It can be difficult for businesses to obtain a substantial number of positive reviews, unless they are part of the food or hospitality industries. Consumers don’t usually review their car rental agency, gym, landscaper or many other types of businesses that they interact with on a regular basis, unless something went wrong and they are unhappy. In fact, we speak with companies on a daily basis who do great work and have an outstanding real-world reputation, but their negative online reviews outweigh their positive ones. This disparity between online and offline reputation can be very frustrating for many business owners. So what should a general manager or business owner when they are faced with this particular situation?
They should ask their happy and satisfied customers for reviews.
You can get the review balance to swing back into your favor by getting your happy customers to become your advocates online. Below I will be sharing some tests you can run, best practices and tips for getting more positive reviews. First of all, you might be wondering if asking for reviews okay. The answer from Google is a definite “yes.” Yelp, on the other hand, has published conflicting statements on whether it is acceptable to ask your customers for reviews or not. I directly asked Yelp and what they told me was that asking for reviews was okay as long as there wasn’t any incentivizing. You will need to check the guidelines and terms of service for any other review sites. So let’s dive right in, now that we have covered that.
The gold standard: Ask in person
Asking for reviews in person is the absolute best way to get them. This is very effective, especially if the person making the request has spent lots of time with a customer. In our experience, asking for reviews in person can get you seven or eight times more reviews compared to asking for them in an email. For example, let’s look at a furniture store. A sales associate may spend an hour or even longer assisting a customer with picking out and customizing the perfect couch for their house. Over the course of this time they will get to know one another, talking about their families, where they are from, and so forth. A bond starts to form between them during the time they spend together.
Following the sale, the sales associate is the best person to ask for a review. The associate can explain to their customer that it assists other customers who are doing research and provides them with a true perspective on what the business is all about.
If you are considering asking your customers for reviews, you should first be attempting to figure out where their touch points are and who from your company builds the closest relationships with customers. That is the individual who should ask for reviews.
This is a review growth hack that really can work well in certain industries. This strategy involves someone who has spent lots of time with a customer before asking for a review, and then adds that if my first name is included in your review I will get a $10 tip from the company. This sweetener will give an extra incentive to a customer to post an online review, especially if the person had a positive experience. In our experience this particular strategy works the best with services that are provided inside and around a customer’s home. It includes movers, exterminators and landscapers. These service providers work very hard, and sometimes people want to give them a tip for the work they do. This strategy provides a free way for customers to tip somebody who does a good job for them. For some companies, it can dramatically increase how many reviews they have coming in.
Ask via email
It is trickier to ask reviews in an email. In some cases you won’t have much or any in person time with customers. Your only option in those cases might be email. If you are going to use email to ask for reviews, we highly encourage that you use an internal survey to pre-screen customers first before you follow up with another email and ask them for a review. Although it might sound like cheating, it really isn’t any different from how you would approach the matter in person. If a person is clearly upset, you aren’t going to ask them to write an online review. This same kind of logic can be applied to an internal survey that you conduct.
For your email request letter, here are some best practices for you to follow:
- Your email should be sent from a real individual’s email address (It is even better if it can come from someone’s name they would recognize, like somebody they worked with).
- The email should written in the form of a personal request from this individual.
- Include a very clear call-to-action button or link. Remove any random website footer or social media links – you should just just one goal, like any other conversion rate optimization, which in this case is to get the user to click on your review button.
- Test using an HTML email versus a plain-text email.
- Test various subject lines: Using the individual’s name within the subject usually works really well. However, in some cases it can fall completely flat.
- Test various email copy to find out which one performs the best for you.
Like any other good campaign, you need to test everything until you are achieving the best possible conversion-to-review rate (not just best open rate). Asking in person will almost always outperform email. However, it can still be effective.
An organizational initiative
In our experience reviews have a tendency to slowly trickle in until they becomes an organizational initiative to get them, rather than just a side project that marketing works on. The best strategies for making sure that reviews are a priority for the entire organization include the following:
- It should be a top-down focus to get better reviews; their importance needs to be communicated by executives.
- To get organizational buy-in, help employees understand the importance that reviews have in terms of the direct impact they make on your business.
- Train key employees on how to request reviews from customers.
- Develop a scorecard for tracking your reviews by locations.
- Provide awards and bonuses for the locations that get the best online reviews.
You can start regaining power by just asking for reviews. Many business owners think there isn’t anything they do and simply throw up their hands. However, the opposite is true, as you have seen here. You don’t need to have any special technology or tools to ask for reviews. You just need to be committed to see the process through. Use the above strategy to help you fight against the potentially damaging phenomena that so many businesses face of only getting negative online reviews.