receive, manage, and leverage online reviews (scroll to the bottom for full methodology).

Why are customer reviews important for SMEs?

Not only is the number of internet-browsing Canadians increasing, but online sales have been consistently rising as well. With much of the customer journey happening on the internet, companies who sell online could be using customer reviews for three aims:

  • To provide useful information and selling points to potential customers
  • To build positive relationships with customers when connecting via reviews
  • To use feedback from existing users to improve or invent a product/service

Out of all the SMEs contacted for this survey, 58% had received reviews online. This number is likely higher, though, as not all businesses are aware of the small business reviews listed on specialist review websites, such as Capterra for software. Even out of those companies who have received reviews, less than three quarters (68%) are using reviews to their advantage.

To help decision-makers realize the value of online reviews, we’ll look at the responses from small and medium-sized enterprises that are actively engaged in review management. 

How are companies managing their reviews online?

Over a third (38%) of SMEs who manage reviews online report having between 5 and 50 customer reviews across all platforms. A further 20% receive between 51 and 100 reviews, and some (9%) of the companies even received over 500. 

total of managed small businesses reviews online 

With the number of reviews rolling in, businesses may need to allocate resources, such as staff, to manage their review strategy. The majority of employees surveyed (91%) work for companies with either a dedicated team or specific professional who handles review-related tasks (56% of which are managed by one person and 35% whose companies have a team). 

Investing in personnel and software resources can pay off in more than one way, as online reviews can be used towards multiple business goals. The majority of employees surveyed (95%) report that their company has some kind of active strategy for collecting reviews. Only 6% of employees say their company isn’t actively engaged in any efforts to solicit online reviews (data does not add up to 100% due to rounding).

Tip for SMEs: Collecting and monitoring feedback from customers online is a continuous and long-term assignment. To make the process easier on the employee in charge of reviews, review management software can display customer feedback, even from external websites, on one platform. Some tools can even automate the task of responding to reviews, simplifying the operation.

Which strategies are SMEs using for online reviews?

When asked to indicate the various collection strategies being used by their company, nearly half of respondents (49%) said they collect reviews after communicating with a customer; for example, at the end of a call, chat, or email. Email was also used by 42% to solicit reviews after customers purchased the company’s product or service, showing that collecting reviews during follow-up communications is the most popular method amongst SMEs surveyed.

Other methods for collecting online reviews include:

  • Integrating a link to external review pages in every email sent to customers (28%)
  • Embedding a link redirecting customers to leave reviews on their website (23%)
  • Soliciting customers to leave reviews in social media posts (21%)

As for where customers leave online reviews, it may come as a surprise to some vendors that their own websites aren’t the most popular platform. The most common digital space for online reviews were social media platforms, reported by more than half (58%) of surveyed employees. Search engines were also a top place to host reviews, as reported by 56% of respondents.

where to get small business reviews
Tip for SMEs: Social media can be a great place to source reviews. According to Statistics Canada, 78% of Canadians who are online regularly use at least one social networking account, creating a new contact point for customers and brands. Companies can engage their target audience there, perhaps with the aid of social networking software, which can help highlight and promote reviews amongst your audience.

The benefits of leveraging small business reviews

As implementing a review management strategy requires an investment, many companies wonder what kind of benefits they can expect in return. So, how can reviews online be helpful for businesses who manage and leverage them?

Employee respondents were most likely to report that reviews had helped improve customer service (cited by 68%). Many (58%) also found them to be helpful in improving their product/business offering, and the third most-reported benefit of reviews (cited by 49%) is their ability to improve brand image. 

the 5 top most cited benefits of online reviews for business
Tip for SMEs: Before you can reap the rewards of using online reviews, it’s important for those in charge of review management to collaborate with other departments such as marketing, customer service, and product development. Other branches of the company need to be provided the feedback from reviews to make improvements. Once changes are made, their effects should be monitored, perhaps by soliciting more consumer feedback via survey, to measure their return on investment (ROI). 

How do SMEs respond to customer reviews online?

While most survey-takers say their company is experiencing benefits from its online reviews strategy, this can depend on another factor in the strategy: company responses to reviews. More than four out of five employees surveyed (84%) said their company has some kind of policy in place to respond to online reviews, showing it to be an important part of review management.

In order to stay ahead of the spread of negative feedback, many SMEs try to respond to reviews quickly. Most (38%) reply to reviews online within a few days, followed by 32% who respond within a day. As few as 4% of those surveyed respond to reviews monthly, showing a preference for speedy responses.

For companies who’d like to implement a rapid reviews response policy, automating responses could help save time. Nearly a quarter of businesses who respond to reviews (24%) use a combination of personalized and template-based responses, while a further 23% stick mainly to templates.

Tip for SMEs: More than half of employees (53%) say their company mainly responds to reviews in a personalized way. As we saw in part one of the survey, 34% of consumers agree that personal greetings are important when responding to negative reviews, but typing out unique responses to each reviewer can become time consuming. Using review-responding tools that offer numerous, customizable templates can help review managers save time.

Methods for implementing a review management strategy

As the digital world continues to expand, businesses of all sizes would be remiss not to capitalize on the customer feedback posted online. To do this, SMEs should create a review management strategy to leverage this feedback towards achieving business goals, which a resounding 93% of respondents feel is a valuable investment. 

Some of the most common ways to carry out a review management strategy are via:

  • Social media analytics software: Social media strategies and software are used by 49% of survey-takers, which helps businesses monitor the platform respondents say is the most commonly available for customer reviews.
  • Vendor websites or systems: 33% of surveyed employees say their companies have implemented their own tool for review management on their website or system. While it’s practical to keep information about your business in one place, maintaining a bespoke review solution can incur high development and maintenance costs.
  • Software with review-collecting features: Some companies (32%) report using comprehensive software solutions, such as CRM and help desk software, to gather reviews online. This can be practical for SMEs already using such software, though it may not provide all the features necessary for a robust review management strategy.
  • Review management software: Tools that are specifically designed to help companies collect, manage, and respond to reviews are the best choice for those wanting to make the most of reviews on various platforms. Over a quarter (29%) of those surveyed are using such tools, and 58% of those who aren’t using them would be interested in trying. 

As your company sets off to implement a new or improve an existing review management strategy, keep these methods in mind. Once you’ve gathered insights from your reviews, share them amongst the departments of your team so they can take action according to the feedback. Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) before implementing changes and using software with reporting features will help measure their ROI and demonstrate the benefits of a review management system.

Looking for review management tools? Check out our catalogue!

Survey methodology:

Capterra’s Online Reviews Survey was launched online in April 2022. The employee-focused survey was sent to 1,173 participants, and completed by 400 employees who fit our criteria. For the purpose of this article, we have focused on the employee group of our two-part survey. The sample of participants is representative of the population of Canada regarding aspects of age and gender, and the criteria for selecting participants are as follows:

  • Canadian resident 
  • Between 18 and 65 years old
  • Employed in a company with 1-250 employees
  • Employed in a company who receives, manages, and uses online reviews for their products/services
  • Participants are involved in or responsible for managing and monitoring customer reviews for their company (58%)
  • If they are not involved in or responsible for this process, they are at least aware of it (43%)

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Tessa is a Content Analyst for Capterra, delivering software-related insights to local SMEs. She was featured in the Globe and Mail, La Presse, the Financial Post, and Yahoo.

Tessa is a Content Analyst for Capterra, delivering software-related insights to local SMEs. She was featured in the Globe and Mail, La Presse, the Financial Post, and Yahoo.