Editor’s note: This article is part of a featured series that tackles the basics of reputation management. In our Reputation Management 101 series, you’ll learn about basic (but important) concepts, tasks, and tips for reputation management. Each post will include actionable advice and realistic ideas that you can use — today — to improve your online reputation. Join us as we explore reputation management resources that everyone should know!
Businesses today need great reviews to survive. Yes, really. Let’s look at the numbers:
- 88% of consumers read online reviews to determine business quality
- Positive reviews make 72% of consumers trust a business more
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 76% of consumers use online reviews to choose which local businesses to use
- Generation Y shoppers will not make purchases without review feedback for major electronics (44%), cars (40%), hotels (39%) and other items
It’s clear that consumers are reading reviews, trusting them deeply, and in some cases, base much of their purchasing decisions on what other people have to say about your business. Your business needs great reviews. But how can you get them?
Getting great reviews means establishing a positive presence on review sites. You’ll need to get started with a profile if you don’t have one already, earn positive reviews, ask for them, and keep the conversation going in a friendly way that reflects well on your business. We’ve outlined the eight important steps you’ll need to take to develop a strong, positive presence on review sites and earn a great reputation with good reviews.
Identify Review Sites That Fit Your Business
There are hundreds of different review sites available online, and while you should be sure to sign up for the ones that are valuable to your business, that doesn’t mean you should hit them all. Choose the websites that fit your industry, the ones your customers are most likely to use, and ones where you know you can develop a positive, active presence.
Being selective means you’ll be able to devote more attention to each individual review site. You can build your profile properly with photos, company information, directions, and other details that really look good. Plus, you can spend your time responding to positive and negative reviews on a handful of targeted review sites instead of tracking down reviews here and there all over the web. And by narrowing your review sites down to just a few, you can collect all of your reviews in a few spots where together, they’ll make more of an impression on potential customers.
Popular online review websites include:
You may also be interested in niche industry review websites such as TripAdvisor, HealthGrades.com, or WeddingWire. Find out which review websites are popular in your industry and get an account started.
Start Your Online Review Profiles
Just getting an account for your business on a review site is not enough. You’ll need to get set up with a complete profile. Developing a strong profile with photos, business details, and other information is not only useful for people who are seeking information about your business, it sends a strong message that you’re active and interested in what customers have to say. Some experts believe that review websites may favor businesses with complete profiles as well.
Be sure that your online review profile includes details such as:
- Photos of your business and/or products
- Website address
- Social media accounts
- Direct contact information
- Hours of operation
- Address and/or directions
- Parking information
- Price range
- Menus, if applicable
Tip: Check to see if customers have already left reviews for you. If that’s the case, you may just need to claim your profile and fill it out.
Earn Great Reviews
Getting a profile is the easy part; actually doing something to earn great reviews for your profile is significantly harder. But in order to get great reviews, you’ll have to give customers a reason to share their positive impressions of your business. Bottom line, you’ll have to deliver great customer service that gets people talking.
- Ask customers what they like about your business: First things first, find out what you’re doing right. Ask your most loyal customers why they keep coming back — and make sure that you’re giving every customer the same treatment that your regulars love.
- Find out your shortcomings: Take the good news with the bad, and find out how customers would like to see you improve. It’s not always easy to hear what you’re doing wrong, but finding out can help you deliver better service, have happier customers, and earn better reviews.
- Rely on basic customer service principles: Be helpful, friendly, and consistent, offering customers what they need without hassle or frustration.
Ask for Reviews
Unfortunately, a review profile and great service doesn’t always add up to a mountain of perfect five star reviews overnight. In fact, that almost never happens. The unfortunate truth is that unless there’s something wrong, customers often won’t seek out opportunities to leave you a review, and that’s bad news if you’re trying to develop a positive online reputation.
If you want positive reviews, chances are you’re going to have to ask for them. And while it may feel a little awkward asking customers what they think of you, the positive feedback happy customers will leave is incredibly valuable, showing potential customers that they can trust you with their business.
Try these methods for encouraging positive reviews:
- Ask for feedback right away: Reviews are the most positive immediately after your transaction, so it’s a good idea to request feedback right away. Don’t ask months after you’re done and your customer has forgotten details. Ask for reviews as soon as you can so that they can leave detailed positive feedback while they’re still excited about your business.
- Identify your strongest customers: You know your core base of customers who come back regularly and keep your business healthy. They’re your brand ambassadors, and they’re likely to leave the most positive reviews — go ahead and pick that low hanging fruit to get a healthy collection of reviews established.
- Take your time: It’s hard to slow down and be patient, especially when you’re ready to establish a long list of great reviews for your profile. But be careful: many sites, including Yelp, will filter your reviews if you have too many come in within a short period of time. Their algorithms idenfity a mass influx of reviews as suspicious, and this may lead to having legitimate positive reviews hidden. Aim for just a few positive reviews per month, not several in one week.
- Show off past reviews: Let customers know you’re listening, and you’re proud of the positive feedback you’ve received by actually displaying reviews you’ve received online. This not only lets customers know that you have an active review profile where they can contribute, it tells them you’re listening and will be likely to take their feedback seriously.
- Create a handout: If you’re working on a review campaign, design a useful handout that shows customers where they can contribute their reviews.
- Provide calls to action on receipts, invoices, and emails: You can ask customers directly for reviews, but why not let your business communications do it for you? Add a call to action to your receipts and invoices requesting reviews on a particular website, and add links to your review profiles on email communications, newsletters, and order updates.
