I’ve written a lot about reviews – the great ones, the good ones, and dreadful ones. I’ve written about their appeal to consumers and the many benefits they hold for businesses. In this industry I fully admit that I am learning all the time and new thoughts and insights come from all sorts of people and places. Today I had a lightbulb moment during a conversation with a consultant who is helping develop a business for one of his friends.

This guy’s expertise was finance but he wanted to increase the visibility and value of his friend’s business online. He had read about online marketing and was open to all suggestions about developing a review portfolio and increasing the reach and impact of those reviews – solely because he understood their worth.

During our conversation he made a throwaway comment concerning the reviews he had read about his friend’s business and how they all said generally the same sort of things – regarding the attention to detail of the staff and the commitment the business had made to after sales service.

And that’s what got my mind racing. I’ve written before about the benefits of reviews as free market research for businesses but that was about alerting business owners to facets of their enterprises that needed fixing or remedying because of negative reviews.

I know it’s not overly correct to quote oneself but I’m going to do it anyway: “In that way, reviews give vital feedback about issues within the business that few may be aware of. They then result in remedial action that can be taken – corrective guidance that ensures that employees understand just how critical customer care and satisfaction is. In this way they are incredibly valuable barometers of staff performance – across the board – and oftentimes a far more vital measure than a performance review by management staff within the company itself.”

But what of learning about a business through really good and excellent reviews? Just as unfavourable feedback allows a business to improve – if taken on board – then fantastic reviews can alert a business to things it may not be aware of and develop them, enhance them and utilise them to grow and increase turnover. In the same way that as individuals we are not always cognizant of our best qualities, unless informed of them by someone else, businesses are not always aware of what customers really value about their products, services and their brand.

In the case of the business the consultant was working to help, reviews all said that they appreciated the personal attention and care of the owner. That his personality and wonderful communication skills made them feel assured and most importantly listened to. The business owner himself didn’t know this but by taking the feedback onboard, changed how he ran his operation. He focused on customer service and delegated the other tasks – such as marketing, compliance and accounting to those with the skills to undertake those tasks. In doing so, revenue has increased. The business owner is focused on his core strengths and his customers value it immensely.

As in the case with learning from negative feedback, this only works if business owners are open to listening to the opinions of others and enacting the resultant changes. After all, we can learn so much from others, no matter if they are close to us, acquaintances, or strangers. All we need is the space to really listen.