The best kind of advertising is one you just can’t buy — reviews.
Like word of mouth, many consumers rely on recommendations from others. In fact, 85 percent of consumers who search for products and services online say they read reviews when deciding on their purchase.
Here we’ve gathered some tips from experts—and added some of our own—on ways you can encourage customers to review your business online:
Most important is your customer’s happiness! Remember, when it comes to online reviews, all of the power is in the hands of the reviewer. You have very, very little control over what they say—only control over satisfying their wants and needs. Put your utmost focus into establishing strong relationships with your clients and customers and keeping them happy (and loyal). That will all translate into a better review when they are ready to post it.
Ask in Person. A customer that is particularly happy is the perfect person to ask to leave feedback for your business. Have business cards with your social media accounts listed on them that you can hand out to customers so they know where to go to post reviews. Mention any incentives (keep reading for details), and emphasize how much you would appreciate their feedback. Statistics show that in-person asks often garner seven to eight times more reviews than email requests.
Use neutral terms when asking for reviews. As Forbes reports, Daniel Vivarelli of Starloop experimented for more than 2 years with different communication methods and verbiage before coming up with the perfect system for his business. That reviews-gathering system went on to garner hundreds of positive reviews for his company.
Vivarelli said that using the phrase “we invite you” instead of “we ask that you please” appeared kinder and less desperate to customers. He also found that using the term “online feedback” was more neutral than “review,” since the word “review” can often trigger preconceived notions in the customer about whether to be positive or negative.
Offer a neutral, charitable incentive for leaving a review. Another successful tip Vivarelli discovered is to offer a neutral or charitable incentive for customers who participate. Most social media platforms (including Yelp) prohibit direct incentives for reviews, so offering a discount or free services in exchange for a review may lead to trouble.
Set up a filtering system. Vivarelli’s company sent an email to any customer who provided an email address “inviting” him or her to leave “online feedback” in a form.
They started out by offering up three “faces” to choose from – was their experience unsatisfying (sad face), just OK (neutral face) or happy (smiling face)? If the customer clicked on the sad or neutral face, they were directed to an online form asking “How can we improve your experience next time?”
If the customer choose a happy face, they were directed to a landing page that said, “We are so happy you are happy!” and provided links to places online that they can choose to post a positive review (Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc.). For every customer that left a review, the company said a tree will be planted, or $1 will be donated to the business’s favorite charity. The whole experience was designed to make the customer feel good that they took the time to leave feedback, and as a result, Starloop got a ton of participation from customers.
Bonus Tip: Be sure to respond to the sad and neutral reviews and acknowledge what can make their next experience better. (And here’s what to do if you do get a bad review online.)
Offer employee incentives for positive reviews. Sometimes the thought of helping a hard worker get a much-deserved reward can be another big motivator to a potential reviewer.
Consider starting an employee incentive program—for every review/online feedback form a customer posts that mentions a specific employee who was particularly helpful and hard-working, the employee gets a $10 tip or bonus on their next paycheck. Be sure to mention it on comment cards, on your website, on your Facebook page, on signage by your cash register or front reception desk, etc. Customers love to feel that they are having a direct impact in helping a hard-working, deserving employee get rewarded, and it also paints the business owners in a positive light by showing how much they value their best employees.
Don’t make customers search far and wide for where to leave reviews. Does your business send email receipts? Make sure links to your social media accounts and sites where customers can leave reviews/feedback are included at the bottom of every receipt. Paper receipts? Squeeze that in at the bottom of those too, if possible. Make sure it’s included in your email signature, and that it’s on every page (home page and internal pages) of your website, and your app if you have one.
Don’t disregard the Poor Man’s review: Perhaps some of your customers just aren’t tech-savvy. That’s ok, because in many cases the old-fashioned, handwritten comment card can still help. Particularly if you are a local, independent business, you can staple blank comment cards to customer receipts, or have a stack of them by your front counter with a box they can stick them in after filling them out. But how will potential customers see them, you ask? Take the best of the best and display them in your business’s front window for passers-by to see. Take photos of them and post them to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or even on your website. All good reviews can be helpful!