You know that online reviews are critical to making your service or product stand out from the rest. So you have an online customer review generation strategy in place:
Delivering excellent service and outstanding customer experiences are what your company is all about.
Your Facebook business page is up and running with reviews enabled. The Google My Business account and Yelp profile are dialed in.
The review request campaign is in full swing. Links and buttons in every digital space you can find. Reminder cards and notes posted and printed everywhere. Everybody on staff trained in the best ways to ask customers to leave an online review of your business.
Then why aren’t the positive online reviews piling up? You know people are happy – they say so. And they come back again and again. They even say they will post a review.
But the reviews don’t come.
Wait a minute before banging your head against the wall. Check this out:
Why People Write Online Reviews
To help understand why customers don’t write reviews, let’s take a look at why they DO write them. You might be surprised to hear that most people post online reviews for unselfish reasons. Surveys show that helping other consumers make good decisions is “important” or “very important” to 90% of those who post reviews, and 79% say the same thing about posting reviews as a way of giving back in a time when people rely on consumer reviews.
People tend to be altruistic when writing reviews. If they had a positive experience, they want to give others the opportunity to enjoy it as well. They may also feel kindly toward the business and people who provided that experience, and want to thank and reward them.
Research also reveals that consumers are motivated to write online reviews when their experience with the business or product, whether positive or negative, reaches them on an emotional level. Customers who have had bad experiences will use reviews to vent their anger and frustration, especially if they feel personally slighted. In the same way, customers who have enjoyed exceptionally good experiences want to reward and support the company to help it succeed, particularly if the business is small and locally-owned. In both cases, it is the degree to which their experience provokes an emotional response that determines the likelihood of the consumer sitting down to write a review.
Customers Actually Enjoy Writing Online Reviews
Posting online reviews is a way for consumers to express themselves. Reviews are a public outlet for voicing opinions to peers and businesses in a way that makes reviewers feel empowered by taking the roles of benefactor and influencer. Knowing that consumers are generally positively inclined toward the idea of writing reviews, what do we do to get them to follow through? It’s actually simple – you have to find and remove the barriers that keep the majority of customers, happy or not, from offering feedback.
Barrier #1: Difficulty
You have to make it super-easy for people to post online reviews of your business. Provide one-click links in emails, widgets on your websites and social media profiles, and make sure that step-by-step instructions for posting are available. If you own a business like a restaurant or bar – any place customers spend significant time onsite – set things up so as to encourage and help them to leave reviews right then and there. For email campaigns, consider including fill-in-the-blank review templates that can be pasted in and completed in seconds. Remove the difficulty barrier by doing anything you can to simplify and streamline the review process
Also be sure to keep all contact and location information for your business updated and correct on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and other review site profiles. This helps customers stay in touch with you.
Barrier #2: Writer’s Block
Don’t force customers to compose their reviews from scratch.
When you put a review site button or link in front of them, of course you are going to include a CTA – Call to Action. But go further than just a block of text that says “How was your visit today? Please leave us a review on… and tell us what you think.”
Include some guiding questions. That way, customers have a take-off point for their review and you get targeted, relevant, actionable feedback. For example:
- What did you like best about… [today’s visit, our product, your experience, etc.]
- What did you like least about… [today’s visit, our product, your experience, etc.]
- Tell us two improvements we should make.
- Would you recommend us to a friend? Why or why not?
Many people are not going to respond to each item, but others will go beyond the questions. In any case, having a question to answer removes the barrier and makes it easier to get started on a review.
Barrier #3: Customers are Too Happy
Remember what we said about people writing reviews when their experience with a business or product has a strong emotional impact? Unfortunately, good experiences tend to leave less of an impression than bad ones. When it comes to the human brain and emotions, bad is literally stronger than good. On a deep level, our brains perceive negative experiences as danger, priming the fight-or-flight response. Positive experiences produce a less extreme reaction in the form of relief, which is associated with lowering our guard and becoming less attentive. And we don’t forget bad experiences because the tendency to remember them more clearly, and for a longer time, is a definite survival advantage.
It’s counter-intuitive, but satisfaction and happiness can be barriers that block reviews, while unhappiness opens the review tap wide. The upside is that you are not likely to have to work to get negative reviews when things go wrong, and a negative review is still a review – you can turn it around to benefit your business. The downside is that you may need to remind happy customers to give you reviews.
This is where follow-up campaigns come in. Plan to reach out to your customers shortly after their visits, and be sure to keep records of the products or services you provide. It never hurts to remind them what you did for them. Follow-up outreach jumps over the barrier caused by blissful forgetfulness, and is one of the surest ways to get more positive online reviews for your business. To help keep yourself from forgetting this important step, you may want to consider using a review management tool to save time and ensure consistency by automating email follow-ups.
Barrier #4: Customers are Too Nice
Face it – real honesty is not one of our most valued social traits. We are trained to be nice all the time, to tell the white lie, to keep our mouths shut if we can’t say something positive. Especially in today’s climate of over-sensitivity to everything, even people who might like to give you a compliment would rather say nothing at all than risk having something taken the wrong way. This cuts us off from potential good reviews as well as from valuable constructive criticism.
You actually need to create a “safe space” for your customers if you want them to open up to you. Be sure that people feel comfortable and respected when visiting your business. Create an atmosphere that communicates your value of transparency and honesty. Request all types of feedback from your customers, and when negative reviews come in, show that you are grateful for the chance to make things right and learn ways to make your business more successful. Build trust with your customers to break down the niceness barrier. You will earn their loyalty, and their forgiveness when it is needed.
Break Down the Barriers to Get More Online Reviews
A solid stream of positive online reviews is one of the most useful and effective marketing tools you can get, and review generation, when it’s done right, is a very cost-effective component of your overall marketing spend. It’s not hard to increase the effectiveness of your online review generation efforts once you know a little about the psychology behind online review posting behavior. Fine-tune your approach and your review management toolset, remove the barriers, and start getting more positive online reviews for your business.