How To Get More Good Online Reviews for Your Business
- The First Step
- Make it easy
- Ask Again
- The Pitfall Don’t Bribe
- Mom and Grandma Count But they are Discounted
- Trust: More is Better
The Tough Stuff
- Score Higher by Diverting Negatives
- Cherish the Grief
- Identify your primary influencers Which Ones Matter?
Getting Good Online Reviews
Provide good goods
It goes without saying that you need to provide good service in order to get good reviews. The bad news is, that your customers have come to expect good goods and service from your business. As such, just doing so is unlikely to get them to go out of their way to write a glowing online review.
Theoretically, if you were able to systematically boost quality/service every 6 months or so, the exceptional increase in quality may stimulate spontaneous reviews. But this is a tall order however desirable it may seem.
Instead, the best course of action is to simply, ask.
The first step toward reputation building
The social scientists can find a bell curve almost anywhere. And it is likely within your existing customer population you have one too. Many may be customers for convenience more than anything else. Some may be dissatisfied but come anyway, while others really like your way of doing business. In your case, I hope the curve skews to the later.
The business that finds a simple and consistent way to ASK for reviews is the business that will get them.
You could ask for reviews in a message at the bottom of your sales receipts. You could include a stuffer or flyer in their bags at the check out. You could follow-up with an email after each business transaction. However, you do it, the key first step is to ASK for the review.
Many will agree, a few will actually do so. But the key to understand is that by actively asking, consistently over time, some will. And as time goes on, your number of reviews will rise.
(Now I know a couple of you may be worried about what people may say in those reviews. – Relax, we’ll cover that a bit later.)
Remove the Obstacles
They need to know which site to go to, and how to get to your particular review site on the service and then in almost all cases they need to belong to the site to leave a review. There is no universal solution to this problem. But now that we understand it, we can suggest some possible solutions. If you are using printed materials, you could include a “short linked” url that takes people directly to your preferred review sites. Via email, you could do the same thing with a live link. This works better as the link is right there for them to click.
Getting reviews is a numbers game. By making it as easy as possible for people to leave reviews, you increase the chances they will make it to the end and help build your business with their positive comments.
Rinse and Repeat
Repetition helps. You need to be constantly asking for reviews. As long as it’s not overpowering, people will respect it. You are seeking their feedback, because you care about their opinions. Or at least that is the way, I would recommend you approach it.
If you are using printed material, and repeatedly including it in their bags, you will eventually catch them when they are in the right frame of mind to actually take action and do so.
If you are using email, you can set up a system to remind them of your desire for feedback, two, three or more times. (Just be sure to be annoying, and always include an opt out feature.)
The No No
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and most review sites frown on rewarding people for reviews.
As a practical matter, the biggest worry for small businesses is probably the review sites themselves. If they determine you are breaking their terms of service by offering incentives to customers to leave reviews, they can and will exclude you from their rankings.
This could potentially be devastating you’re your business and a boon to your competitors. And it is your competitors who will most likely bring such a violation to the review sites attention.
Does this happen? Yes. Frequently? Not so sure. But do you want to take the risk and become the poster boy for what not to do?
Momma Loves Me.
Along the same lines, posting your own reviews, or getting family members, employees, etc. to post reviews is frowned upon. Most review sites will automatically detect multiple reviews from the same IP address and discount them. Some are even more vigilant in an effort to maintain the “purity” and authority of their services.
Confidence in Big Numbers
When a business has only a handful of reviews, it can often be seen as momma and baby sister’s helping out the family business. Once a business starts to have a dozen or more reviews, the perceived credibility of the aggregate increases dramatically. Ultimately, the more the merrier. Another reason why it is important to establish a systematic approach to stimulating reviews and to keep at it.
The sooner you start the better. It can be a slow go, but a consistent plan over time will build your review totals and your credibility.
So now the Tough Stuff
But, What if they don’t like me?
Perhaps the biggest factor that inhibits businesses from seeking reviews from their customers is the fear that they will not like what they get.
Some have already been savaged by disgruntled ex-employees, competitors trying to sabotage them and the jerky customer who goes out of their way to prove that the customer ISN’T always right.
Add to that fumbling employees and general every day screw-ups that are inevitable in any business.
So, how do we avoid bad reviews?
Simple, Walk on Water. Well that didn’t always work either.
No, we need to find another approach, and frankly that is not so easy.
In an ideal world your happy customers would post glowing reviews. Those less happy would come to you with their issue so you could take care of it.
This is where the traditional printed form approach of asking customers for reviews falls down a bit. If there were a way to only ask your happy customers to leave reviews – it could work. But then you introduce a selection process that is likely to break down over time.
What is needed is a system that gets people to pre-identify themselves as “Friend or Foe.”
If you knew a person was likely to give you at least 4 if not a 5 star rating, you would encourage them to post for you online. If they were only going to give you a 3 star or less rating, you would prefer that they let you know the circumstances, and not post at all.
There is one system I know about that does just that. It’s the one I use with my clients, called RepPilot.
This filters the negative and as bad so-so comments. Instead of asking them to leave reviews, the system asks them to leave feedback that goes directly to the owner.
The net results is that fewer low star reviews get posted, while those who were positively inclined are encouraged to post directly to the desired review sites. This is an email system, so customers have a link making it easy for them to access the review site. And since you can provide multiple “buttons” you can offer them a choice of which review site to post to. This helps with the need for them to “belong’ to a site to leave a review.
Cherish the Grief
As a practical matter, I hear many of my clients gritting their teeth over some of the negative reviews they receive. That’s understandable. In general though, it is far better to respond to those reviews with a positive comment back.
For legitimate complaints, you now have a chance to impress a potentially disaffected customer back with a courteous response. A customer saved is as valuable as a new customer and easier in most cases. When they see that you actually care, they may well become a raving fan.
The true value of the review system may well be the insights you get on what your customers are saying and thinking about your business. You are far better off knowing about any issues you customers are having. You can take action and build your business faster and more effectively with that feedback.
So while you may not like to get less than optimal feedback, you should cherish it.
That said, you don’t need to share it with your competitors or the general public, which is why the RepPilot System is so valuable. The system captures any negative feedback and gets it sent to you so you can do something about it. By offering your customers a way to share any frustrations they may have, makes it less likely they will post a poor online review independently. Thus you have dodged a bullet and your overall ranking remains higher than it may have otherwise.
One other nice thing about the RepPilot software is that it allows you to associate customers with individual employees or departments. This gives you a new tool to evaluate staff and departments performance and understand where you excel and where you need additional training or improvements.
Which Sites To Promote
As a general rule, I encourage most of my clients to start building their Google and Yelp! reviews first.
Most people doing a search for a business on their mobile phones or computers are going to be using Google. As such it is usually the top priority. For some types of business, where comparison shopping is involved, other specialty sites get more play. There are sites for doctors and dentists, restaurants and more. The key is to understand which are most appropriate for your business and start there.
Once you have a good standing on the key sites, consider branching out a bit. While Google is clearly the Goliath in online searches, there are well over fifty major and hundreds of even smaller directory sites that get used on a daily basis.
These “minors” are not a huge source of new business by themselves, but the dirty little secret is that your competitor is probably not on them. As such, by making sure you are, you can often be the one business with a positive review profile.
See the video below for a quick overview of the RepPilot software.
The RepPilot system is a subscription software, the base price is about $100 a month, with a useful add on that is particularly helpful in lining up the “Minors” as described above.
To learn more about how to customize the system for your business, contact Earl Netwal at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-408-9924 for personal attention to your needs.