Written by: Alexandra Palmer | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Everyone wants a piece of customer reviews.
Why? Because they've eclipsed nearly all other forms of influence for what we buy and don't buy, with the exception of the influences from close family, friends and topical experts. People are flocking to review sites...and with good reason.
For instance, a 2015 study by YouMoz found that online reviews affect 67.7% of purchasing decisions. More than half describe online reviews as a "fairly," "very," or "absolutely" important part of their decision-making process.
In a recent Zendesk survey, this influence was found to be even stronger, especially for positive reviews. Ninety percent of survey-takers said positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions; 86% said the same about negative reviews.
If you combine this with growing consumer distrust toward companies and their messaging, you find companies with scant options: get better at reviews or get passed up.
That's good and well, you say, but what if, even after throwing everything I have at this challenge, I only get a measly couple of reviews or none at all?
This problem is more common than you might think and it can be more than frustrating for those eager to shine in online reviews. Below is a checklist of 7 potential problems to diagnose your brand's online reviews shortage and get things back on track:
1. You don't have enough customers
Consider these stats from the aforementioned Zendesk survey:
- Of customers who have bad experiences with companies, only 35% turn to online review sites to voice their feelings.
- Only 23% of those who've had positive experiences leave online reviews
This behavior of sharing with others negative or positive customer experiences goes up somewhat when people share on social media, instead of online review sites:
- Of customers with negative experiences, 45% tell their stories on social media
- Of customers with positive experiences, 30% do the same
What does this mean? If you have a relatively small customer base, your potential number of reviews is much lower than, say, that of an automobile manufacturer or Tide laundry detergent.
Does this mean that small companies should just forget about getting online reviews? Definitely not. In fact, anecdotal evidence shows that customer reviews on sites like Yelp or Angie's List for small local businesses are even more important than they are for larger brands. What this does mean is that smaller companies need to acknowledge that online reviews are a numbers game and set their expectations accordingly.
2. Your product/service isn't review-worthy
Whether fortunately or unfortunately, this does happen. Sometimes, a product or service does not elicit powerful feelings one way or the other-not enough, anyway, to compel someone to talk about it online. Surely, no company wants to be in this category. Every brand wants to be memorable.
The problem is, as long as your customer experience is forgettable, you're going to have a really hard time getting people to post reviews about you.
When wading into the waters of online customer reviews, companies would do well to consider the possibility that their customer experience is boring. It's not infuriatingly bad. It's not mood-lifting-ly good. It's just boring. And ask some soul-piercing questions:
- Is your customer experience worth talking about?
- What is keeping it from being noteworthy?
- What changes are required at every level of your organization to make it noteworthy?
In most cases, a non-review-worthy brand is more than one marketer, social media manager, or customer service rep can fix alone-it's usually a company-wide problem and will take the entire company to resolve.
Ultimately, ensuring a great customer experience will supply you with more reviews than any other item on this list. Nellie Akalp at Mashable said it this way:
"At the end of the day, the best path to having great reviews is to offer a great product and customer experience. If you're doing all you can to create a remarkable experience for your customers, there's no reason not to remind them about the importance of sharing reviews."
3. You're not asking
If you are doing a great job in taking care of your customers, you shouldn't have to ask>/em> people to give you reviews, right? Wrong. The experts agree that most companies don't ask for reviews as much as they should.
This makes sense. Marketers have learned to tell customers what they want them to do in direct calls-to-action: "Click here." "Buy one, get one free." "Buy now."
So why not add "Leave a Review" to that list?
Jeff Motter, the CEO and CMO of East Bay Marketing Group says, "The best way to get reviews is to ask for them."
"Don't be afraid to say to clients, 'Hey, if we helped you, we'd be grateful if you let people know,'" agrees Bret Bonnet, CMO of Quality Logo Products. "They might take to Yelp themselves."
4. You're not asking the right customers
As mentioned above, not all customers are the reviewing type. So, while it's not a bad idea to put some calls-to-action out there, there are some more review-friendly customers toward whom you you might want to direct more of your energy.
