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Online reviews are vital for businesses who want to have a healthy online reputation. If you’re not yet convinced, you can catch up with our recent blog where we shared a few reasons why reviews can make or break your business. Knowing they’re important is the first step, the next is to start actively managing online reviews and your business’ reputation.

Many of the online reviews that businesses have are organic – meaning that customers decided on their own to leave one. But a study showed that 68% of consumers left a review for a local business when asked. The secret to requesting reviews is all in the way that you ask – its about requesting 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 business 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 the big three – Google, Facebook & Yelp

Before you start asking, you’ll want to be sure your business is set up properly on the most important review sites – the big three. If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, check out our recent blog post where you can learn everything you need to know about claiming, owning and managing reviews on Google My Business, Facebook and Yelp. Once you have your business set up in those spaces you can start inviting customer feedback there.

Know when, where and 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 really 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 our 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. For this 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 reviews listings are easy to find. It may feel risky—but it’s worth it.

Getting feedback from all of your customers (happy and not-so-much) not only offers valuable insights to you about your business but having that balance can actually help your online reputation. Consumers are actually less likely to trust a business who has a 5-star average on any of the major review sites.

Having only great reviews simply isn’t realistic. When it comes down it, no business is universally liked be everyone; we all have different likes, dislikes and needs. Part of what people look for when reading reviews is whether or not they relate to the individual reviewers– knowing that they will not relate to everyone.

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. If you haven’t been collecting their information, here are a few tried and true ways to start building your contact database:

  • Ask when they call – When a customer calls for an appointment, reservation or even a question, this is a great time to ask for 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.”
  • Enhance your contact form if you don’t already have a contact form on your website, you absolutely should get one. Once you do, expand beyond the typical name, email and question format and add a field for phone number or even mailing address.
  • Collect business cards This is something brick and mortar businesses can do at their location. This can be as simple as a jar with a “join our mailing list” sign, but for great results incentivize the card drop with a contest or special promotion.

Once you have emails and phone numbers the rest is easy! There are great tools out there that can help you automate the review generation process and help you to manage and respond to new reviews. Learn more about how Vivial’s marketing platform – including our review tools! – can help you maximize your business’ online reputation.

Getting reviews is just the beginning – what you do with them is just as important

When you’re ready to begin generating reviews, make sure that you’re also ready to respond to them. How you handle online reviews is just as important as getting them in the first place. Every negative review is a chance for your business to demonstrate how graciously you treat your unhappy customers and work with them towards solutions to their concerns or complaints. Great responses to negative reviews can help you build back trust that the negative review chipped away at.

For more on how to respond to reviews, how to generate them and everything else you need to know about online reviews be sure to tune into our free webinar: Your 5-Star Guide to Reviews on June 13. Our panel will be discussing all of the above plus we will include free downloads and you’ll have your chance to ask your burning questions during our live Q&A.