Day in and day out, you’re churning out terrific work for seemingly appreciative customers. You have no shortage of confidence in the quality of your services. So how come your online presence doesn’t reflect that? Why aren’t your company’s customer reviews pages brimming with five-star ratings? Unfortunately, it’s not enough to perform dependable dryer repairs or to install central air systems flawlessly. You also have to get the word out about your satisfying work. That’s why getting online customer reviews for your company is now a critical part of promoting your business. When prospective customers find your company online, they want to see how previous customers fared before they make an investment. As David Streitfeld of the New York Times wrote in a recent article, “If you provide a service or sell a product and you are not reviewed, you might as well not exist.” It’s simple: If you want to attract more customers, you need to get more customer reviews. Here’s how.
1. Make it as easy as possible.
Most people are short on time and patience, so make it as convenient as possible for them to leave you a review. After all, they’re doing you a favor. Don’t make them search high and low for your Google+ listing or Facebook page. Instead, there are a few ways to streamline this process for your customers:
- Use an on-page feedback feature (like the Prospect Genius one!). Chances are, your customers are already familiar with your company website, so they’ll be able to visit your page, submit a review, and disseminate it to other review sites in a few simple steps—all without having to navigate away from your page.
- Add a QR code or shortened URL to your business card and other handouts. Customers can use their smartphone to scan the code, sending them straight to your website or Google+ listing. This removes the steps they would normally take to type your URL or find your listing elsewhere. Alternatively, if you use a shortened URL (from bit.ly, for example), they’ll be able to type it into their navigation bar without much confusion.
- Send an e-mail with direct links to your preferred platforms (e.g. Facebook, Yelp, Citysearch). When you send a follow-up e-mail to a customer to ask how their experience with you went, include a link to one or more of your business listings. This way, the links are already provided, and all the customer has to do is click their mouse to get to a review page. Plus, if you want, you get to influence where the reviews are posted.
2. Ask directly.
Most customers aren’t going to take the initiative on their own, so if you want a review from them, you’ll have to ask. You can call them, e-mail them, ask in person, or even put a reminder at the bottom of their invoice. This can all be done once the job or transaction is complete. However, many business owners have actually seen an increase in reviews by asking for a review before the job even starts. For instance, if you’re an appliance repairman, you could say to the customer, “If you’re happy with our work at the end of the day, would you mind reviewing us on Facebook?” With the idea in their head early on, they’ll be more likely to pay attention to your work and write a more thorough review. Bonus: Directly asking for reviews also emphasizes your concern for customer satisfaction. When you call or e-mail a customer to see how their experience was, it shows that you care about them even after they’ve paid you. This helps to ensure repeat customers.
3. Act quickly.
A customer is most likely to write you a review when the experience is fresh in their memory. If you wait even a couple of weeks after the house cleaning, car stereo installation, or gutter repair is complete, your customer might have already forgotten important details about the experience and therefore be reluctant to leave a review. Capitalize on their initial impressions and how they feel about the finished product before their enthusiasm wanes.
4. Offer incentives.
This tactic is pretty divisive, as many review sites forbid giving rewards or special treatment to customers who leave reviews. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even Google all explicitly stipulate in their terms and conditions that they want honest, unbiased reviews that are free from any conflict of interest. However, a major conflict of interest only seems likely if there’s a massive contest, prize, or future discount on the line. We recommend staying away from lavish incentives like that. Instead, you might consider offering a small, $5 coupon to the local coffee shop in return for a review (no matter what the review’s content). This gesture is enough to show that you value their feedback without it coming across as a bribe.
Two important notes when soliciting reviews:
- Don’t ask customers to create new accounts (especially on Yelp) just to leave a review for you. Strict spam filters will peg the first few reviews from a brand-new account as spam until the user proves his or her legitimacy. In the meantime, their positive review of your company will probably be filtered out, rendering it invisible to others visiting your page. In short, it will be a waste of a good review.
- Spread your reviews around. Don’t ask all of your customers to review you on Facebook, as that will leave your Yelp or Google+ listing totally useless to prospects who prefer those sites. Moreover, if you rely solely on one site, that leaves you completely at the mercy of that site. If there are any guideline changes or technical glitches, your listing could be ruined. So instead, give your customers options of where they can review you. Chances are, the reviews will stay pretty evenly distributed on their own. But if you do notice that one of your listings has significantly more reviews than the others, you can always stop asking for reviews on that particular site and let them pile up elsewhere.
Getting reviews isn’t easy, even when you’re consistently providing stellar customer service and results. But by using these fundamentals, you’ll be able to slowly and steadily pull in the quality customer reviews you want.