If you want something, just ask nicely. Did your mom ever say that? Well, it also works for getting more great customer reviews.
We often tend to rely on email campaigns when looking to boost our review streams. Email is very convenient, and even fairly effective if done right.
However, research indicates that you only have to make six face-to-face requests to equal the results of a 200-address email blast. People tend to overestimate the compliance they can get by making a request via email. At the same time, they underestimate their ability to get people to comply with direct face-to-face requests.
When asking people for a review by email, you need to get them to click on a link in the message. The problem is people do not trust emails from strangers and nowadays nearly everyone knows to avoid clicking on links in emails even if they are from trusted sources. That’s if people open your email in the first place.
There are a lot of variables at work with email. But a face-to-face request is direct and produces a better response than email no matter who the request is made to – friends, family, or strangers.
There are No Shortcuts to Great Customer Reviews
Great customer reviews are critical to success in today’s market.
It’s a simple fact of business life. Even though technology has made it easier for us to know a lot about our customers as a group and individually, successfully engaging with them still calls for personal contact. The emotional connection is what matters most and you just don’t get that with email.
Sure, reaching out to someone by email is far more convenient. More comfortable too, because it takes a lot of the fear of rejection out of the equation. But when you are looking for more good online reviews from your customers, taking the shortcut of text communication means you are adopting an inferior strategy.
Face-to-face requests are simply the most productive way to ask for customer reviews. This is especially true in situations where a business owner or associate spends significant time with the customer, as when making a sale or handling service needs. At the close of the sale or conclusion of the service, the time is ripe to request a review.
Am I Allowed to Ask for Customer Reviews?
It’s OK to ask customers to leave reviews on Google. In fact, Google’s guidelines recommend reminding customers to leave reviews.
Things are different at Yelp. While simply asking for reviews is not a violation of Yelp’s terms of service, they go to some lengths to discourage the practice. Yelp uses software to filter reviews for inclusion in their recommended review lists. The software is tuned to target solicited reviews and pass over them.
The bottom line is: you can ask for Yelp reviews but it would be wise to tread lightly. Think about making the request via on-site signage or print materials like business cards, thank you notes, or invoices that are essentially passed to the customer by hand.
The overall lesson here is to carefully check the terms of service for any review sites you wish to appear on.
How Do I Go About Asking for Customer Reviews?
As long as your business offers some opportunities for customer contact, it should be fairly easy to find chances to request reviews. Here are a few strategies that can improve your success rate.
Say the right thing. Think about language. Of course we know that the way we ask for something has a direct effect on whether we get it or not. Words have a lot of power. Consider the difference between “Would you please leave us a review on Google?” and “We would like to invite you to leave us some online feedback on Yelp.” It’s natural to be little happier upon receiving an invitation than when getting a request and “Feedback” is a neutral word that avoids the good or bad connotation associated with “review”. Note that the construction of effective requests is complicated and important enough to deserve some time spent on planning and training.
Set the lineup. Now pick the best people to make the requests. Think about where the customer touch points are at your business. Who has the most contact and builds the deepest relationships with customers? Or who at least talks with or greets customers on a daily basis? They should probably be the ones asking for reviews.
Make small talk. When possible, engage customers in conversation. Answer their questions and enhance the customer experience. Show them that they are important by asking for feedback about a product, or about their experience with your business in general. This process can lead to openings for requesting a review.
Meeting the Masses
How does asking for reviews face-to-face scale to thousands of customers? It can, but you have to get creative. No matter how much traffic it has, any business that operates from a brick and mortar location will offer some openings for at least semi-personal interaction with customers.
Put it in writing. Making a request on paper that is handed to the customer is an easy way to go. You have probably noticed that many huge national operations have been doing this for a while. A printed review request often appears on a receipt, many times together with a coupon or some kind of freebie. It’s a simple step further to have the cashier or other staff member amplify the request verbally while handing the receipt to the customer.
Use the phone. If providing customer support by phone is a significant function at your business, it should be easy to find opportunities to fit in review requests. Just be careful to choose the right people to ask. Catch the ones who express gratitude at having their problem solved or needs met. Skip the ones who have just experienced a long hold or struggled through a difficult problem.
Leverage numbers. Use strategies tuned to the nature of your business and customer base to gather people together in one place so a request can be made to the group. Give informational presentations. Hold special events like product demonstrations and “How to” seminars. Invite your best customers to participate in focus group sessions or similar activities as a way to make contact for presenting review requests while at the same time gathering valuable business intelligence. Ideas like this may seem impractical at first glance, but can actually work well when done correctly. You may want to investigate what other companies are doing along these lines.
What if I Never Talk to Anyone?
Of course, there are many modern businesses where customers take care of most needs via a website. Outside of any opportunities offered by phone support operations, direct interaction with customers is minimal or even non-existent, leaving no chance at all to make face-to-face review requests.
Things look grim considering the unfortunate fact that negative experiences outweigh positive ones as memorable, motivating factors in human psychology. In terms of online reviews, if you are not there to ask, you might get reviews only when people are unhappy about something.
How can businesses that operate mostly or completely online add that personal touch needed to get a stream of great customer reviews going?
Of course we can put custom URLs and widgets on our websites to make it convenient to post reviews in key places. Now think about including a brief video message nearby. Thank customers for their patronage and ask for a review. Maybe include some interesting information about your company, a new product, or upcoming sales events.
Don’t be discouraged if email is absolutely your only option. Although it is less effective than face-to-face requests, email does work. Think about some of the things you have learned about making requests in person and adapt them to make your email campaign more effective.
Consider automated email follow ups that arrive shortly after the customer has interacted with your business.
Personalize email requests as much as possible. Start with a reminder of the customer’s latest visit or purchase. Use their name if appropriate.
Refine the language used in the email. Make the customer feel important and show your appreciation. Frame the review as an opportunity for them rather than an obligation to or favor for you.
Include a coupon or other small bonus as a thank you for their business, not as an incentive for leaving a review.
Master the Art of Getting Great Customer Reviews
Making face-to-face requests for reviews is more of an art than a science. Mastering it will ensure that a steady flow of great customer reviews appears on all the review sites that are important to your business.
The nice thing about this particular marketing strategy is that it should be relatively low cost. It will mainly involve some time, planning, and maybe a few tweaks to your current marketing and review generation initiatives. Just get the necessary setup done, then ask and you shall receive more great customer reviews of your business.