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While online reviews are a precious commodity for any business, soliciting reviews from customers can be a delicate situation. In many cases, the biggest obstacle that small businesses have with online reviews isn’t getting negative ones: it’s getting them at all. Many small business owners can be skittish about asking customers for reviews, worrying that they’ll annoy and turn off a once happy customer.
However, if the success of your business truly hinges on online reviews, you’ll need to learn how to effectively ask for reviews from your customers. Here are seven tips to help you overcome the awkwardness and encourage customers to leave reviews:
# 1. Make writing a review as dead simple as possible
The average customer is not going to search for ways to leave your company a review (unless they have a negative experience to share). That’s why you need to make it as easy as possible for customers to offer a review. Put direct links to your review profiles in multiple places; for example, in a thank you or follow-up email.
# 2. Be present on multiple review sites
Everyone has her own preferred review site, so you’d do well to have a presence on multiple sites. This can make the process more seamless and comfortable for your customers. For example, there’s Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Local, Yahoo Local, LinkedIn, TrustLink, etc.
Ask customers to leave a review on their favorite site – never pressure them to write reviews on multiple sites. And be careful about pushing customers to write a review on a brand new site. For example, if a non-Yelper feels compelled to create a Yelp profile to give you a review, Yelp’s SPAM filters will most likely flag their review and all that hard work will disappear into thin air.
# 3. Be candid
If you feel shy about directly asking for a review, don’t feel that way. It’s a part of doing business these days. You can help your case and foster goodwill by being as candid and open as possible with your customers. You can say something as simple as “Your opinion matters to us and to other customers, so we’d really appreciate it if you take a few moments to review your experience” or “Do you read online reviews? We do, and so do other customers. That’s why we’d love if you take a few moments to review your experience.”
# 4. Tread the incentives line carefully
Many argue that offering any kind of incentive for reviews corrupts the process and should be avoided at all costs. However, like me, you probably appreciate the fact that anyone writing a review is taking time out of their busy schedule to benefit the overall community. Offering a small incentive (such as 20% off discount) can be a good way to show your appreciation and encourage customers to take the time to write a few words. You just need to make sure your offer is for writing a review, not just for writing a good review.
You can also surprise reviewers by sending them a discount code or other offer after they’ve posted a review. That way, you know your incentive didn’t impact their decision to write a review, but you still get to give a small token of appreciation for their efforts.
# 5. Consider your demographics
If your customers are millennials, they’re already accustomed to sharing every experience online and will most likely share their thoughts without much prompting. Bombarding customers under the age of 30 with requests to post a review will probably turn them off. However, if you have older, or less social media savvy customers, they may need a little more prompting or hand-holding.
# 6. Turn reviewers into brand evangelists
While a positive review is great for your business, the real value lies in the reviewer. Think about it. That person took the time to describe and share the great experience they had with your business. How you can further leverage this relationship? For example, you can produce video testimonials from your top customers to post on your website. Nothing tells a story better than well-produced, sincere video clips from real people.
# 7. Don’t ignore the negative reviews
While your goal is to solicit good reviews, you’ll most likely encounter a bad review or two. Bad reviews aren’t always a business-killer, but how you handle a negative situation can be. Listen to and address the negative reviews; you may have a chance to turn an unhappy customer into a brand advocate.
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.
Images: ”Testimonial button key on white keyboard/Shutterstock.com“
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