By: Katherine on 29-05-2017 in General Business, Local SEO, Marketing, Online Marketing, Social Media

Customers searching for any products or services online are bombarded with hundreds of businesses trying to satisfy their needs. Everyone is competing to be heard, but to really get your business noticed above the cacophony, you need an accumulation of reviews that put you 5 stars ahead of the rest.

Unfortunately, many businesses – outside of the hospitality or tourism industries – don’t take customer reviews as seriously as they should. You may be saying, “I’m not in the hospitality or tourism industry, I don’t need to worry about online reviews.” But we challenge you to think bigger to fully capitalise on the online marketing techniques that are available to you and avoid falling into the dangerous traps ignoring reviews can steer you into.

Customer giving a positive review
Online reviews are an excellent tool for increasing the visibility of your website. In a 2015 survey, Moz found that it is thought that online reviews make up over 8% of how search engines like Google decide to rank local search results. This comes from a variety of review platforms, not just Google My Business, and immediately helps boost your business above the competition.

Reviews & ranking factors
Reviews influence your customers’ likelihood to click on your webpage. They are often visible on Google and allow searchers to easily compare your business against your competitors. According to Casey Meraz – local SEO extraordinaire – 93% of millenials say they rely on reviews before making a purchase. Whether it is a review of your customer service, product features or any other aspect of your business operations, your future customers will likely be interested in what previous customers have to say.

As noted by social media expert Brian Solis, “Your brand is defined by those who experience it.” People are then taking these experiences and discussing them on social media and other online platforms for the world to see.

It can be quite challenging to encourage your customers to leave a review. Usually, unless they absolutely adore or detest your business, people just can’t be bothered leaving feedback. Luckily, there are a number of techniques you can use to nudge them towards writing you a glowing testimonial.

Read on to discover how to attract more reviews by giving your customers somewhere to review you, letting them know you’d like their feedback, and thanking them for providing it.

1. Set Up Profiles on Review Platforms

Duh, right?

Coles knowledge panel
But the secret behind this is: customers are much more likely to review your product when it is an easy process. It may seem obvious, but you need to set up profiles on all the relevant review sites where your customers are likely to search for you. You might need to do a little research to find the best sites for your brand or industry, but some great places to start are:

  • Google My Business
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • The Yellow Pages
  • Facebook
  • Trustpilot

As many people find your business or products through these platforms, it is important that they are bolstered by stellar reviews from your past customers. If you have set these sites up yourself, you are also much more in control of the business information displayed.

While this is an important first step, it certainly shouldn’t be your last.

2. Ask Customers for Reviews

Some businesses get all shy about asking their customers for reviews. They worry they’re being pushy or their customers won’t appreciate being asked. However if a customer is genuinely happy with the service you have provided, they are likely happy to spend two minutes reviewing you online. As long as you’re not forcing them to do it or telling them what to say, most happy customers won’t mind you asking.

Please rate your experience
Don’t pop the champagne just yet, though. Of course this doesn’t mean that they’re definitely going to review you. Very few business (at least, none that we know of) get a 100% review rate, however, there are many factors involved in the asking process that can influence customers.

Immediacy

Customers are more likely to give feedback straight after receiving the product or service, when the memory of your business is fresh in their mind. So you should try to ask for a review as soon as possible after the transaction or service.

Personal touch

If you provide a face-to-face service to your customers, the best person to ask for the review is the employee who spent most of the time with them. If they have experienced excellent customer service, a customer will be more inclined to write a review if they think it will benefit that employee. If there is no face-to-face service you can still send a personalised email. For example, using a personal email address rather than a generic one, or by addressing the email specifically to that customer to ask for online reviews. The personalisation of these emails makes it more likely for your customers to review. For bonus points, you can save time by using email marketing automation to manage this process.

via GIPHY

Make it easy to review

You’ve taken the first step by setting your business up on the review platforms. Next, you have to guide your customers to those sites. When asking your customer face-to-face, mention the preferred website you would like them to post a review on. If you are sending an email it’s even easier, put in a direct link to minimise the steps your customer has to take. Remove any unnecessary links that often accumulate at the bottom of your company emails and make it very clear what the link will take them to.

