June 9, 2010, 4:20 PM

GoGreenSolar.com shines light on reviewers

The quantity of customer reviews count less than using the information in them, retailer says.

Posting all reviews—good, bad and otherwise—has helped GoGreenSolar.com increase sales 20% over the last year.

But more important for GoGreenSolar.com, an online retailer of environmental products with annual web sales approaching $1 million, is taking a proactive approach and managing all aspects of the customer review process, company CEO and founder Deep Patel said today at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

"Testimonials and reviews give us an edge because they are live testimonials for our web site" Patel said. "It pays to be proactive."

GoGreenSolar.com, which sells an array of solar energy and energy efficiency products, has collected about 96 customer reviews since implementing a program about two years ago. But quantity of reviews count less than using the information in the reviews to solve problems and capitalize on new opportunities, Patel told attendees.

GoGreenSolar.com, which uses online reputation management company RatePoint to help manage its customer reviews program and monitor comments posted on social media sites and elsewhere, includes positive customer reviews in a variety of correspondence, including business proposals. By including comments in a recent proposal to the CBS television network, GoGreenSolar.com beat out several other competing retailers to sell a whole house solar electric system that was featured on the popular game show "The Price is Right."

"The reviews gave us an edge because we sent the reviews directly to the purchasing manager," Patel said. RatePoint includes programs to help web retailers resolve disputes with angry customers and help turn negative reviews into positive ones. But often the best proactive approach is simply to call the customer and make the situation right, Patel said.

For instance, one woman who recently ordered a solar panel inverter for her home had the product delivered on a Friday, but the unit was defective and couldn't be installed by the contractor the next day. "The manufacturer wasn't answering the phone on Saturday, but she called us, explained the problem and we had a new unit there first thing on Monday," Patel said. "She then wrote a positive customer review of her own. We won by turning a negative situation into a positive one."

Many web retailers use customer reviews, but they need to be more proactive with their reputation strategy, RatePoint CEO Neal Creighton told attendees during the Wednesday session, entitled "Making consumers' use of social media work for you." On social media sites, 70% of people trust reviews even from people they don't know.

"What people have to say defines the quality of your business," Creighton said. "Be proactive because more people are trusting advice they see on social networks."

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