You’ve done it – taken the plunge and entered the online world.  You are even using social media now for your business.  But do I really need to worry about online reviews from my customers?  The short answer is YES!

In today’s inter-web driven world, a business must be online to succeed.  However, utilizing that online power is what will drive your business to succeed or will dig its early grave.  Consumers today are all about gaining instant information about a business to help them make an educated buying decision.

In fact, statistics have shown that most consumers today will not shop at a new business until they have read their reviews.  Social media has created a way for consumers to respond immediately about their experience with a business and it is shared with the world.

The same holds true for your business, online reviews from your customers are important to the success of your business.  There are many benefits of customer reviews, including free advertising, improved search engine rankings, reviews can provide a more direct relationship with your customers, and they can really set you apart from your competition.  So now that you understand the importance of online reviews, let’s look at some ways in which you can actually get more reviews from your customers, and really boost your business reputation.

  • The most important thing you can do to generate more positive online reviews, is to take care of your customers 110%.  This may sound rather silly, but happy customers will leave positive reviews if they feel like you’ve gone above and beyond. Pretty simple concept – but very effective when practiced.  If there is a problem with an order or service, take care of it immediately, and make it right.  Look at negative reviews as an opportunity to provide exceptional customer service & turn a negative into a positive. Customers value integrity.
  • Pay attention to your reviews and online comments daily (even multiple times a day if needed). You can setup Google Alerts to notify you every time someone mentions your business or website online, or use a service like Reputology to monitor your online reviews for you.
  • Make an effort and keep your social presence active– answer questions, thank customers, make comments about upcoming sales or new releases, and more.  Give them that extra attention that consumers thrive on.  The more you are engaged with your audience, the more they will interact with you, which will lead to more reviews and more buzz.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for honest reviews from your customers. You don’t be pushy, but explain to them that your business thrives on reviews from customers and if they had a good experience to please help spread the word.
  • Leave an amazing impression – In order to elicit a comment or review, you must make the experience memorable to the consumer.  This goes back to making sure that you take care of the consumer and that they are happy with the experience.  When you do this, often times the rest will happen naturally!
  • If you do receive a bad review, it’s okay – but do not EVER fire back in defense about your company, product or employee.  Instead, thank the consumer for the comment or review and make it right.  Most cases, that’s all it takes to “make lemonade out of lemons” and more often than not, if you play it cool and fix whatever issue they had they’ll update their original review.  Now, not only do you have a happy customer, you have social proof of excellent customer service- voila!
  • Make it stupidly easy for your customers to leave a review.  The easier the better. One great strategy is to setup a “feedback page” on your website, with links to all of your review pages like Google Local, CitySearch, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc. Simply direct happy customers to this page, and then they can choose which option is easiest for them.
  • Add a “Call to Action” to receipts and invoices.  By simply adding a call to action at the bottom or your receipt, you are letting your customers know you value their feedback.
  • Print out and display customer reviews in key areas of your business, preferably where most customers will see them. Not only does this demonstrate that you take the customer experience seriously but also you also are appealing to their ego – Are they next to be featured?
  • Thank reviewers publically on Twitter.  Another great way to encourage more positive reviews is by acknowledging your existing positive reviews. Your customers like being acknowledged and you are demonstrating that their reviews have an impact.
  • One of the best ways to your number customer reviews and comments, is by making the review process part of increase your work process.  In short, explain to your employees the importance of asking customers for their review.  When you implement an incentive program with your employees, they will suddenly begin asking all customers to do a review.

No matter what strategies you choose to increase the number of online reviews, keep in mind that it is only one part of the marketing process.  Follow-up is key in keeping the reviews coming and ensuring that your business thrives from these reviews and comments.  If you do not participate in the review process by responding back and engaging in conversation, you will eventually stop receiving reviews.

The review process today is about engaging with the consumer and making them feel like they are a part of the bigger picture.  Consumers want an experience.  Let’s be honest – they can purchase your service or product anywhere.  So give them what they want – good products or services, good customer service, and good feedback.  When you involve and engage with your consumers, they will invest in your business, creating repeat business and a virtually free referral and advertising network for you!