Review Solicitation-Pros and Cons In The New Era Of Reputation Management

If you ask 10 different business owners how they ask their customers for a review, you are bound to get 10 different answers.

Most business owners have realized that just simply asking for a review doesn’t necessarily motivate their customer as much as they would like it to.

In fact, current research shows that nearly 90% of satisfied customers don’t leave reviews for local businesses. At the same time, an alarming number of people seem to be motivated to leave bad reviews for the least little thing.

Requesting reviews, along with tracking reviews across all of the known websites is becoming very time-consuming and frustrating for local business owners of all stripes. And with recent Google Search algorithm changes the management of reviews is now a priority. Let’s try to make some sense of it all.

Here are some interesting factors to consider when it comes to asking customers for a review:

Let’s start with the fact that review solicitation isn’t recommended by any of the major platforms. They all seem to cling to the “customer is always right” mentality. Many one star reviews are more of a rant, or the foisting of an individuals frustrations into the review system than an actual useful review. And many consumers will tell you that their motivations are altruistic…that they want to save future customers from a bad experience. Half of all bad reviews are motivated by the desire for a refund or replacement of their purchase. And over 15% of negative reviews are left with the sole purpose of damaging the business based upon emotion. Perhaps the feeling of being duped, or not treated as well as they would have liked.

With all of this in mind, let’s discuss the more effective ways in which to ask for…and get…a positive review. Here are the DO’S:

  1. Ask in person at the point of sale whenever possible.

At the end of a successful service call, a great manicure or a wonderfully served quality meal, your customer is most receptive to idea of sharing their happiness with others. People are inherently good-hearted despite the negativity we see on the internet every day. Be sure to mention that they can leave a review on a number of sources including social media. Chances are they are logging into their Facebook or Instagram account already. Google and Yelp review also require a log in and are not always that particular person’s method for leaving reviews. ANY positive review is better than no review. And with Google My Business scraping reviews from sources like Facebook and displaying them on your GMB listing there is a two-tiered benefit to a social media based review.

REMEMBER–They probably checked your reviews before they ever showed up!

  1. Use a Review Management system to request reviews after the fact.

A robust review management software system, which are readily available and inexpensive, can put you on track by giving you the ability to request more reviews from your customers than ever before. The better systems enable you to request a review via a text message and/or email to your customer and provides links to all of the sites from which they can choose their favorite. These systems also allow you to track, monitor and respond to reviews all in one place. Attempting to track all of the known platforms is very tedious and time consuming. There are some review sites out there that you might not even be aware of. Because of the explosive growth of these sites and repositories the proper tracking and management of reviews really does require a system in place.

  1. Offer a future discount or reward for a review

Again, although “frowned upon” by the review sites themselves, this has become a common practice for a growing number of small businesses. It’s the 800 lb. gorilla in the middle of the room. Everyone knows about it, no one talks about it, and it goes on all day every day all over the world. It can be a delicate practice…but potent if handled with taste and is not reduced to an out-and-out bribe or offer that doesn’t make sense to your customer. Remember, you already have the relationship (obviously if you’re asking an existing customer for a review) and may not want to consider putting that at risk with a cheesy offer or gratuitous solicitation. But this has worked when handled properly.

  1. Deploy more and clever materials and tactics to passively stress the importance of a positive review for your business.

Noticeable, tasteful signage at point of sale, or on table tops can make a big difference in keeping reviews on the mind of your customer without making a blatant solicitation. Having servers hand-write a little message on a guest check is very cute and helpful. A nicely made “leave behind” piece of collateral material for in-home service visits can have an effect after the job is done and the work crew has cleaned up and left the premises. At a higher level, if the appropriate information is collected from your customer (like filling out a form in a doctor’s office or from a service ticket or contract) you can even add a thank you card via mail to your arsenal of tools to contact a customer (or patient) after the fact and ask nicely for a review of the service they received.

  1. Build a robust SOCIAL FOLLOWING

We can all agree that social media is here to stay. And it operates differently than the internet at large. A Google review (good or bad) won’t be seen until someone finds you in a search. Same for the other static sites. But social media has an instant effect. If a user leaves a bad review it is seen by ALL of their friends and followers immediately. So obviously a negative review on social media can cause far greater and lasting damage to your reputation. But social media can be useful in growing a positive image by building a community of happy customers and friends and keeping them up to date on your specials, events, seasonal messaging, sales and other topics of interest to keep them engaged and keep YOU on their radar. This will promote a much more positive image and ultimately generates a greater number of positive reviews for your business.

From our experience, here are some tactics you should NOT use:

Here are the DONT’S:

1. DON’T offer something that is out of line with the actual value of a positive review.

In cases where your business is struggling with some bad reviews and your ratings are suffering, DO NOT USE the next happy customer as a tool to bring your average up by trying to “buy” a good review. Not a good idea. Moreover, you should be using a good review management system and putting in a solid effort to get more positive reviews the proper way and drown out the bad reviews by dilution. Even if you are suffering from fake or malicious reviews from competitors. That problem requires support from experience review management people to get the fakes removed while you bolster your positive reviews to raise your ratings. But under no circumstances should you make a blatant attempt to “buy” a good review with a reward or free service that looks suspicious to your customer.

2. DON’T start an online argument with a negative reviewer or bully them in any way

Anytime a negative review is left for a business there is obviously something wrong. And there are always two sides to every story. Some people just had a bad day and blow it all out of proportion. Sometimes it’s a legitimate failure by the business to deliver the best experience. But in all cases, a concise and polite response to a negative review on a TIMELY basis will start the healing process and perhaps open a channel to resolve the issue and even get the customer to amend or delete the original bad review. It is ALWAYS worth the effort. Remain calm and take the situation OFF LINE.

3. DON’T threaten the negative reviewer with legal action or any form of retaliation

To the earlier point of taking the issue offline, this will probably mean that you will have at least one conversation with the reviewer either on the phone or in person. If you feel the person’s review is overstated or worse, your instincts will be to protect your reputation. And you might feel inclined to escalate the situation and become hostile. Perhaps threaten legal action for slander or libel against the individual. This, of course, can NEVER have a happy ending and is a futile exercise. Even if you have exhausted all the possibilities to make this customer happy, and they refuse to amend or remove/replace their negative review, be of good cheer. Your top strategies will gain many positive reviews and the negative reviews will become drowned out, moved down the timeline and become irrelevant eventually to your overall reputation.

4. DON’T waste time trying to get Google or Yelp or Facebook to remove the negative review unless  your know it’s a fake

Just because you don’t like what the customer said in their review, it does not violate the Terms of Service for most sites. They will tell you the same thing: Work it out with your customer. Unlike a fake or malicious review which is not allowed under the TOS, free speech will prevail. You’re not special to these repositories and neither is your business even if you’re paying for advertising on one or more of these sites. If a real customer leaves a negative review you are on your own, so invest your time and effort wisely in resolving the issue as best you can.