Alternatively, include a step by step guide for how to review your business on your website. Ideally this page would be easy to find.

review platform steps
Like the example above, you can use images to make your instructions easier to understand. Include links to the relevant review sites so your customers don’t have to go searching.

Be careful with incentivising reviews

Many review sites like Yelp are very strict on stopping businesses creating incentives to review, to keep the process as honest as possible. Their terms and conditions will outline these policies. Creating incentives can very quickly come back to bite you and undermine the credibility of all your reviews too.

via GIPHY
All it takes is for one person to point out your incentives and suggest that you are bribing people to say nice things, to call into question every single positive review you have – even if you really did earn them. So if you start giving offers to customers who give you a good review, you may be corrupting the whole process and putting your reviews in danger of becoming meaningless.

However, as long as your review platform doesn’t prohibit it, and you are very careful, this is can be an excellent strategy for boosting the number of reviews. The key is to be extremely transparent that all reviews are equally eligible for incentives, regardless of whether (or how strongly) positive or negative they are. For example, advertising that you will pick a reviewer at random every month to win a prize, or giving all reviewers a 10% discount, are excellent ways to give your customers that push in the right direction.

3. Thank Your Reviewers

Finally, you could try thanking the people who have reviewed you for their time and respond to any issues that are brought up. This is good practice because it brings you closer to your customers and increases general satisfaction with your customer service. Your customers like to feel special and by personally responding to their efforts to review, you will increase their level of customer service satisfaction. They are then likely to comment on subsequent experiences of your service or when they try out new products that you offer.

It can also be incredibly useful to reply to bad reviews. Although this blog post is about getting customers to say nice things about you, chances are that you will receive the occasional negative review. It’s a bummer, and often the first reaction of businesses is to go on the defensive, explaining why the customer is wrong or by deflecting blame.

However, it’s not going to encourage people to review your business if they think an angry message will be sent their way. Worse, it could also lower the overall image of your business and you may find that customers are less inclined to use your products or service. You are also missing out on the potential to correct any business problems you might have, which will surely result in more bad reviews in the future if left unfixed.

These two examples, chosen from a litany of poor reviews and poorer responses for a truly nightmarish-sounding hostel can attest to this.

Sir Cedrics negative review 1
Sir Cedrics negative review 2
Not a great look.

There are some excellent responses out there, for example at the Ibis Hotel in Adelaide:

Ibis Adelaide customer review
The first paragraph is perfect because they thank the reviewer and then immediately apologise.  It is important to remember to do this first, even though it can be tempting to jump right into the issues that are addressed by the review, because it displays respect for the customer and will go a long way in boosting your public image.

There are two excellent elements to the second paragraph. The first is how the Manager provides a solution to a problem raised in review by offering a refund and a personal email for the reviewer to be able to contact him. This could easily increase the customer’s satisfaction with the hotel and indicates to future customers that the staff will actually help if you have a problem. The second touch of genius is how the response corrects something asserted by the reviewer without being rude like the hostel examples above. The Manager maintains a tone of respect whilst also making sure that future customers are not wrongly informed by the review.

Sage Hotel customer review
This response by Sage Hotel is also a good example because of the way they have taken negative feedback and used it to improve their business. They have communicated this to the reviewer respectfully and have indicated to future customers that they will not have the same experience.

There are three important take-outs from these two great examples:

  1. Apologise right away: apologising is not about admitting fault or guilt. It should be about showing empathy and understanding for your customer – and it goes a long way.
  2. Offer a solution: the response in the first example mentioned how they will solve the issue, while the second outlined what they’ve already done. In both cases, it shows the customer that their feedback has been heard, taken seriously and acted on.
  3. Include a personal touch: in these two examples, the person who responded signed off with their name and title, rather than letting the response be from a “faceless corporation”.

The benefits of having your customers review your business online are numerous. Not only are they one of the best tools you have for encouraging new customers to take a chance on you, but you become more noticeable right from the outset. It will pay dividends if you put in a bit of effort to cultivate reviews by developing your process for acquiring them.

Remember that ultimately, a customer wants their interactions with your brand to be as natural and positive as possible. By harnessing this in the way you ask for – and respond to – reviews, whether they’re positive or offer some constructive criticism you can improve your business with, you are essentially creating more and better ways for people to engage with and discover your brand.

And that’s something that can have profound effects on your online presence, reputation and right through your business too.