12 Ways to Entice Customers to Provide Reviews
These days, 86% of customers read reviews for local businesses before they decide to hand over any cash, according to a 2018 study from BrightLocal.
Getting customers to take the time to write a glowing review about your business often takes some cajoling, but as most businesses know, the payback is substantial. Online reviews have become the de facto arbiters of what’s cool, what’s not, what’s worth paying for, and what’s worth running away from. It appears that they’ll only become more influential in the coming years.
These days, 86% of customers read reviews for local businesses before they decide to hand over any cash, according to a 2018 study from BrightLocal
(www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey). More than half—57%—said that they’d only do business with a company if it has four or more stars out of five. And generally, review readers need to see at least 10 online reviews before they’ll even consider doing business with you.
Not surprisingly, younger consumers are even more review-oriented, according to BrightLocal. A full 80% of 18–34-year-olds said that they have written online reviews. And 91% of 18–34-year-old consumers said that they trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations.
“Publishing the opinions of your customers is an important part of marketing your business,” said Doron Vermaat (https://blog.loopyloyalty.com), an online marketing consultant. “They can help with persuading new customers and even with boosting your site’s search-engine optimization.”
For any business sensitive to reviews (and that’s virtually all of us), there are a number of tactics you can use to cajole reviews from customers who are more than willing to give you a thumbs-up with just a bit of nudging. Below are some of the most effective of the lot—recommended by online marketing consultants and software companies that specialize in securing as many positive reviews as possible for their customers.
Ask for a Review While the Transaction Is Still Fresh: Many businesses send an automated email requesting a review of a product or service very quickly after the transaction is processed. The theory is that there’s a better chance a customer will have something to say while the memory of a purchase is still fresh.
Other businesses make the review request person-to-person, if possible, while the customer is still personally interacting with a company employee. That is especially effective if a customer has spontaneously waxed positive on how much he or she likes your goods or services.
Send a Personal “Thank You” and a Request for a Review: Other businesses take requests via email a step further by sending a personal email “thank you” to a customer, along with a request for a review. That can be especially effective if the customer has had personal contact with the company representative sending the email.
Email a Survey That Includes a Review Option: Some customers see survey requests on a company’s performance much easier to turn around than a general “What do you think about our service?” email.
With an emailed survey (or one that pops up on your website), you can start with a few questions that can be answered either yes or no, followed by a final question that requests customers to share their thoughts further. Essentially, after a customer has bought into interacting with a survey, it’s only a small step further to request some written thoughts.
Easy-to-use survey programs that you can leverage to solicit such reviews include SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com), SurveyGizmo (www.surveygizmo.com), Zoho Survey (www.zoho.com/survey), SoGo Survey (www.sogosurvey.com) and SurveyPlanet (https://surveyplanet.com).
Integrate Review Requests With All of Your Emails: Some businesses have had great results securing reviews by integrating review requests with all of their email correspondence, including inserting review requests in invoice emails, request for information emails, and even in the email signature file that is used by every employee at the company.
Reach Out on Social Media: On social networks, it’s nearly impossible to find someone without an opinion looking to get expressed, so soliciting reviews about your company there is a no-brainer. It’s also a good idea to ask customers to post photos and videos (if they have them) on social media along with their review. It’s amazing what people will take the time to come up with on social media if you simply make the request.
Set Up a “Review Station” at Your Brick-and-Mortar Location: If applicable, setting up a kiosk or a computer that customers can use to write a quick review can do wonders for gathering authentic feedback about a product or service. Be sure that the station is promoted with eye-catching signage and graphics.
Institute Review Requests as Part of the Sales Process: Businesses that formalize requests for reviews (i.e., training all staff to ask for reviews and aid in their processing) tend to generate more reviews as a result.
Offer Links to Major Review Sites on Your Website or in a Pop-Up Ad: Customers already accustomed to leaving reviews on companies will be much more likely to review your company if you invite them using a list of links that they can click on to leave a review with Yelp, Facebook or some other favorite review site. You can also program a pop-up ad to flash an invitation and similar links just before the customer is leaving your website.
Host a Reviews Domain on Your Website: Scores of solutions are available that enable you to host a reviews domain on your website—as well as enabling you to monitor reviews written about your company across the web. Packages include Trustpilot (www.trustpilot.com), Grade.us (www.grade.us) and PowerReviews (www.powerreviews.com). For a complete rundown on what those solutions offer, check out the SEMA News column “Managing the World of Online Reviews,” June 2019 issue.
Glowing reviews are the Holy Grail for building your reputation online.
Establish a Presence on All Major Review Websites: Given that there’s a good chance major review sites such as Yelp (www.yelp.com) are already tracking your business, it makes sense to claim ownership of your business name there and respond to any reviews that happen to pop up. Most of the major review sites allow you to make that claim and also enable you to add a bit of branding to identify your business on their site.
“Just getting an account for your business on a review site is not enough,” said Jonas Sickler, marketing director for Reputation Management.com (www.reputationmanagement.com). “You’ll need to get set up with a complete profile. Develop a strong profile with photos, business details, and other information about your business. This tells customers that you’re active and interested in what they have to say. Some experts believe that review websites may favor businesses with complete profiles.”
Key sites to consider staking your claim on include the aforementioned Yelp as well as Foursquare (www.foursquare.com), Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), Google (www.google.com), Citysearch (www.citysearch.com), YP.com (www.yellowpages.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com), Merchant Circle (www.merchantcircle.com), and Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com).
Consider Offering an Incentive in Exchange for a Review: While this can be tricky, many businesses offer a gift such as a free ebook or a discount on a future purchase or other gratuity in exchange for a review. Others offer to enter reviewers into a sweepstakes featuring a substantial giveaway to one lucky reviewer. The key here is to ensure that you’re not offering an incentive in exchange for a positive review. Instead, it must be an incentive for any review, positive or negative. Of course, before you do anything with incentives, run your plan past your attorney.
Make a Special Effort to Reach Out to Your Strongest Customers: All of these tactics will most likely produce the most desired result—a great review—with customers you’ve known a long time, repeat customers, or customers you know are extremely happy with what you’ve done for them.
“Identify your strongest customers,” Sickler advised. “Regular customers and brand ambassadors are likely to leave the most positive reviews. Since your relationship is already established, they’ll probably jump at the chance to provide a glowing testimony.”
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.