Great Reviews are a Way of Business
I just met with a restaurant chain that has over 15 locations throughout North and East Texas. We met to talk about ways to improve their reviews on platforms like Google, Facebook, and the “dreaded” Yelp. They expected an easy solution that they could put into place and instantaneously improve their reviews.
I could have been like the other marketing agencies and promised “overnight change.”
I could have promised “we’ll fix it in three days!” like the previous company they wasted one on, who “bought a bunch of reviews” that only lasted a week- and then disappeared (more on this later).
Instead, I had to tell them that manipulating reviews doesn’t fix the issue. I had to educate them on what it really takes to create change, not just in the digital space but in the real world. When it comes to reviews, there’s no “quick fix.” Getting great reviews don’t just happen, every single review has to be earned.
The Problem with Reviews
Most people will not go out of there way to find your business and leave a review or brag to their friends when they get what they expected.
If they receive great service or eat a good meal, they feel like that’s what was “supposed to happen.”
Simply meeting expectations isn’t enough to earn you positive reviews.
People leave reviews when something that impacted them and is worth sharing with others. Often this happens when they feel let down. If the service was bad or the food wasn’t good, if they felt taken advantage of or deprived of the value they were looking for, their anger and disappointment makes them want to vent.
For example, Guardian critic Jay Rayner’s disdain is palpable in his review of Le Cinq in Paris when he writes, “There is only one thing worse than being served a terrible meal: being served a terrible meal by earnest waiters who have no idea just how awful the things they are doing to you are…If I work hard, with luck, one day I may be able to forget.” Ouch.
It’s rarer for someone to go to the trouble of leaving a review when what they received was “good,” or even “great.” What motivates positive reviews is when an experience was so outstanding they can’t help but share it with people.
When the ambiance, the service, and the food are all amazing, they feel obligated to tell their friends so they can have the same experience.
Whether you’re running a restaurant, retail establishment, real estate brokerage or law firm, it takes the same level of excellence to earn rave reviews. For example, there’s a locksmith in New York where one reviewer said, “Not only did he unlock our door and make us new replacement keys, he rekeyed the entire apartment, cleaned and oiled all or knobs and hinges, and even did the windows. The experience and service were so great, that I almost want to lose my keys and get locked out AGAIN.” Think about that for a second, the experience impacted them so much, that they almost want to purposely inconvenience themselves, lose their keys, and get locked out of their apartment- just so they can call him out and give him money. Wow.
If the locksmith simply did his job, unlocked the lock and made a kay, they would have received what they expected and gone about their day thinking about how frustrating it was to get locked out. Even if he did a really amazing job, by showing up extremely fast and doing his job with a huge smile, their memory of that day would have been focused on the negatives of losing their keys and being locked out of their apartment. They wouldn’t have given a second thought to the locksmith who “did what we paid him to do.”
This locksmith somehow went above and beyond to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
By going above and beyond, working on ALL the locks, hinges, heck- even the windows, THE WINDOWS. His customers had no choice but to take notice. They’re focused changed and they “snapped out” of normalcy, and took notice of the extraordinary service they were receiving. How could they ignore it when the locksmith is fixing windows without being asked?
If you don’t know how important reviews are, read my other article: Five Powerful Reasons Why Online Reviews Are So Important
Spade Design’s Secret to Review Success
If you’ve worked with us at all, you know everything we do is based on strategy. If you want consistent, positive business reviews it takes implementing a strategy and working it day in and day out, even when it’s difficult.
This strategy has to be on fronts, all staff, and all customer experiences.
Great reviews don’t just happen. You have to ask for them.
Your review strategy should include a plan for consistently:
- Asking for reviews and feedback,
- Following up when you receive a review,
- A protocol for negative reviews,
- And most importantly, a consistently superb to customer service and experiences.
Be sure to track your progress with SMART goals. If you aren’t familiar with the term, this article will help explain it: How to Use SMART Goals to Improve Your Marketing
How to Ask for Reviews (And Actually Get Them)
What do you do when someone hands you a receipt and mentions there’s a link on the back where you can fill out a survey and leave a review?
Most people drop that receipt in their pocket, purse, or throw it in the trash. They don’t complete a review unless they’re angry about something that happened during their visit. It’s a fact, people are eight times more likely to go out of their way to document and share a bad experience.
That’s not an effective way to ask for reviews, and it often does more harm than good.
We recommend the following:
Ask for reviews on your website
Add a widget, links, or buttons on your company website where reviewers can click to go directly to the review sites.
