Getting customer reviews is one of the most important things you can do for your business for a couple reasons.
First, they can help with your Google+ Local rankings. All things being equal, if you have more reviews than your competitors, your Google+ Local page will outrank their Google+ Local pages.
Second, a steady stream of positive reviews reassures customers. Visiting any new business is a risk. Reviews provide proof that others have had a good experience with your business, reassuring customers that they are likely to have a good experience too.
Of course, it’s all fine and well to say: You need customer reviews! The real question is – how do you get them?
Ask Your Customers for Reviews
If you want your customers to give you reviews you’ll have to ask for them. You’ll need your customers to take two basic steps. First, you’ll be asking them to either log into an account or to create an account on a site that allows customer reviews.
Second, the customers will need to write a brief review. You can reassure your customers that the whole process will take less than 5 minutes.
There are several different ways to ask, but before we dive into the specifics I want to give a few words of warning.
On some of the sites that your customers can leave reviews, it is against their policies to actively solicit reviews. Google and Yelp have such policies.
Here is my opinion on these policies. They are primarily put in place to prevent businesses from buying fake reviews and to prevent businesses from paying customers to leave reviews. They don’t want you to email a customer with an incentive like this: Leave us a positive review and we’ll take 25% off your next visit!
Such an incentive could potentially lead to a flood of overly positive reviews. This doesn’t look natural because it isn’t natural. These customers are only flooding your business with reviews because you’re paying them to do so!
A sudden flood of reviews (especially if they are all positive) is a major red flag to these websites. They’ll likely get flagged as fake reviews and ultimately removed. You will have wasted your time and your customer’s valuable time.
The best way to “solicit” reviews without violating these policies is to simply ask your customers if they would leave a review for you AFTER the transaction is completed. Don’t provide a monetary incentive and don’t lead the customer by saying, “Please leave us a POSITIVE review.” Instead, say, “Please leave us a review.”
You also want to solicit these reviews as the transactions are completed. Don’t wait several weeks and then suddenly ask 100 customers to leave you a review. The response rate will be much lower than if you got them immediately and if you do get a sudden influx of reviews, they’ll likely be flagged as I mentioned earlier.
O.K., enough about the warnings. Play it “natural” and you’ll be fine. Now let’s talk about the different way you can get more customer reviews – without violating any policies.
If your customers are particularly Internet savvy, you or your employees can email them to make the request with instructions on how to leave a review for your business. Make sure you personalize each contact by using the customer’s name. Otherwise the customer is likely to get annoyed, which means they’ll ignore your request.
Another technique would be to give your customers a printed handout. This works best if your customer physically visits your establishment, but you can also slip a handout into products that you ship to them or include it with the invoice you give your customers.
You’ll need a lot of these handouts as the response rates will be low, but you don’t really need the response rates to be super high.
Your handout or email should either walk the customer through the step-by-step process of writing the review, or it should offer a diagram of the steps. Don’t assume your customers will understand what you need them to do.
You could also try contacting customers through social channels such as Facebook, but don’t ask them to leave reviews there. Facebook is “behind closed doors” so Google can’t read any reviews on Facebook. Instead, direct them to Google or Yelp or wherever you want them to leave you reviews.
Devote a Section of Your Website For Reviews
Customers probably visit your website more than once, so it’s a good idea to devote a page on your site where you can direct them to sites where they can leave reviews. Add clickable pictures to your Google+ Local page and your listings on Yelp or CitySearch and any other site you want them to leave you a review. This will remind customers to leave the review while making it very convenient for them to do so.
The other bonus to this method is that it encourages potential customers to read reviews left by past customers. If you have a lot of positive reviews, this will work to your advantage! Glowing reviews can be your best sales tools.
Handle Negative Reviews Effectively
Bad reviews are actually pretty rare. The vast majority of the customers who write reviews write positive reviews. However, bad reviews do happen, and it’s important to handle them correctly.
The best way to handle negative reviews is to tackle them head on by responding to them openly. Make a genuine effort to fix the problem. Sometimes, the negative reviewer will come back and revise the review, but at the very least other people will see your response and know that you take customer satisfaction seriously.
Once you respond to the negative review, work extra hard to get more positive reviews. As you get more positive reviews, the bad review will eventually be pushed “out of sight” by all the positive reviews.
Negative reviews are a great opportunity to tweak your business for the better. If reviews repeatedly bring up a problem then you should probably take it as a sign that there’s a real problem that needs to be addressed. This feedback isn’t always easy to hear, but it can be very valuable to making your business a long-term success.
You do have recourse if you think a review is phony, or if it crosses the line with profanity and personal attacks. Usually sites that allow customer reviews give the business owner the option to flag, or report, inappropriate reviews.
- You’ll need more reviews in bigger cities and markets if you want to stay competitive. However, 12 reviews is a good early target.
- Aim for a steady stream of reviews instead of a whole bunch of reviews at once. It’s good to gather 1-2 reviews per week, so don’t worry if the vast majority of your customers don’t respond. You only need a few customers a month to respond.
- Never pay for reviews or offer incentives!
- Never set up a laptop or computer at your location for the purpose of soliciting reviews from customers. These “review stations” might seem like a convenient method, but it will backfire. Google logs the IP address of each review and if all of the reviews are coming from your IP address Google will believe the reviews are fake — even if they’re not. Customers also won’t appreciate feeling pressured.
- Never instruct employees to write reviews for you. Again, Google logs the IPs and will likely consider these as fake reviews.
- Never ask your friends or family members to leave reviews unless they have actually done business with you.
- Never tell customers what to write. Only ask them to write a few sentences with their honest opinion. Don’t put any pressure on your customers!
- Respond to good reviews too! Offer your thanks for your customer’s positive feedback and support. It gets you engaged with your customers and leaves people with positive, warm feelings about the interaction.
- Let your customers decide which site to leave their reviews. Don’t try to force them to use a specific site.
By implementing everything outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to a number of customer reviews online that will help with your Google+ Local rankings and your business overall!