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How to Get Customers to Review Your Business Online

Part 2 of the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Good Communication

Let’s start by stating the obvious: getting customers to review your services or products online is challenging (to put it mildly). People are fast to leave bad reviews, venting their frustrations and just plain being mean, but slow at leaving positive feedback.

Why? Because it’s not in their interest to do so.

There’s nothing in it for them. So why would they spend 10-15 minutes composing an ode to your business? It’s up to your marketing and customer service to make it worth their while.

Before we start talking about how to get reviews, let’s acknowledge something: getting bad reviews is inevitable. The best way to counter the bad reviews is to either drown them in stellar reviews, or use them to your advantage. Whatever else you do, make sure that what you’re selling is up to par, and that you’re addressing the problems your customers are complaining about.

How important are Customer Reviews, really?

Fact: what people think about the products or services you offer is really important. You can blame it on social media, on the web, or on globalization – whatever makes you sleep at night – but if you think about it, customer opinion has always played a role in sales. I imagine that even medieval bakers relied on customer satisfaction (aka “good gossip”) to sell bread.

Fact: positive customer opinion can be a good marketing tool. The difficulty lies in getting your customers to leave reviews. We’ve moved away from the marketing model based on carefully building your brand, and towards the model where your brand is defined by your clients (the ones who actually experience your products and/or services).

How to actually help your customers define your brand? The short answer is: make it easy for them.

9 ways to help your customers review your business online

1. Be present on most, if not all review sites.

Google (obviously), Yelp, Angie’s List, Yahoo, Bing, LinkedIn, Facebook, Trip Advisor, CitySearch, and any others you can think of. Start with the most relevant platforms for your type of business or product.

2. Make it easy for them.

Customers will only rarely offer to give you good reviews, as opposed to bad ones. You have to ask them to take time out of their schedule to do so. That’s why you should make the review process as easy as possible. Add direct links to review profiles on your website, in the newsletters you send out, and in follow-up emails. For Yelp, you can use the “Find us on Yelp” banners.

3. Find the right time to ask.

Don’t jump your customers with review requests immediately after their purchase, but do send them a follow-up email preferably the same day. If you are too nagging or too hasty, they will either ignore your request, or publish a negative review about the fact that you ambushed them. On the other hand, if you’re too lazy, they will not take the time to write a review even if they’ve had a good experience.

4. Stay away from long surveys.

If you send out surveys, avoid text boxes as much as possible. Filling in blank text boxes always feels like work. Instead, choose up to five simple questions or stars for ratings.

5. Incentivize, BUT DO NOT BUY reviews.

Remember that you will reward your users for WRITING the reviews, not for writing GOOD reviews. Use monthly giveaways for randomly selected reviewers, or some form of store credit for each review received. This way you can make sure that you will get real reviews from people who have actually purchased and used your products or services. It is very important for the reviews to feel real and for the reward not to be perceived as a buy-off.

6. Say “Thank you”.

If the reviewing platform allows it, thank your reviewers for their input. It does not have to be a long message, but it has to feel personal. Treat your customers like people. That’s how you foster brand loyalty. In time, some of your reviewers will involuntarily become brand ambassadors. That’s how important personal connections are.

7. Stay informed.

Make it a habit to keep up to date with the reviews you receive. You need to take a look at them at least once a week every week. Why? To know where you stand, and to find out what you could improve. Also, this is a great way to get in front of any new “issue” that might later affect your bottom line.

8. Make it mobile first.

Not catering to the mobile-device-using crowd (basically about 85% of all internet users), is a big oversight. Anything and everything you publish online should be at least mobile-friendly, if not responsive. That includes your website and any web products you might create for your business.

9. And last but not least, ask for your customers’ help in answering your shoppers’ questions.

Who better to answer a product or service-related question that someone who has actually purchased and used that product or service? Benefits for you: less time spent answering the same customer questions, more brand loyalty because your current customers will feel that their opinions are valued, and more sales because your new customers will trust your brand enough to buy from you. Win-win-win.

Good Yelp Reviews are… troublesome to get

What’s up with Yelp? If you’re already on Yelp, you probably know of the problems that are plaguing the platform and their customer service. If you’re not on Yelp yet, pay special attention to the following section.

Yelp bases their review selection process on automated algorithms. This is where the trouble for businesses starts. There is no human control over what gets selected and what gets chucked. Because of that, you need to be aware of how Yelp does the review selection.

Here are 3 things to guide you:

1. Fake reviews

Yelp might hide a review if it sounds like an exaggerated good experience or an abysmally bad experience. If you receive a review you know for sure is fake, you can ask Yelp to remove it. But the decision is completely up to them. You don’t have any degree of control over what gets removed from Yelp.

2. Recommended reviews

Even if a review is a completely honest, enthusiastic 5-star review, if it is not “recommended”, there is a good chance it will be hidden by Yelp. Being “recommended” depends on the online standing of the reviewer, as perceived by Yelp. If the reviewer is not particularly active online, or their online “footprint” is weak, Yelp will probably hide their review, no matter how honest and to the point it is.

3. Filtering

This is one of Yelp’s weakest points and the aspect most online users are thundering against. Basically, Yelp will hide any review written by someone who hasn’t previously published many online reviews, who has written their review in a different location than that of your business, or who doesn’t have a very large online presence. Unfortunately, concise reviews will also bite the dust, no matter how short and sweet they might sound. The same goes for very good and very bad reviews.

As you can see, it’s very difficult to maintain a relevant and realistic review profile on Yelp. Something to keep in mind when choosing which review platform to turn to first.

But, if you need more help navigating Yelp, Kevin has put together a series of short video tutorials with practical advice for good ranking. Check it out when you have a minute.

Final thoughts

As usual, if you have any questions about… anything really, drop them in the comments. We’ll get back to you quickly. The same goes for Yelp war stories, horror customer experiences, and review-related advice. 🙂

Check out Part 1 of our Entrepreneur’s Guide to Good Communication for basic advice about keeping it “real” with your customers.

Btw, need hands-on help with getting reviews from your clients? Contact us directly to get realistic solutions: email strategies, landing pages, online forms, automated communication for your website, popups, social media integration, you name it.

Let’s chat about what your business needs!

Written by

Writer and online content strategist. Loves stories, technology and entrepreneurship. Wants to help you leverage online tools and best practices to grow your business. Ask her questions! She’ll get you answers.

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