Over at the NAA blog there’s an informative piece on the new Google+ Local service that has replaced Google Places:
The most game-changing feature is the new Google ratings and reviews feature. For several months, users have been able to leave reviews of companies that would show up on the business’ Google Places page. After the revamp, these reviews are front-and-center. As soon as a potential customer puts your name into the search engine, they will be able to see what others have been saying. Google’s star ratings have also been replaced with a Zagat style scoring system. When a user writes a review, they are asked to rate the business on a scale of 0-30. Once enough reviews are compiled Google assigns a score from 0-30, 0 being very poor and 30 is approaching perfection. This number is in a prime location directly under your company name. Because of this, it is VITAL to keep track of your online reputation. Several bad reviews will mar your image, and will influence prospects to take their business elsewhere.
Thankfully, Google has also implemented a feature we have often requested, the ability to apply to reviews. Once a review is posted, the owner’s of your page can respond to the post. This gives management the opportunity to shine by offering to right any wrongs that may have been committed in the past. The more reviews your receive, the easier it is for your page to appear higher on Google.
If your team hasn’t already looked into Google+ Local it should definitely do so quickly as it is likely to become an important part of your company’s/communities’ online reputation management.