Best Practices for Requesting Reviews from Customers

Customer reviews matter.

Okay, that’s kind of the understatement of the century, but we think it bears repeating because reviews can be such powerful social proof.

Sure, bad reviews are an important form of feedback…they (hopefully) teach us where we’re going wrong so we can improve. But ultimately, everyone wants positive feedback because it usually highlights your best qualities. It’s also far more powerful in terms of helping consumers decide to actually close the sale.

But too many bad reviews? That’s never a good thing. And it can be a natural result of annoying customers with requests for reviews when they don’t want to give one (for example, when you’ve just ticked them off). It’s important to follow best practices to avoid snafus like these while maximizing on your opportunities to build social proof.

The good news? That’s something we can help with!

Why Reviews Matter

Before we dig further into how to ask for reviews, let’s take a closer look at why reviews matter. According to Mintel, seven out of every 10 consumers will look online for the opinions of other consumers before they commit to making a purchase. Most of the people looking for opinions will go to social media platforms and independent review sites for (what they feel) are unbiased opinions.

Of course, “unbiased” isn’t always true…but that’s how people perceive it, and so for better or worse, that’s what we’re workin’ with.

Some consumers have already made a choice and are looking to validate it before making a purchase. Others are using reviews as a part of the decision making process. Either way, seeking out reviews can help you move them along the sales funnel if you do it in the right way (and they see them at the right time).

Negative reviews aren’t necessarily the end of your business. Everyone gets one from time to time. You may have a legitimate customer service issue (which you’ll resolve), or a customer may have a perception of what their experience should have been. Some reviews will be logical…others will leave even those who read them scratching their heads in confusion.

The upside is that people really do realize that people are more prone to leaving reviews when they are angry or upset about something. They will weigh the pros and cons of what they are seeing, especially if a page is populated with good reviews to balance it out.

Here’s some quick statistics. While 87 percent of customers claim they won’t buy from a business with a low rating, that also means they’re willing to overlook some negativity if the majority of the reviews are positive.

Understanding Review Platform Guidelines

Every review platform has different guidelines, so dig into the terms of service for each one you are focused on before you go and ask your clients to leave reviews. The most notable term is that you should never, ever ask a client for a review in a way that directly or indirectly insinuates that they have to leave you a five-star review. You can ask for the review; you can’t ask for what it contains.

Avoid the Happy-Only Policy

Another important thing to remember is that Google and other platforms don’t really like it when you solicit reviews only from people who are happy. No one is going to make a list of customers and purposely invite those who were not happy, but they don’t exactly want you to cherry-pick your reviewers, either. Your best bet is to put up a sign in your office asking people to leave reviews.

Avoid In-Office Reviews

Never put a kiosk in your office for reviews. You can use a tablet or something in your office to give your customers a place to opt-in to your review list or leave their email address, but you can’t ask them to leave the review from a device in your office put there for that purpose. The review platforms will recognize all of the reviews coming from the same IP address and will know you’re asking people to leave them while they’re still in your location. This is against TOS for just about every platform.

Be Cautious With Incentives

One common tactic for requesting reviews is to offer an incentive. A lot of review platforms are adding terms disallowing this, too; hey don’t want you to offer a discounted service or a gift card in exchange for a review because they feel as though such an offer will be abused. And unfortunately, they’re probably right. Plenty of businesses use fake paid reviews to boost stats. That’s cheating.

If you want to offer incentives, try entries into a sweepstakes, a discount on services, or some other less-specific form of monetary gain. By stripping out the direct benefit, you give customers a voice, show them you’re thankful, but remove the potential for abuse.

A Word About Yelp

Finally, a note about Yelp. This site uses its own algorithm and, while no one really understands it, we do know that Yelp prefers reviews from active members of its own community. A sudden onslaught of reviews from an email you send will end up being flagged and thrown into the “not recommended” category, which falls into an accordian-style hidden zone at the bottom of the page.

Yelp also doesn’t show reviews from people who appear to have created a profile just to leave a review — good or bad. And that’s bad news for your customers, who just wanted to do the right thing and are now being told their review may be fake.

Ultimately, Yelp probably isn’t even worth considering for these reasons. Keep an eye on it and address any issues that come up, but don’t bother targeting it. There are much better options – like Facebook, and the new Google My Business.

Asking for Reviews

Ok, so back to asking for reviews. That’s the key right there — asking. Here are some things to keep in mind as you build your own review acquisition strategy:

  • Ask for the review as soon as possible after an interaction. Ask them at check-out, hand them a business card with a link, or send a follow-up email. Don’t wait weeks or months.
  • Make sure you have permission to send an email. A great way to do this is by asking them to put their name and email address on a list.
  • Consider using an automated reputation management system. You can set up an email template, upload email addresses and names, and even have it automatically send out follow-up requests. This will save you time in the office and will ensure no one is missed when it comes time to follow up.
  • Make it easy for your customers to leave a review. Offer them Google and at least one other option so they have the choice to use what feels right for them.
  • Google reviews require a Google account to log-in. There are some platforms that allow anonymous reviews. A person may not have a Google account, but may have a Facebook account. The more options you offer, the more likely you will be to actually get a review.

Every review you receive is an opportunity. If they’re negative, you’ll have a chance to make a correction and possibly a change to the original review. If they’re positive, you’ll have more fuel you can use to promote your business online and offline, whether on your website, in your store, or in print.

As for those negative reviews? They’ll stress you out, but the more positive reviews you attract, the less they’ll matter. Create a steady process for requesting reviews on a regular basis and you’ll definitely see your online ratings grow consistently over time.

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SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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