Reviews are becoming increasingly important for not only generating leads and encouraging business, but also helping your business appear higher up on search results.
This post examines the best practices for asking for reviews.
When it comes to writing reviews, there are a few types of people who are more likely to do it than others.
- Repeat customers
- Members of your loyalty program
- Customers who left compliments on your Facebook/other social media site
- Customers who opened your email newsletter
- Customers who have already left positive reviews
These are the customers you're really hoping will write reviews, because they've already expressed interest (and hopefully their positive feelings) about your business. That's not to say you shouldn't welcome people who don't fit into the above categories to write reviews, but it does mean that you should definitely give a chance to write reviews to the people who do.
Ask (Nicely and Tactfully)
The best time to ask for reviews is always right after a purchase or interaction. If it was an online purchase, put your request for reviews right in the order confirmation email, to be sure that they open it. Make sure to include a direct link to the place you'd most appreciate a review (Google My Business page and Facebook are the two biggest when it comes to making an impact on the digital reputation of your business as well as where potential customers are most likely to look).
If the interaction or purchase was physical or in-person, you have two choices. You can give the customer a physical form to fill out immediately or at their convenience, or give them a link (on their receipt or on a card) to the review website to visit later. Both tactics have their advantages and disadvantages and it might be wise to offer both. Above all, if you want reviews, you need to make it easy for the customer.
How to Make it Easier
An email with a link to the review site is simple enough for online businesses. It really just comes down to whether or not the customer wants to do it. But what about physical businesses? If you're a hotel or a restaurant or a salon, what can you do to encourage people to leave a review?
Google's filtering algorithm, in an attempt to weed out spam or solicited reviews, has actually made it quite difficult for people to leave reviews. You can no longer have "review stations" in your lobby for customers to use right after a transaction because Google will mark multiple reviews from the same IP address as spam. In addition, if your business receives a large number of reviews within a certain period of time, Google might also filter those as spam. On top of all that, if all your reviews come from the same referrer (like what might happen if you direct all your customers to your "Please leave us a review" landing page), those reviews will also be filtered.
To get around the filtering, there are a few things you can do. First, outline the entire process in as much detail as possible. Take a look at this tutorial for using Whitespark to generate a review handout that takes the customer through each step of the review process. Second, make sure you really personalize each review request email, instead of sending one out to everyone on your mailing list at one time. This will help stagger the number of reviews you receive over time. Third, direct your customers to enter the review site as organically as possible (logging into their Google account and searching for your business). This way each review will have a different referral.
A Note on Offering Incentives, Prizes, and Discounts
Opinions are split on the idea of offering prizes and discounts to those who do leave reviews or fill out customer satisfaction surveys. Yelp actually has rules in place that prohibit businesses from doing so, and will even remove reviews if businesses break those rules.
Sometimes it might seem like the only way to get people to actually leave reviews or fill out a survey is to give them a chance at a prize. However, by doing so, you're likely to get many more unhelpful, possibly even dishonest, reviews than helpful ones.
Yelp does allow businesses to display discounts, sales, and advertisements on their review website once they claim it, so that in itself is a sort of incentive to check the review site frequently and possibly leave a review. In the end, however, whether or not to give out prizes and such for online reviews of your business is up to you.
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