Your business has a lot to gain... and a lot to lose.
Whether you like it or not, online reviews - the good and the bad - affect your business. According to one Zendesk study, the majority of consumers who have read online reviews say the information impacted their buying decisions for better... and for worse. Zendesk found this to be the case for positive reviews (90%) and negative reviews (86%).
Additionally, the more positive reviews a business has, the higher the SEO ranking. For local searches, in particular, reviews can influence up to 10% of the ranking. There’s also a striking correlation between positive online reviews and sales. According to WebRepublic, products with positive reviews sold 200% more than products with no ratings.
Since it’s positive reviews you’re going after, you need to focus your attention on one thing: delivering an outstanding customer experience. A satisfied customer is not only likely to use your product or service again, but they’re also likely to tell other people about their positive experience.
It might feel overwhelming, but online reviews aren’t out of your control. With a little savvy, you can easily generate more reviews for your business.
Establish a Presence
The first step to getting customers to review your business is ensuring that there are places where your business can be reviewed. Consider third-party review sites Yelp, TripAdvisor and Foursquare. Your business certainly doesn’t need to be on all three, but their popularity among consumers makes them great places to start. On a site like Yelp, claiming or adding your business is of particular importance because it allows your business to show up in search results.
Verify your business on Google, too. In addition to being able to review your business, customers will also be able to access accurate information about your business, including your address, phone number, address and website. After you’re verified, you can edit your business information, say if you’re making changes to a holiday schedule or opening a new location.
Once you’ve got your accounts set up, keep the links handy so you can share them with customers when you ask for reviews.
If You Want a Review, Just Ask
Getting a review is often as easy as asking. But don’t ask your customers for “good” or “positive” reviews. Instead, ask for honest reviews. Anything else suggests that you might be trying to tell your customer what to write, whether their sentiments are real or not.
GrooveHQ has a great example that you can tweak to suit your brand’s personality and the nature of the review:
It’s authentic and to the point. Notice how it asks for an honest review as opposed to a positive review.
You can still get positive reviews by asking for honest reviews. You just have to ask the right customers, i.e. those who are getting the most value out of your product or service. Repeat customers, those who have referred others to your business and those who engage with your brand on social media are three great types of people to go after.
Automation All the Way
Think about the last time you purchased something on Amazon. A few days after your package arrived, you probably got an email from the vendor, Amazon or both asking for a review. Treat your customers the same way.
Set up an email automation series asking your customers for an honest review after they receive an invoice, product, service, etc. You’ll want your email to hit your customer’s inbox when the value you’ve delivered is at the forefront of their mind, making it that much easier for them to recount their experience.
If you have to send a customer an invoice, why not ask them for some honest feedback while you’re thanking them for their business? Include a link that goes straight to your business page on Yelp, Facebook, Google, etc.
The easier it is for people to review your business, the more likely you are to get reviews.
Don’t Offer Incentives
So you’ve established your business on Yelp/TripAdvisor/Foursquare/etc. You’ve asked people to review your business. But there’s a chance most of your customers won’t write a review. You might feel tempted to offer an incentive for reviews. Don’t.
For lack of a better term, it’s kind of shady. Especially if you’re incentivizing for reviews on a third-party site. Sites like Yelp have hard and fast rules about how businesses can ask for reviews, and if they find out that you’ve been incentivizing reviews, you could end up losing all of the organic reviews you’ve collected over time. You could even get fined for it.
Of course, there are loopholes, like offering a discount in exchange for a review in which the customer must disclose that they received a discount in exchange for writing the review. Still, it’s a rather gray area... and one that you might want to stay away from entirely.
Respond to Any and All Reviews
Any review - good or bad - is worth responding to. A simple “thank you” or Like or retweet may not seem like a big deal, but it makes customers feel valued. If a customer’s words are especially glowing, ask for their permission to share the review throughout your website and social channels.
As for bad reviews: They happen. And, frankly, you should expect them. But they aren’t the kiss of death. So, what’s the best course of action to take?
- Read the review objectively. Is there any truth to it? It might draw attention to issues that need addressing. If you don’t nip the issue in the bud, you could wind up with a ton of negative reviews that are all complaining about the same thing.
- Acknowledge it. Let the person who wrote the review know that you take their comments seriously and are being proactive in fixing the issue. Figure out why the mistake happened and fix the process to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- Don’t be defensive. This is not the time to get into an argument. Be pleasant, empathetic and apologetic. If the review was left on a site like Yelp or Facebook, address their comments publicly instead of handling it privately via email. That way, your response is visible to everyone who sees the page, including future customers.
- Be prompt. Monitor your third-party review platforms multiple times a day. You may want to set up a Google Alert for your business and product name. In the instant-gratification-obsessed world in which we live, people expect a response almost immediately. Responding promptly shows the customer and everyone else who can see it that you take customer experience seriously and aren’t afraid of tackling issues head on to improve your product or service.
Reviews - positive or negative - are a direct reflection of customer experience. If you place as much emphasis on that experience as you should, you’re already on the right track. Verifying your business on Google or Yelp won't deliver results overnight. It takes time to collect reviews, but once you start reeling them in, you'll be able to use them to your advantage by providing social proof to prospective customers and vastly improving your customer experience.
What has your experience with online reviews been like? Are you an avid Yelper or adept damage controller? Let us know in the comments.