If you run a business, you need to get good online customer reviews. These online customer reviews are can help you grow your top and bottom lines, and it can also help to insulate you against the online complaints of the occasional disgruntled customer. A recent comprehensive study covering 2017 found, among other things, that 97% of consumers look online when seeking out a local business and that 93% of consumers read local reviews to decide if a business is good or not. And since this trend is likely to continue and accelerate, it’s clear that online customer reviews (or a lack thereof) can make or break a business.
The value of positive online customer reviews is fairly self-evident. As consumers, we often weigh recommendations more heavily when we feel that they’re coming from disinterested third parties. We are more likely to heed the advice of a friend who had a positive experience with a company than we are a paid advertisement put out by that company, even if they both say basically the same thing.
That said, outside of reviewing restaurants and hotels, most customers simply don’t think about leaving online customer reviews. It’s not that they don’t want to help businesses that serve them well. Most customers are happy to show appreciation when they’re pleased with how they’ve been treated. But oftentimes it just doesn’t occur to many of them. And some of them may want to, but just don’t know how. As a business owner you should be attentive to your online public image. That means you must prioritize encouraging customers to write reviews about you and make sure they know how it’s done.
If you don’t take the reins and actively ask for reviews, you may have to face this challenging reality: Most of the online feedback you’ll receive from customers (if you get any at all) will be negative and likely not an accurate reflection of your customers’ satisfaction overall. That’s because some people have a tendency, when they’re disappointed or upset over what they see as lackluster service or a faulty product, to seek attention through posting scathing online reviews, seeking a chance to vent or hoping, perhaps unreasonably, for redress or compensation. Meanwhile, customers who are pleased with how a business has treated them may walk away after a handshake and a smile, feeling that the transaction is now complete and that there’s no need to give it an afterlife.
With this in mind, it’s good to know that with some helpful guidance, you can inspire your customers to write online reviews and make sure that they will understand how to utilize different online forums for posting feedback. And you can be confident that this will raise the profile and the visibility of your business.
Google, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are all places where you can direct customers to write reviews. (Yelp strongly discourages businesses from soliciting feedback, and claims that their recommendation software actively targets reviews obtained in this way, so it’s best to let customers use that one on their own.)
Getting a lot of positive reviews on Google is a great place to start, especially if your business is one with a fixed location that comes up when potential customers search for “[your type of business] near me.” The best way to illustrate this is to take a look at what comes up when you use Google to search for a business such as “Triple Canopy Media.” Here is a screenshot of that search:
Google will display vital featured details about the business as long as that business has set up a Google My Business profile. (If you haven’t created a Google My Business profile, you should do so right away—it’s free! You can start the process here.) Notice that the most prominent pieces of information about the business, after the name and photos, are the reviews. Not to boast, but notice also that Triple Canopy Media has a 5-star rating based on nineteen reviews.
Triple Canopy Media obtained the bulk of these reviews within a period of six weeks as part of a deliberate front-loading outreach campaign. TCM actively solicited reviews from customers during this time period. These results demonstrate the ability of a business to generate positive online buzz relatively quickly by making a conscious effort to do so. Of course, getting positive feedback from customers should be an ongoing process for any business, and one that you, as the owner, might even want to delegate to a particular member of your staff, just to make sure that someone has the responsibility for it and that it will always be done. But it is essential that you start strong, since more positive reviews leads to more customers and a larger customer pool leads to more potential positive reviews and so on.
It’s important to remember that prospective customers often base their decision-making not just on the quality of the reviews they see but the combination of the quality and the number of reviews a business has. For instance, one 5-star review is not likely to have as great a positive impact on a potential customer as fifteen reviews that average out to a rating of 4.2 stars. The larger the number of people who have had a positive experience, the better.
The main thing that you need to do to make sure that you get reviews on Google (or elsewhere) is to ask for them! And if customers don’t know how to write reviews on Google, then go ahead and show them. And if they forget, then feel free to give them gentle reminders to do so.
Facebook has more than two billion monthly active users, so chances are, nearly all of your customers will have profiles there and many of them likely already spend time there every day. This makes asking for a review on Facebook relatively easy. Of course, if your business doesn’t have its own Facebook page, then your customers can’t find it and write reviews, so creating one should be a priority for you. Get started here. Once that’s accomplished, you can promote your business on Facebook by doing all of the things that you would do on your personal Facebook page: post status updates, announce upcoming events, and share relevant photos and videos. Then you can reach out to your customers and ask them to give you feedback. This is pretty straightforward, but if any of them need a helpful how-to, you can direct them to this short Facebook article. For your reference, here is a screenshot of some of the reviews on the Triple Canopy Media Facebook page:
Finally, there’s the Better Business Bureau, which has the most formal set of procedures for both business owners and reviewers. Businesses that wish to gain accreditation from the BBB must apply for it and meet certain eligibility requirements, such as being in existence for at least six months, and being fully licensed and bonded wherever they operate, among several others. You can learn more and start the process here. For your customers, sharing feedback here can be a bit more involved, in that the BBB vets reviews and may reach out to those who write them to prove that they interacted with the company they’re reviewing. You can help your customers out by sending them to this page showing them the steps they can take to write a BBB review for you. And, again, for reference, here is the portion of the BBB Triple Canopy Media page that showcases customer reviews:
Regardless of which of these forums you or your customers choose to emphasize the most, your constant vigilance is essential. You should not stop at simply asking and reminding customers for online customer reviews. You should also make sure to monitor the online customer reviews that you get and do your best to mitigate the potential damage that any negative feedback might bring to your business. This may mean having to endure the task of responding to these reviews so that they don’t just hang out online as the definitive word on how you do business.
You can find a detailed summary of how to deal with several types of negative reviews here, but it’s best to approach them in the same cool-headed manner you would use to deescalate any disagreement in real life. You should own up to and apologize for mistakes that your business actually did make. Feel free to tell your side of the story, but stick to the facts—don’t let your emotions do the talking. Finally, show that you have worked to ensure that the circumstances that brought about the negative review have been addressed so that no future customer will have an experience like the disappointed one who left the online customer review review.
Remember that the power to shape the online story for your business lies largely in your hands. Treat your customers well, and they will give you some positive feedback. Ask them to do it, show them how, and then keep reminding them, and they will give you even more.