Getting Online Customer Reviews
by Jo Shaer, on November 1, 2012
Current thinking says that it is extremely important to get positive online feedback in the local listing directories, on your Google Places Page and on your website.
However, when I tell my clients that they need to ask for reviews, the majority will become very sheepish and try to sidestep the issue. The plain fact is that the British don't like asking to be recommended in that way. It's not good form. They're quite happy for customers to talk amongst themselves and say good things but they don't want to put themselves in the physical situation of having to ask for a testimonial.
In the past, one of the most common ways of getting feedback from a customer was to offer some form of incentive. Just as opt-ins on websites try to solicit email addresses for a database give the chance to download a free report or gift, the advice was to offer a discount off their next treatment or job in return for a review. However, some of the local listing directories, rather naturally, looked askance at such behaviour and, indeed, Yelp's algorithm seemed to be weighted towards negative testimonials as a result.
So, in an attempt to circumvent the problem, some companies were formed which ran special lotteries on behalf of businesses - when a job was completed, the business handed the customer a branded postcard which allowed them to leave some feedback and then post the card back to the hosting company's central base where it would be entered into a draw and reviewers stood a chance of winning a prize. The review was then posted onto a variety of local listing directories by the hosting company.
However, recently, one of my favourite Local SEO gurus,Andrew Shotland, wrote that he reckons incentivising is actually a bad idea because any really happy customers will do it for nothing and so, if you start paying them, they could become turned off and, if it gets out that you effectively pay for reviews, devalues those that have been given.
Apparently, it's far better to send a follow up or thank you email to happy customers as soon as a job is completed and provide them with easy options to give feedback. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to get a review. Follow up the initial request with a reminder a few days later as these can improve your conversion rate.
And if you ask the customer directly as a personal favour and explain the reason why they are so necessary today. Providing you make it easy for the customer to leave that review without having to log in or overcome any other difficulty, they are more likely to respond. Sadly, I am reminded of an on-line discussion with the customer services department of one of my suppliers recently where, after a long exchange during which he insisted that my problem was all my fault and cast aspersions upon my integrity, he then proceeded to ask me to give him a glowing review on his employers' forum... Had my problem been resolved in a more satisfactory and less churlish manner, then I might well have been persuaded to do so but not under those circumstances.
Of course, where there is demand, a service provider will appear and there are already companies offering to make leaving reviews easy for the customers of their client's business - for a fee.
One recent article also talked about the importance of acknowledging positive reviews with a thank you.