There's plenty of research showing how influential online reviews are on peoples' purchasing decisions.
In short, positive reviews attract and negative reviews repel potential customers.
One of the most visible places on the web for reviews is in Google search results where star ratings from Google My Business reviews get displayed.
Positive reviews made by customers on Google My Business pages can have a big impact on the success of a business. For this reason it's a good idea to actively encourage clients to leave reviews and rate your business.
Regrettably, not every customer will be 100% satisfied and leave a glowing 5 star review. Negative reviews are a fact of life and it's how you handle them that matters.
You could stick your head in the sand and ignore them. But by taking the time to respond you demonstrate you care. Not only to the person who left the review, but more importantly to the wider public of potential customers.
A problem until now is that reviewers would not see a business' response to their review unless they went back to the Google My Business page and looked for it. So even if a business took the trouble to respond it's unlikely the person who left the review would see it.
That's just changed. Google will now be sending email notifications to customers when a business responds to their Google My Business review.
This should give businesses a greater incentive to respond to reviews. It provides an opportunity to make things right with negative reviewers plus build a stronger relationship with positive reviewers.
If you do respond to reviews, remember what you say is publicly visible. Responding inappropriately can do more harm than good!
Google offer some tips here on how to respond.
Finally, getting reviews on your Google My Business page helps with your local SEO efforts. Having lots of reviews enhances the chances of your listing being selected by Google to appear in the so-called "Snack Pack". This is the map and 3 organic listings that can appear near the top of a search results page.