Small business owners understand that great customer service is essential for the longevity of your business. In fact, if you’re like most business owners, you’ve spent decades working long hours and with small budgets to build a stellar reputation in your community.
Nothing can reinforce your reputation more than your clients and customers. And yet, just one negative or “bad” online review can damage the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build and even worse, drive business elsewhere.
The Five Star Value
Reviews left on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Amazon, and on referral sites like Angie’s List really matter – now more than ever before. In fact, a recent study by BrightLocal on the importance of consumer reviews showed that 90 percent of participants use online reviews to determine the quality of the business.
It’s now very easy for customers to share their experiences online. And because people are more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one, it’s imperative for business owners to not only have a way to generate positive reviews, but to have a plan in place to deal with the bad ones.
Reputation isn’t the only thing at stake. Reviews are an integral part of search engine optimization (SEO), can be used to gain insight into your client’s needs, and can help build customer engagement and loyalty.
The Google connection. Customer reviews can indeed influence your rankings in local search engines and influence click-through-rates that ultimately lead to more (or less) conversions. They’re also critical in building “citations.” Simply put, the more your company name and website is mentioned, the more opportunities you have to rank higher in searches.
Know what your customers want. Reviews give you a bird’s eye view of what your clients and customers really value. Take criticisms constructively to build a better business and customer loyalty.
Increase credibility. According to Bazaarvoice.com, businesses with online reviews have an 82% better chance at converting customers. Having presence in online builds business credibility and gives your customers an added sense of confidence and trust knowing that you value your customer’s opinion and feedback.
How to Get More Online Reviews
Before we talk about the best practices to get more reviews, lets talk about what you shouldn’t do.
Do not enlist your friends and family to write positive reviews of your business. Review sites are getting savvy and can often spot when reviews aren’t the real deal. This usually happens when a business gets multiple positive, five-star reviews suddenly. Sites like Yelp will usually flag these reviews, or hide them from visitors.
Do not pay for reviews. Have you ever read hundreds of positive reviews that all say essentially the same thing on Amazon.com? This usually happens when a business gets people to review their product in exchange for a small payment once they send them a free sample of their product. This is regarded as bad practice, or “black hat” by Google, Amazon and other major sites.
Do not offer incentives or rewards to your employees for generating positive reviews. This is a tough one. Up until recently, it wasn’t considered that bad to give an employee, say, ten bucks, for every customer review they could get. But that’s changed.
Here’s how to get more online reviews for your business
Create a review page on your website. Your website should include links to review sites including Angie’s List, Yelp, Google, and other social sites where you have a presence including Facebook and Houzz.
Even better: Have a webpage dedicated to garnering reviews with links to review sites as well as a selection of positive reviews written by happy customers.
You can still (and should) get your employees involved. Depending on your business, you could have your employees hand out a small review card with the invoice or receipt. The form can include the URL to your website’s review page as well as a short questionnaire and/or space for a longer review that the customer can either email to your or send in the mail.
You could also send your clients an email asking them to give your business a positive review on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other online review sites. Make sure your email is designed so that it takes only a few minutes tops for them to complete the task.
Use social media. A simple request for reviews on your company Facebook page can go a long way. Ask for a Facebook review, or include a link to your Yelp page, for example.
Consider a review service. ReviewBuzz and Testimonial Tree, two of the most popular review services, collect testimonials from your customers, allows them to share their reviews socially, and lets you to share the reviews on your website and social networks.
Pros: You get a service that does all the work for you. Cons: Services can get pricy. A monthly plan with Testimonial Tree, for example, costs about $300/month.
Online Reviews: Tips from the Experts
Address negative reviews quickly – and kindly. Blame it on human nature: 81% of us are apt share a negative experience with family and friends, and 35% of us will do it online.
The good news is that you can turn the tables in your favor – if you act fast. When a client posts a negative review about your company online, respond to the courteously and kindly. Avoid sending a general response, or worse, a form letter. Instead, make it personal. Let the customer know you have made steps to ensure their issue will not happen in the future.
Document your reviews. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of your reviews (unless you use a review service that will do this for you). Include the name of the reviewer, source of the review, date of the review, the review itself, and what actions (if any) were taken. Schedule time every week to go over your customer reviews to identify pain points and areas of improvement.
Use Positive Reviews. You know that glowing review you got from a client who loved your work? Use it! Positive reviews have high mileage. After all, it’s one thing for you to say you offer a great product or service – and it’s another thing for your clients and customers to say it.