Think of the last time you were in the market for a product or service. It can be anything at all. If you were not familiar with this market, your decision point was pretty much unbounded. You browse websites, scroll through sales landing pages, and end up at the same conclusion: Everybody says their business is the best. In those situations, you wish you had someone else’s perspective or advice.
But if you had a friend, relative, or co-worker who had recently made the same purchase, your instinct is to turn to them for advice. At least then you have one guaranteed unbiased opinion. Humans, naturally social animals, are hard-wired to trust peer recommendations over any other option. If you didn’t have a friend to ask, you might have asked around a message board or social network. Even the word of strangers on the Internet is some kind of guidance.
Internet business being what it is, this instinct has created a demand for review services online. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Foursquare, and the Better Business Bureau cater to our drive to rank and review everything. This means that in all likelihood, your business is being rated and discussed online anyway, even this very minute. Now how are you going to make sure that the good word about you gets out?
That’s what we’ll look into here. You can manage your business’s online reputation ethically, honestly, and without having it take up too much time.
Starting Points: Review Farms
Before we dive in, let’s look over a full list of review and rating sites relevant to different industries.
Your first stop should always be your Google My Business profile. Google posts any reviews and a star rating on your GMB profile. Google encourages customers to review businesses wherever they go, even making it almost like a game, with a score and congratulatory achievements for reviewing businesses. This applies to any business with a brick-and-mortar location.
Other relevant review sites by industry:
- Home services (general contractor, landscaping, improvement): Houzz, NextDoor
- Home services (maintenance and repair, HVAC and plumbing): Angie’s List (now Angi), Yelp
- Legal services: Avvo.com, Lawyers.com, Martindale-Hubbell
- Healthcare: ZocDoc, HealthGrades, Vitals, RateMDs
- Restaurants and retail: Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook
Some of these sites cover more than one category, so check Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook for reviews and recommendations on just about any industry. Sometimes Google rates these sites even higher than an expert blog on the topic. A celebrity chef on their home blog can recommend their top ten favorite Cajun restaurants in Louisiana, but when you search Google for that topic, the results come up in the Google My Business / Maps section, two Trip Advisor hits, and a few hits from the likes of Food Network and Thrillist. You will also see local publications and magazines creating lists of top-ranked businesses.
No matter your industry, you should at least focus on GMB, Yelp, and Facebook, then drill down to the sites specific to your industry. Sometimes a word-of-mouth recommendation for a lawyer will just be “try Lawyers.com, that’s where I found my lawyer.”
Now that we know the sites to watch, here’s how to manage your reputation on them. The secret to getting a positive reputation is simply “quantity.” Ask enough people, and you’ll build up a positive reputation. If you don’t ask, then negative reviews will dominate. Unhappy customers are more motivated to share their frustrations, while happy customers aren’t looking to vent. However, if you ask them to share their good experience, many will do so gladly. Obviously, if you’re staying in business, somebody must have positive transactions with you to report. The trick is to remind them to take the time to do so.
This is the easiest and most reliable way to generate positive reviews. You can simply make this part of the process of your closing transaction. Along with handing them their receipt, closing their case, or exiting the consultation, just tell them it would mean a lot if they could share their positive experience. Normalize this as part of your process, and train your staff with a short script for this purpose.
You can take inspiration from YouTube video bloggers. Most of them insert a spiel somewhere in the video, most commonly upfront or at the end, reminding viewers to “like and subscribe and consider sponsoring this channel on Patreon.” Your spiel can be just this natural and quick.
Wherever possible, include a link or reminder for the customer to rate their experience with your business. Receipts and invoices are a natural place to direct the customer. At the end of a chat support conversation is another place to ask. Brochures and promotional materials are other places to solicit customer feedback. Most printed promotional materials you will see today at least include the business Facebook ID or icon, from which customers can discover a rating widget there as well.
Last, don’t neglect email communications. Whether it’s a direct business transaction or customers have subscribed to your mailing list or newsletter, it’s the perfect place to include a quick line offering them the opportunity to share their experience.
