As the busy holiday season reaches its end, you are likely seeing (and hopefully, delighting) more and more customers every day.

That positive experience will keep them coming back, and by leveraging online reviews you can use those customers’ positive feedback to bring in new customers as well.

According to ChannelAdvisor’s 2011 Global Consumer Shopping Habits survey, 92% of shoppers read reviews before purchasing. You have a fantastic opportunity as a small business to leverage your customer reviews to bring in new and repeat customers.

Customer reviews will happen organically, but don’t sit idly by and wait! Instead, make customer reviews work for you by asking for them, responding to them, and promoting them.

Let’s take a look at how to do it.

1. Ask: Providing an awesome customer experience is what you do. A satisfied customer will be more than happy to leave you a positive review. Asking for it is the first step, and making it easy to leave a review is the second. There are a lot of ways you can encourage your customers to leave reviews. Create a simple feedback form with an online survey. Another option is to create a free Yelp business account.  A Yelp business page can serve as a hub for all your reviews. You can link to your survey or insert a Yelp icon into your Constant Contact email, making it only one click away for your customers to easily give you praise you deserve!

And let’s not forget your social networks. One of the best things about social media is being able to directly talk with your customers. Why not ask for their feedback during that conversation? Ask their favorite menu item, their best experience, or how they are using your new product. Regardless of what channel you include, just remember to ask and make it easy for customers to answer.

2. Respond: Asking is an important first step in successfully leveraging reviews, but it’s just that: a first step. After a customer takes the time to write a review, you should respond! If it’s a positive review, thank him or her publicly, either by linking to the review in your email newsletter, on your website, or on social media. Thanking your customers for their reviews shows that you appreciate their feedback and value them as customers, and it gives your audience an opportunity to read the positive review as well.

Of course, there is a chance for negative reviews, but that chance is small — at least according to Yelp. According to their research, the majority of reviews on Yelp are 4- and 5-star ones. If you get a negative review, you should also respond. Do it quickly and publicly so your audience knows you’re addressing the issue. Then, move the conversation out of the public eye and address it privately. More often than not, a negative review is an opportunity for a positive customer interaction. Often, it can win back a customer you would have lost otherwise.

3. Promote: If you get great reviews, and no one sees them, then they’ll only go to waste. Reviews are a powerful tool to drum up more business for your organization, but only if they are seen! Rather than having customers search for reviews about your business, make it easy by bringing those positive reviews right to the forefront. Host them on your website, link to them from your social networks, and definitely put them in the body of your emails. You can explain to your customers why you think you’re the right business for them, but your customers explaining why is far more effective. According to Jupiter Research, 77% of email readers find reviews more useful than a company email. Reviews help your customers make purchasing decisions, and help you reach more customers.

Delighting your customers is what your business does. Asking for reviews, responding to them, and promoting them should be just as important.

Do you get reviews from your customers? What do you do to encourage or promote them? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.