In the not so distant past, a company could have a few very dissatisfied customers and the only people that knew about it were the customers' friends. Now the whole world knows. With the existence of sites like Google Places or urbanspoon.com (for eateries), the good, the bad, and the ugly can be spread about your business while the customer is still there. It is now crucial for businesses to be aware of this and monitor their business' comments. Google Local is the best place to start as it gathers reviews from many sources across the web.
A great number of potential customers will visit review sites, such as Google Places, before they even visit your business, so you must keep on top of your reviews and make sure you stay ahead of your competitors. This is especially important to small and local businesses. Use these new technologies to your advantage, to ignore them could be a potentially devastating mistake.
This begins with giving the best product or service and backing it up with great customer service — you can't fake a satisfied customer. After that, make it easy for them to give you a great review. This could be accomplished verbally and backed up with flyers added to bags or notes included on the bottom of the receipts. These printed materials should include links to which you would like a reviewer to go. You will get bad reviews, everyone does, so these reviews must be overwhelmed by positive ones that show that your business is consistently worth the money spent.