- Don’t bribe for good reviews: While it’s not a problem to offer incentives for customers who leave a review, make sure that the reward is the same whether the feedback is positive or negative. Some review websites punish businesses that incentivize in this way, and even when it’s not against the rules, bribing customers in this way is bad for business. Instead, ask customers for their honest review, good or bad, and let them know you’re listening.
- Make review requests a part of your sales process: The best way to get reviews is to consistently ask every customer for them. Incorporate review requests into your business routine, whether that means sending out an email after the job is done, adding a call to action to receipts, or directly contacting customers to ask for reviews.
- Say thank you for reviews: If you’ve received a particularly positive review, don’t be shy about saying thanks. Post a link to the review on your business Facebook or Twitter to acknowledge, share, and say thanks for the positive feedback.
Make it Easy for Customers to Leave a Review
Customers with a bone to pick will make it a point to find out how to leave a review for your company, but those that are just interested in leaving a casual review may not try as hard. Make it easy and simple for every customer to find out how to leave a review for you online, happy or negative.
- Place stickers for review websites on your front door or cash register
- Share links to your review profiles on your website, social media, emails, and newsletters
- Ask directly for their feedback
- Add reviews to your website so customers see where they can find you
- Place a feedback form on your website
Keep Communication Open
Online reviews are just another part of customer communication. And as a very public conversation about your business, you need to do your part to continue the conversation. Read and respond to every review, both positive and negative. Being responsive shows customers that you’re listening, and that you care. Plus, many review site algorithms tend to rank businesses higher if they actively manage and respond to reviews.
- Thank customers for their feedback: Always point out that you appreciate their thoughts and the time it took them to share their feedback. It takes effort to write a review, and the information they share can be valuable to the future of your business.
- Genuinely listen to what they have to say: Customer reviews can be incredibly insightful. Good or bad, take what they have to say to heart and consider how the information they’ve shared can positively impact your business.
- Write a sincere response: Avoid using stock responses for every review. Your customers have taken the time to write a unique review about your business — return the favor by responding individually to what they have to say.
Respond Positively to Bad Reviews
Unfortunately, even great businesses can’t make everyone happy, and bad reviews are inevatable for every business. It’s natural to feel defensive and angry, but be careful in how you react to negative reviews. Remember that they’re sharing their honest feedback with you, and that all feedback is valuable.
Respond to negative reviews with these tips in mind:
- Take a calm approach: You may feel angry and attacked, disagree with the review, or just plain not like what the reviewer has to say. But it’s important that you remain professional, calm, and polite when dealing with customers — even those who have bad things to say about you.
- Respond quickly: Don’t jump the gun and respond while you’re upset, but as soon as you’re able to craft a professional response, do it. It only hurts your business to let negative reviews stand without any intervention or response on your part.
- Get in contact with negative reviewers: Privately contact negative reviewers to try and work out the problem that led to the bad feedback. Offer a genuine apology, and an incentive to come back and try again. Find out how you can make things right, then ask them if they’d consider modifying their review.
- Genuinely consider their feedback: Even if you don’t agree with what the reviewer is saying, take it seriously. There may be some truth, even if it hurts. Are they hitting on something you should genuinely try to improve?
- Never attack the reviewer: If you don’t feel you can respond positively and professionally, just let it go. An unprofessional response to the bad review will look worse than just a negative review alone, and it may make you seem like you’re not willing to work with customers.
- Don’t threaten customers over a bad review: It should go without saying that’s it’s bad business to sue your customers over a bad review. While it is possible to sue over a bad review, it’s definitely not a good idea, and it can actually call more attention to the negative feedback than if you’d just left it alone. Be careful not to threaten customers with retaliation over a bad review — it will only come back to hurt you.
- Don’t stress out over a few bad reviews: Online reviews are a numbers game, and a few pieces of negative feedback won’t kill your business. Bad reviews are likely to be buried by good ones and should not have a serious impact. In fact, having a handful of negative reviews can make your more positive reviews seem more trustworthy, as some customers might find it hard to believe that a business has entirely positive reviews.
Never, Ever Pay for or Fake Your Online Reviews
If you’re low on positive reviews and want to get things rolling, it is certainly tempting to throw in a few fake reviews, or even pay writers to add their own positive reviews of your business. Don’t. Not only is it deceptive and unfair to your customers, it can get you into trouble with review sites and even the FTC.
Review sites have developed sophisticated algorithms designed to sniff out fake reviews. They know terms to look for, usage patterns, IP address use, and more. And if you get caught, they’ll hang you out to dry, filtering reviews and even placing public warnings on your account. If you’re caught doing serious fake reviews, you can even be sued for them or have to pay a hefty fine to the FTC.
Fake reviews just aren’t worth it. It’s never a good idea to pay others to write reviews for you, post your own positive reviews, or otherwise manipulate your own feedback or the feedback of your competitors. Play it straight and honest and earn your positive reviews the old fashioned way.
It may seem like there’s a lot involved with getting established on review sites, but the basics are really very simple:
- Sign up: Make sure you have accounts on important review websites for your industry. Complete your profiles as much as you can so that you’ll develop a strong presence even before your first review.
- Earn and ask for reviews: Deliver great customer service, then follow up by specifically requesting that your customers leave feedback — good or bad.
- Stay in touch: Be sure to thank customers for their feedback and continue the conversation with a response to every review that shows you’re interested and you care.
- Stay cool with negative reviews: Remember that negative reviews don’t have to be a big deal, and they may have useful information that helps you improve your business.
- Don’t do fake reviews: Fake or paid reviews are against the rules — and they’re just plain wrong. Avoid the temptation.