One of the most important factors in getting customer ratings is how convenient you make the process. It’s far easier to simply click a link, then click a star-ratings widget and drop a comment. Automate the process as much as possible. Ideally, you have a pop-up that promises the process will be quick; think “30 seconds or less” here. A few possible options:
Most of these extend to more than just soliciting feedback, though, combining several customer relations and reputation management features in one package. If you’re already using a CRM such as SalesForce, check to see if it offers a customer ratings feedback form.
You can automate this process over either email or SMS, preferably right after they’ve finished their transaction with you. This might be preferable to asking the customer in person since it saves your staff time, and the customer doesn’t have to worry about following directions later.
The trick to getting more positive reviews is timing. Marketing automation allows you to send review requests immediately after a transaction. With the experience fresh in their mind, they’re more inclined to complete the request. If you had to do it manually and couldn’t send the email for a week, they likely already forgot about you
Your website offers prime real estate for review generation. This is especially true for businesses where customers return to access supporting documents or educational resources. Don’t let that visit go to waste. Add call-to-actions (CTAs) that nudge customers to share their good experiences with the world.
Identify the highest traffic pages that customers are likely to visit. You don’t want it on your sales or landing page because that might distract prospective customers and prevent them from converting. But any page they may visit after the completion of a transaction is fair game. This includes the confirmation page for placing an order or after a client has signed up for a service.
Don’t just leave a bare feedback form expecting a customer to act in a vacuum; show them positive reviews that others have left. By displaying past customer testimonials, you’ll encourage others to share their similar experiences. It’s human nature to go along with the crowd.
#5: Keep a Review CTA in Your Business Email Signature
Could you solicit feedback with every email you send? There’s no reason not to. It doesn’t have to be obtrusive; figure a simple text link and a prompt to leave their rating will be enough to collect a few extra “likes.”
Remember that the reason most customers don’t leave reviews is that they’re just too busy at the moment. You want to catch them when they have a spare minute. So if the customer is browsing their email at leisure over morning coffee and reading each email down to the bottom, chances are they can spare the 30 seconds to click through your review set-up.
Here is one way you can give back to the customers who have been so good to you. Everybody likes validation, no matter how small the matter. You can share your good reviews on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. Take the opportunity to thank the reviewer, and include a few lines about how inspiring it is to see that your commitment to service excellence is paying off, you appreciate their support, etc. Then include a link to a CTA for others to review you as well.
Since this is on social media, try not to make this too overbearing. Be sincere, be humble, and don’t make your social media feed a continuous stream of relentless self-promotion. You can also use this opportunity to address some light concerns. There is often a case where the customer had a minor nit-pick, which they even admit was not in your control, and left a glowing review anyway. Address the issue and promise to take some action to prevent the small snag from happening in the future, and honestly thank the customer for their candid feedback.
We’re all about digital marketing here, but we shouldn’t forget that snail mail still has a place in modern business. There are even some industries, such as the legal and financial professions, where some communications are recommended or required to be in writing. Many more industries have customers with high lifetime retention values, such as home remodeling businesses.
Personalized thank-you letters are one place where you can ask for a review. These would occur close to the end of a transaction or fulfilled contract. In the case of services like financial or legal consultation where you might be perpetually “on retainer” as a services provider, you can work this into communications such as quarterly renewals, anniversaries since the customer signed up for your service, or the holiday greetings card.
Since the whole world prioritizes electronic communication now, the personalized letter has become a rare sight. If we get a note thanking us for one year of business or even a generic “season’s greetings,” it still feels like something special, and it strengthens the bond between your business and the client. Who knows, they might even get in some word-of-mouth promotion for you if they’re having a conversation while checking their mail. It never hurts.
Modern digital media has made business ratings a common sight everywhere online. This is remarkable because the standard has changed during the shift to digital media. Customer feedback forms have been with us forever, but they used to be a bin of cards near the cash register or some forms and a submission box near the exit. People usually ignore these because they interrupt the flow of a transaction.
In modern digital media, feedback is far easier to solicit because it takes so little effort. The timing is the key. The next time you go out to a restaurant, you will notice that Google sends a feedback solicitation to your phone just about five minutes after it can tell you’ve left, assuming you had it turned on, and location tracking was enabled. You always want to catch the customer as close to the transaction as possible and when they’re in a good mood.