In our increasingly digital world, online reviews carry almost as much weight as personal recommendations. Potential customers want to know what kind of experience others have had with your product or service, and they have plenty of websites and mobile apps where they can find reviews.
Local businesses can really benefit from having positive online reviews. The problem is that, though your customers can leave reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook and many other places, they don’t often do so. How can you encourage online reviews and ensure that the ones you receive are positive?
1. Just ask.
Seven out of 10 people in a BrightLocal survey said they’d leave reviews for a business if they were asked to. Be careful not to offer anything in return for a review, because that’s against the terms of service for some review sites (Yelp is especially strict about this). One effective tactic: Make up a postcard-sized handout with the logos and website addresses for your profiles on the review sites you are targeting. You can give this to customers with your request so they are more likely to follow through.
You can get even better reviews if you ask your customers to answer specific questions. A prompt like, “How was our customer service? We’d love to have you share your story,” will get more detailed information than, “Please leave us a review!” You can also ask customers of a service company to explain how you saved them money or completed work on time.
Note that Yelp will often hide reviews from new users or reviews that seem to be too complimentary. They have a formula that automatically determines which reviews are filtered, and it doesn’t help to complain. Just continue to ask your customers for reviews, and eventually, good ones will be visible.
2. Enhance your profiles on review sites.
People are more likely to leave a review on a page that looks detailed and specific to your business than a generic site. Often, these reviews are left on your social media profiles, so make sure those are up to date. Include plenty of photos that can engage visitors.
You don’t need to focus on every review site, just the major ones. Independent professionals may find there are several databases out there that offer ratings for their service. The key here is to check and see if your competitors have reviews. If the site doesn’t have many users from your area, it may be safe to put it on the back burner.
Do note that review sites that promote advertising, like Yelp, are more likely to contact you once you claim your page or listing and add to it. Have a plan in place for politely managing sales calls or contacts that may result.
3. Create a plan for responding to reviews.
Even the best businesses get negative reviews from time to time, and it can be useful to respond to these in a professional manner. A brief apology, explanation of extenuating circumstances and invitation to contact a manager directly will show others reading the reviews that you care enough to correct a problem. Most review sites permit some form of response, so learn how each one works.
If people use profanity or threats in their reviews, you can contact the review company to have those removed. It may take some time, or may not happen, but it’s worth trying.
Also note that if you struggle to maintain a professional demeanor when responding to criticism, you should have an employee or friend manage this for you. Your rude or condescending response can do more damage than the initial poor review.
Online reviews can be tricky to get, but the key is to keep trying. Ask every customer if they were satisfied with your business, and request a review. And don’t forget to collect the positive reviews and feature them, when possible, on your website, so visitors can see what others are saying without needing to visit the review sites directly. Contact us for help with your online reviews, internet marketing or web presence.