Online reviews are now an integral part of the purchase journey as consumers seek out opinions from “someone like me.” 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. But getting online reviews is not a simple task. The number one criticism I hear from business owners and managers is how difficult it is to obtain online reviews with any sort of consistency.
We’re seeing Google continue to make moves that point to providing consumers with quality information about local businesses. You’ve most likely seen the results lately when you Google a business yourself. The information (if the business has provided it) on the right side of your screen gives you a snapshot of that business and reviews appear front and center.
Those businesses that ignore the online review sites will continue to put their future sales at risk. A recent study from BrightLocal showed that consumers are increasingly considering online reviews as part of their purchase decision process:
- 88% have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business (vs. 85% in 2013)
- 39% read reviews on a regular basis (vs. 32% in 2013)
- Only 12% do not read reviews (vs. 15% in 2013)
While it’s uber-important to respond and deal with negative reviews, it’s just as important to have a proactive process to capture your happy, loyal customers opinions about your business.
Do’s and Don’ts for Getting Online Reviews
The following list is part of the process we cultivate when we work with our clients.
Earn the right to invite a review
Customer experience has never been more important. With everyone who possesses a phone and a social platform, it’s a nanosecond before your customers broadcast what it’s like to do business with you. Create and maintain a culture around customer experience. After all, it’s one of the only things that differentiates you from your competitor.
Make it easy
- Leverage signage: put stickers and signs where customers’ eyeballs land.
- Email “Love Drip”: Utilize your customer database to identify recent purchasers and email addresses that coincide with online review platforms. Example: send emails to Gmail users asking for their feedback on Google.
- Up your game with strategic emails: Ask a Net Promoter Score question (“On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family?”). Send 0-6 answers to a landing page to collect their contact info so you can rectify their issue. Send 7-10 answers to your designated online review site.
Provide training for employees
The people that are on the front lines with your customers need to be trained on how to recognize the opportunities for valuable customer feedback. They also need word tracks once they’ve identified that opportunity.
Let’s face it, as a beginner, it’s hard to ask for reviews. The more your employees do it, the better they’ll become. I’ve found the following request to be very useful. It’s important to maintain eye contact with the customer as you’re saying the following:
“Ms./Mr. Customer, our business is based on referrals and I’d really appreciate it if you could help me out by sharing your opinions online with your network. Here’s where you can access our profile…”
Don’t specifically ask for a positive review
Asking for a positive review is against the terms of service for nearly every online review site. Your future customers are looking for authentic, genuine and natural opinions and feedback. Here’s where your staff can shine if they’re able to consistently recognize the opportunity for ideal reviews.
Don’t pressure or coerce your customer
Some salespeople can get “overly enthusiastic” about reviews, especially if their pay plan incorporates reviews as part of their compensation. Keep a close eye on employee behavior and make sure they’re not doing anything to jeopardize your brands’ reputation.
Don’t offer anything in exchange for a review
Gaming the system never pays off. This practice will get you banned from review sites. Yelp will put a “Consumer Alert” on your profile for 90 days. Google may choose to de-list you. There are NO shortcuts to an excellent online reputation. However, if you do the good work, it will show.
Your happy, loyal customers will be delighted to share their feedback and opinions about your business. However, your happy, loyal customers are busy and often life gets in the way of their follow through. Gentle reminders will keep you top of mind.
Successful online reputation management all starts with leadership, vision and your culture. The absolute best way to instigate a great online review is to deliver an experience that’s worth shouting about.
Getting online reviews is not simple or easy, but with 88% of your business at risk, isn’t it worth the effort?