Every business owner knows customer reviews and testimonials are critical to your success.
And now with the rise of online reviews on sites like Yelp and Google Places, it has become essential for every business to actively collect online reviews to stay competitive.
It’s not enough to have your business listed when potential customers are searching for your products and services. Customers are seeking out the BEST businesses by reading and comparing online reviews.
So how do you get tons of happy customer reviews month after month? First, let’s talk about when to ask for the review.
When To Ask For Reviews
This may sound obvious, but the best strategy is to ask for the review when your customer is happy with you. Timing is key and it’s different depending on the type of business you’re in.
For example, if you’re a veterinarian and your client’s pet is sick, then the best time to ask for a review is immediately after you help the sick pet. Depending on the pet’s illness, you may “fix” the pet in the office in which case you should ask for the review before the client leaves. Or it may take several weeks for the pet to fully recover so you should ask for the review during a follow up visit.
If you’re providing excellent products or services, then you’ll notice when your customers are most happy because they’ll tell you. Make a note when this happens and then make sure your staff is trained to ask for the review.
That’s step one and it’s really the easy part. Step two gets tricky because you need to get the customer to actually review you online. That’s a tall order.
You’re asking your customer to go to a computer, look up your business in one of the many local business directories, possibly register for the website, type up a review, and in many cases confirm the review by clicking on a link in an email.
So how do you overcome this hurdle?
Make Reviews a Priority
First, it goes without saying it’s completely unethical to post fake reviews online. Many business directories now have the ability to detect this and ban your business so it’s just not worth it. No reviews are better than fake reviews.
The first step to getting tons of happy customer reviews is to incentivize your staff to get reviews. Once you know when to ask, it’s critical that you and your staff actually ask for the review.
This can’t be a sometimes thing. You need to create a culture within your business around customer satisfaction and make it a priority to obtain reviews. It’s that important if you want to be competitive online.
This can be as simple as giving a monetary bonus or small gift to your staff for a certain number of reviews. You’ll quickly see a return on this small investment because:
- Your local business listing rankings will improve so you get more exposure in search engines (Google incorporates reviews into their algorithm to rank business listings).
- More prospects will contact you because they trust businesses with lots real reviews. If your business has more reviews, then you’ll typically get a better response rate than your competitors with less reviews.
- Prospects will be pre-sold on your products and services so your sales cycle will be shortened. Online reviews are like a collection of referrals for your business, which can make the sales process easier or even unnecessary.
Now that you’ve made reviews a priority in your business it’s time to talk about how to actually get them.
How to Get Reviews
This step is unfortunately not easy. As I mentioned before, you need to get the customer to take time out of her day to go online and actually type in a review. For most businesses, this is not going to happen by itself so you need to be proactive.
Here are a couple of tricks I recommend:
- Offer a small gift in exchange for the online review
- Get the review “offline” and then have a 3rd party enter the review online
If you’re going to offer a gift, then you need to be extremely careful. You don’t want customers to think you’re bribing people for positive reviews because word will spread quickly online. That’s the ultimate backfire and it could ruin your reputation online.
One of the best gifts you can offer is a future discount on one of your products or services. This works well because your customer is giving you a positive review because she wants to do business with you again.
You’re not getting reviews because your customers want a cool gift like an iPad. That’s called a bribe and it really undermines the entire review system so I do not recommend that strategy.
The 2nd trick I mentioned is definitely the easiest and the one we recommend to our clients.
Here’s how it works:
- Give your customers a review card to fill out in person or mail it to them. Again, this depends on when your customers are most happy with you.
- The customer hand writes a review on the card. This as simple as it gets and doesn’t require internet access.
- The customer then either hands you the card in person or mails the pre-stamped and addressed card to a 3rd party processing center.
- The processing center posts the review in all of the major business directories.
That’s it! With this strategy you are making it as easy as humanly possible for your customers to provide online reviews.
If you have any questions about how to get customer reviews for your particular business, post them below as comments.
PS. Getting happy customers reviews is a critical component of ranking #1 in the local search engine results (e.g. Google Places). If you’d like to know how to rank at the top of Google, watch this free video.