Ask for reviews in person
If your salespeople or wait staff spend one-on-one time with customers, they have an opportunity to build relationships. After providing excellent service, train your staff to ask for reviews when appropriate. They might use a cell phone or on-site device to show customers where to find the website review link to increase your chance of getting a review.
Pro Tip: If your staff will not participate, try incentivizing or giving rewards to those who ask customers for reviews within a certain amount of time.
Ask for reviews using email
This can be one of the most effective ways to ask for reviews. Always make sure you first have their explicit permission to contact them, then send an email within a few days of the encounter. Use their name in the subject line and make your request in simple, casual language. Let customers know approximately how long it will take them to complete the review process. Include a clear call to action with a link or button and thank them sincerely for their time.
Pro Tip: Consider giving a second option for customers to speak to you directly if they are not able to leave a great review. This gives you a chance to address the matter and turn it around before it goes public.
Don’t offer bribes
If you offer people prizes, freebies, discounts, gifts or other incentives for leaving reviews, most review sites will flag, remove or filter those reviews. It’s unethical, and Yelp points out in some cases it may be illegal. When Yelp investigates suspicious reviews their team “painstakingly gathers evidence and conducts stings,” and publicly shames businesses caught trying to manipulate the system. Check here for guidelines on Google reviews and find Facebook review guidelines here.
Pro Tip: I mentioned I’d speak more about those reviews that disappeared. Using brides or buying fake reviews can have major damage to your brand and even result in being blacklisted from a site and having your profile shut down. Companies like Yelp and Google track tons of data, including other reviews, geo-locations, and travel patterns. Facebook is even testing a multi-tiered system that has reviews and recommendations, reviews can only be left by someone who was physically in the location. If they haven’t visited the location, it will show as a recommendation and be scored differently. Rules tend to change so stick to “white hat” methods.
Speaking of recommendations, check out my article on: How to Use Social Media Marketing for Word of Mouth Referrals)
Your Follow-Up Strategy
People leave reviews because they want to be heard.
If you don’t have a follow-up strategy, you’re missing an opportunity to interact with your customers. When you engage with customers after a transaction, you have an opportunity to turn happy customers into brand advocates and that means more business and more profits.
Respond to reviews for increased search engine visibility.
The Google My Business Help page says responding to reviews shows you care about your customers.
Responding to positive reviews shows you’re polite and human. If someone gives you a compliment in person, you would thank them and possibly compliment them back. It works the same way online.
When people go to leave a review, many of them first read what is already posted. They’re more likely to leave a review if they see you interact with people who do. Use this basic template for responding to reviews:
- Thank them by name for leaving a positive review.
- Use your business name, location, and category in your response.
- Encourage action. Tell the reviewer you’re looking forward to seeing them again soon and mention an upcoming promotion or new product.
How to Respond to Negative Reviews
When someone leaves a negative review, your reply could turn things around. Respond as quickly as possible so the unhappy customer knows you hear them and want to make things right. Before you panic or become defensive, put yourself in their shoes.
When people have a bad experience, they feel angry, disappointed or cheated. You need to both fix the problem and acknowledge their feelings. Even if you feel like their complaint is unfounded, you can still express sympathy over their bad experience. Follow these steps:
- Offer an authentic apology for what happened to them. Use the customer’s first name. Acknowledge what went wrong, show empathy and thank them for bringing the problem to your attention.
- Point out how important customer service is to your business and that you’re usually known for your excellence in that area. Take ownership and state that it appears we failed to meet that expectation and you want to resolve the matter.
- If a simple and immediate solution can be conducted, try to take the conversation offline but communicate the next steps.
- It is best if you contact the reviewer privately, but you can also provide them with the name and contact information for who they need to contact in order to have the matter resolved. though it isn’t always possible, you’ll get bonus points if you can “hand it off” by telling the customer that the next contact has been made aware of the situation.
Sometimes customers will revise a negative review when they’re satisfied with how the business handles their complaint. Even if they don’t, other customers see you take negative reviews seriously and genuinely care about customer satisfaction.
Allow time for the customer to edit their review. If they do, apologize again but thank them for giving you the chance to fix everything. If suitable, leave a nice note stating how the issue was resolved so that other readers will see it. This instills trust.
But Most Importantly…
There is no band-aid quick fix to reviews. Getting great reviews doesn’t happen at the end of the customer’s experience, they happen when every interaction offers extreme quality and value. Everything from your website, to your parking lot, to your employee’s attire, makes a difference. Cultivate a mindset that constantly looks for ways to go the extra mile, to be amazing on every level all the time.