Most local business owners know that online reviews are vital for businesses that want to have a healthy online reputation. But just knowing they’re important isn’t enough. You must actively manage your online reviews and your business’ reputation to get the true benefit.

If you’re still not convinced, you can catch up in a blog we shared with a few reasons why reviews can make or break your business.

Many of the online reviews that businesses have are organic – meaning that customers decided on their own to leave one. However, one of the best ways to ensure a steady flow of new reviews is simply asking your customers for them.

Sound crazy? A recent study showed that 72% of consumers left a review for a local business when asked.

Many of you may be thinking, “how do I ask my customers without sounding like I’m begging for good reviews?” We will let you in on a little secret. It’s all about how you ask – requesting feedback.

Requesting Customer Feedback

Asking for feedback is inherently different than asking a customer to go online and say great things about your business. Asking for feedback means that their opinion matters, that they are being heard – it’s a subtle yet important validation that they (and their business) truly are valued.

That kind of reputation – one that puts the customer first – is what most businesses strive to have!

Actively generating reviews by inviting public customer feedback is one of the best ways to get the word out about how great your business is. So, we’ve put together a few tips to get your review generation underway.

Get Your Business Set Up on Major Review Sites

Before you start asking, you’ll want to be sure your business is set up properly on the most important review sites, for example, Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Once you have your business set up in those spaces, you can begin requesting customer feedback on those sites.

Know When, Where & How to Ask for Feedback

Asking for reviews is something that can easily go awry. Done without appropriate timing, an understanding of context, awareness, and a healthy dose of tact, it can too easily morph into pandering. No one wants to be pandered – you’re far more likely to get an eye roll than a great review.

The good news is, there are great times to ask for feedback from customers, and you’re already experiencing them. Any positive, unsolicited customer feedback that is casually exchanged in your normal conversations is an opportunity!

Here is an example:

A customer purchasing a cup of coffee says, “Thank you so much! I look forward to this every morning; it really gets me through the day!”

That’s your window to say, “We are so glad to hear that our coffee can help make your morning great! If you’re up for it, we would love to invite you to share that as an online review. That kind of feedback helps us get the word out to other potential customers.”

In situations like that one – when the timing and mood are right – you’re very likely to get the review.

Once they agree, the next step is to make sure there is an easy way for them to get to your online review listings. Making it easy for your happy customers to find your review listings means making it easy for unhappy ones too, but that’s the best way to do it.

Don’t Just Ask Your Happy Customers for Reviews – Yes, Really!

Asking for reviews from happy customers is a great strategy for improving your star ratings over time, but it doesn’t fully honor the real mission here – generating customer feedback. To truly work, it should be inclusive of all of your customers; feedback should come from everyone. And while you may not encourage unhappy customers to leave a review, you should ensure that links to your review listings are easy to find. It may feel risky—but it’s worth it.

Plus, it offers a great opportunity for you to highlight your excellent customer service. Anytime a negative review comes in, make sure you respond. Acknowledge their frustration and use it as an opportunity to resolve any issues.

Streamline the Process With Tools to Help Automate and Manage

We’ve already covered how you can work review requests into conversations with your customers and the importance of having your online review links readily visible, but what else can you do to save time and effort?

If you have contact information for your customers, then you’re off to a great start. And if you haven’t been collecting information on your customers, here are a few tried and true ways to start building your contact database:

  1. Ask When They Call – When a customer calls for an appointment, reservation or ask a question, it is a great time to request their email and phone number. It can be part of the confirmation or even just something you ask for at the beginning “in case you are disconnected.”
  2. Enhance Your Contact Form– If you don’t already have a contact form on your website, you should get one. Once you do, expand beyond the typical name, email, and question format and add a field for their phone number or mailing address.
  3. Collect Business Cards– This is a great option for brick and mortar businesses to do at their location(s). It can be as simple as a jar with a “join our mailing list” sign, but incentivizing them to drop in a card with a contest or special promotion will get you the best results.

Once you have emails and phone numbers, the rest is easy! There are various tools out there like the Vivial Marketing Platform that can automate the review generation process and help you manage and respond to new reviews.

 

Would you like help creating a review generation and management strategy? Contact one of our Digital Marketing Experts today!