Remember how the Zendesk survey revealed that customers were more likely to tell about their experiences on social media than on review sites? Well, the results of the survey painted an even more detailed picture of the most likely reviewers, for example:
- People who consumed products or services in a business context
- People from Generation X
- People who earned more than $150,000 a year
These groups were found to share nearly all of their customer experiences, good or bad, frequently on social media.
So if these demographics define your target reviewers, and the majority of reviews are happening on social media, maybe you shouldn't rely solely on CTAs on your website to get reviews. You should be inviting customers on social media-via the Facebook Reviews tab, for instance-to tell friends and family about your brand.
5. You're not asking at the right time
Timing can be everything on a review call-to-action. If you ask them to give you a review right after you've delivered their purchase late, you risk not only failing to get a review, but also making them so angry they never come back to you again.
But the opposite is also true. Right when you've successfully delivered a great experience is the ideal moment to ask customers for a review. For a restaurant, this might mean at the conclusion of a meal, right about when they are paying the bill. For a real estate agent, this would be during the euphoria that ensues after closing. For an online retailer, this would be at the moment the customer's order arrives on their doorstep.
Megan Mosley from Referral Rock says, "There is a sweet spot when it comes to asking for a review. Actually a couple of good opportunities. The most obvious is asking post-purchase, as typically speaking, a customer is most happy then. Other times would be after a great customer interaction, if you receive a nice social media comment, or see people already talking about you. These are the perfect instances (and people) to ask for a review!"
Additional tip: whenever possible, to increase the odds of getting a review, make this an in-person call-to-action.
"There's no better way to ask for, and get, reviews than to do it in person," says Brian Patterson at Marketing Land. "The person-to-person request is incredibly effective, particularly if the requester has spent a lot of time with the customer. We've found that asking in person can garner you seven to eight times more reviews than asking via email."
6. You're not responding
Nobody wants to feel like they're talking to the air. Just responding to other reviews will tell would-be reviewers that, when it comes to your business, somebody is listening and taking reviews seriously.
Of course, if all of your responses feel predatory, overly confrontational, this will have the opposite effect. The one thing reviewers hate more than talking to the air is having their review thrown back in their face.
In most companies, people leap at the chance to respond to the positive review. Thank them for their review but beware of tossing out incentives. Remember, they chose to leave a review simply because they enjoyed your product or service without expecting anything in return. Sometimes, offering a incentive after the fact can cheapen this.
But what about negative reviews? Few companies really look forward to this, seeing it as just another uncomfortable confrontation with an angry customer. A growing number of companies, however, are turning these moment into opportunities to turn haters into advocates, in the words of marketing guru Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters.
For instance, one French bakery chain actively sought out their most negative reviewers and made them a proposition. They needed the reviewers' help in making their service and food the best they could be. If the restaurant gave them a free meal once a month, would the reviewer be willing to supply them with their honest feedback? Intrigued and flattered, most of the reviewers agreed and went from being naysayers to being collaborators in building the restaurant chain's brand.
7. You're making it difficult
You might be asking customers for reviews, but are you eliminating as many steps as possible to make it easy for them to post a review?
Are you set up on all the major review sites-like Yelp, Angie's List, Google Local, Yahoo Local, LinkedIn, CitySearch, and TripAdvisor?
Are you set up on your industry-specific review sites (Ex: Expedia or Travelocity for hotels)?
Are you providing them with links to these pages so they don't have to hunt them down themselves?
"Unless someone has a negative experience to share, the average customer is not going to look for ways to leave your company a review," says Akalp. "That's why you need to ask them to post a review and make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Put direct links to your review profiles in multiple places; for example, a follow-up email, newsletter, and your website."
Getting Into the Reviews Game
So how did you do? Did you find something you'd been missing in trying to secure customer reviews? Fortunately, there are so many opportunities to get the reviews your company needs to both create a strong brand presence and keep communication open with customers happy and not-so-happy.