Online customer reviews tell the story of your business.

When customers describe positive experiences and offer high ratings, they paint a picture of a trustworthy, dedicated and consistent brand.

Building a solid reputation requires diligence and patience, but sadly Better Business Bureau® of Greater Maryland is finding some disreputable businesses are using devious tactics to quickly generate a positive image. About 95 percent of customers read reviews before making a purchase. So, it’s no surprise we see shady businesses attempting to game the system.

“Brushing” is just one of their tactics. They send packages containing products Marylanders never ordered, using addresses found online. With the unsolicited package recorded as a “sale” the business leaves a “verified buyer” review under the addressee’s name.

As shoppers learn more about these types of deceptive practices, they become more vigilant in their research. Therefore, a portfolio of genuine, positive reviews is more important than ever. Here are three ways good businesses can leverage customer reviews for reputation management.

Share your reviews in real time.

Positive reviews provide meaningful social proof that you’re a trusted business, and they make for quick and easily shareable content. Consistently monitoring your reviews gives you the ability to highlight quotable moments as they’re posted.

Recent reviews carry the most weight because customers will consider them to be more relevant, so don’t hesitate to share positive feedback as it’s provided.

Find value in the good and the bad.

Negative reviews offer an opportunity for you to engage with dissatisfied customers while also illustrating to prospective customers that your business is committed to improving. 97 percent of prospective customers read your responses to reviews, meaning they’re equally as important as the reviews themselves.

Show prospective customers that you value their critiques, and you’re more likely to win trust and gain a loyal customer.

Expand your digital footprint.

To build a solid reputation, determine where your customers are likely to research your business, and think beyond the typical review sites.

Your reputation is made up of threads all over the internet, from testimonials on the top reviewing platforms to the comments section of your social media posts. Each aspect of your digital footprint contributes to your public persona, so be responsive, accountable and gracious. Remember to include when considering your list of sites to monitor. Not only does BBB handle complaints, but visitors also have the option of leaving positive feedback for your business via customer reviews.

BBB’s Scam Tracker is also a great online tool for anyone impacted by a brushing scam. If you or someone you know needs to report a scam, visit to help BBB warn others about the issue.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.