What’s important to you when you’re evaluating a product or service? It might be whether you’ve heard of them before or not, where they’re based, who they’ve worked with or the enticing content on their website.
If you don’t have a recommendation from a trusted friend, it might be that online reviews come up near the top of things to consider when choosing a new supplier, booking a hotel stay or making a buying decision.
We’re all so used to seeing that five star system that we can glance at it and it starts to form a picture in our mind, so is it time to start taking more advantage of the power of online reviews?
What are online reviews?
There are lots of places to review products, services and experiences online. From Facebook to TripAdvisor, visitors, clients and customers can share their thoughts on their experience – the good, the bad and the ugly.
From five star rating systems to the ability to rank different aspects of a service, and of course the ability to add long-form written reviews, these websites and tools offer consumers the floor to share an insight into your business or service.
It’s easy for people to leave a review online these days, with some of the most popular destinations including:
- Facebook Pages
- Google / Google Maps
Why are online reviews important?
Personal recommendations are hugely influential. How many times have you taken a friend’s advice on where to have dinner, their favourite hair salon or the best window cleaner? In business too we often look to our networks for advice and recommendations.
Online reviews are very similar to personal recommendations. We’re drawn to reading about others people’s experiences and relating that back to our own wants and needs. If Sandy rated that B&B 2* and mentioned the lack of air conditioning we might think twice about booking it for a last minute break in a heatwave. Sandy’s a stranger but her experience is familiar and gives us an insight into what a stay at the B&B might be like.
The same goes for positive reviews too. It says a lot about a business if it has regular, authentic positive reviews. We’re always more motivated to shout about a bad experience than a good one, so Harry sharing a glowing review of a dog groomer’s work with a snap of a happy pooch says a lot about their service quality.
Online reviews can be especially prominent in search results and on Facebook, making it easy for potential customers to be influenced to feel a certain way about your business. This is especially true when it comes to those big, important or costly decisions – like getting quotes for a garden project or planning your travel itinerary.
There are additional benefits to receiving a steady stream of honest, positive online reviews on search engines like Google. This likeability can influence whether or not you appear in the top results in contextual searches like “restaurants in Exeter”, which will show a map followed by three popular/relevant options for you to check out. There are hundreds of restaurants in Exeter, but if you’re in a hurry and just want to enjoy a great meal somewhere do you want to keep scrolling?
How can you encourage more online reviews?
1. Be amazing
Quite simply, the best way to attract more online reviews from your community is to be wonderful. Deliver an amazing quality of service. Offer your customers an experience that goes beyond what they expected, or what they’re used to, in your industry or local area. We don’t expect every product, service or experience we encounter to be amazing, but when it is we’re much more likely to tell others about it.
2. Appeal to your community
If you have a strong community, be real and honest with them and talk about how influential these reviews can be. Appeal to your fans’ loyalty and trust in you to write a review of their personal experience as a customer. It doesn’t always help if your customers simply can’t find the time to review you online, but many of us would be happy to do something small to help our favourite brands.
3. Integrate it into your processes
There are likely to be opportunities in your after sales process for you to make the ask. If you have your customers’ permission to stay in touch with them, use an email marketing tool like ConvertKit to create an automated process that sends an email the next day/in a week/two weeks’ time asking them to leave you a review. How you word it is up to you, but keep it on brand, keep it simple, and always be mindful that this is something that helps you.
4. Be visible
Think about all the great experiences we have every single week. The service with a smile in the coffee shop, a knowledgeable sales assistant in the store, and the way the customer service rep dealt with your phone call quickly and left you happy. We don’t always think to review these experiences or even talk about them. With such busy lives, we have to make sure that we’re staying visible and making it known that we’d like to be reviewed online. This might be through a window sticker, a message on a receipt or a sign by the front desk.
5. Make it easy
This is possibly the most important aspect of encouraging more online reviews from your customers or clients. Our daily lives are overwhelmed with social media, emails, promotional messages and TV adverts. We’re being asked to look at this, check out this special offer, buy this course before the deal expires and so on.
Keep your ask simple and make leaving a review easy. If you want to start encouraging reviews on Google, make it easy and provide a clickable link to where they can do this. You might want to rotate this every now and again, and focus on a different platform if you have a healthy number of reviews on one already. I prefer this process to offering a link to every possible review platform as you want them to take action, so give them one way to do that.
Are online reviews important to your business?