We know that, in today’s world, online customer reviews are the new word-of-mouth for your business. The better the reviews, the better the reputation of your business, and the more likely that the people who research your business online will end up being your customers. But the number of stars your business gets in the reviews is not everything that counts.
According to Justin Morgan, a dental marketing specialist, “Factors such as the velocity of acquiring reviews and the total number of reviews have an effect on how well your website performs in search engines.” And the way you handle the bad reviews can have a huge impact on your online reputation. Studies show that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust friends’ recommendations. That’s not a number that should be taken lightly.
Getting into the Review Game
If you’re late to the getting-the-reviews party, don’t worry. It’s possible to catch up. What’s important is that you’ve arrived at the party. There are some businesses that don’t believe they have to rely on reviews to get new customers. They might be right, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be reviewed. It certainly doesn’t mean they won’t get bad reviews. And even though the internet probably wasn’t devised as a huge gossip mill, is sure can act as one.
The two ways you get customer reviews online are via email and via websites. Using email to gather customer reviews will depend on the way you conduct business online. Some businesses have extensive lists of customer emails because they already use email as a marketing tool. Or, their mode of business requires customers to sign in using an email address. Either way, using email to get reviews is dependent on having a lot of customers’ email addresses. While mailing lists can and routinely are built from scratch, websites are a much more accessible option.
Going Where the Customers Are
You probably know that there are many websites where people can leave reviews. Some websites are built specifically so that people can use them to review businesses and products. Within those, you’ll find general websites and industry- or product-specific websites.
But then there are social networks, which also give you an option to allow customers to review your business. And there are search engines with their own review options. And let’s not forget that you can add a review feature to your business’ website. That’s plenty of choices. In fact, it might be too many.
Trying to cover every website where your business could possibly get a review would be a difficult task. Simply put, it would take up a lot of time. That is, monitoring them would – you can make profiles and pages on all the websites fairly quickly. But given how monitoring things that are said about your business online are one of the major parts of managing your business’ reputation, you couldn’t just create the profiles and let them be.
A good idea would be to focus. Using the review options given by search engines is a necessity. Some businesses decide to forego social media reviews, but they can be useful, especially if you have a strong presence. As for review websites, picking a couple of the biggest, or a couple that cater to your niche, is the best choice.
Getting People to Give Reviews
The very first rule of getting people to review your business is to make it easy. That’s why you have to claim your business on the major review websites — chances are, if your customers have a profile on a review website, it will be on one of the bigger ones. You can go one step further. Let’s assume you have a brick-and-mortar business, and your customers a way to leave a review from the store; a secured and free-to-use laptop might do, or simply offering free Wi-Fi could help as well. With a Yelp! Review sticker right next to the Free Wi-Fi sticker.
Some people say that offering incentives is a good way to get customers to leave reviews. It is an option, but it’s probably not the best one. The best one is, of course, to just ask them; if possible, in person. Even better if you do it just after they’ve made a purchase. If you or your staff don’t feel comfortable doing it, remember that it’s an interaction with a customer and as such gives you the opportunity to build a good relationship. Being honest and saying to the customers why you’re trying to build up your online reviews and that you’d be thankful for their contribution is might help build trust.
Once the reviews start coming in, you’ll notice that some of them are not good. It’s perfectly normal, and it’s something that can easily be handled with an honest reply. But until then, remember to keep the review process hurdle-free, and that asking nicely will often enough do the trick.