Third-party validation, in the form of customer reviews, can carry a persuasive power that advertising and marketing simply cannot match. According to the marketing site HubSpot, 52 percent of surveyed consumers say positive reviews make them more likely to consider a business (as compared to 28 percent who consider only location and price).
Obtaining customer reviews can be part of your overall web marketing strategy. Fortunately, the reach of the Internet opens up lots of opportunity to connect with your customers.
Engaging Customers for Reviews
Ask nicely. There’s nothing wrong with contacting your best customers and simply asking them to write their impression of your business. Ask them to describe their success stories, or detail how a problem got solved, with the help of your business. But by the same token…
Don’t overdo it. Aggressively soliciting for reviews compromises your credibility and can even make you look a little desperate.
Interview them. Some customers may hesitate to submit reviews or testimonials because they’re not confident in their writing ability. If you suspect this, ask if you may interview your customer. Ask him to speak off the cuff while you take the notes. Then, after the customer has approved the text, you may edit it into a review.
Post some reviews yourself. Not reviews of your own company, of course — but you can review related businesses. Identifying yourself as a business owner yourself can position you as an engaged member of the community and remind people about your company.
Hold a contest. You don’t want to offer free services or other giveaways for reviews– that suggests compensation in exchange for endorsement, which is unethical. But you can create a grand prize drawing for all customers and prospects, with no strings attached. The more happy customers and prospects you generate, the better the chances for customer reviews later.
Thank them. In any interactive forum, whether Facebook comments or a website’s testimonial page, include your own responses and thanks for reviews — even the less-than-glowing ones.
Response Tactics and Media
Go to video. If you have the time and resources, a short video to post on YouTube, Vimeo or your own site adds sound, movement and engagement to the typical customer testimonial. You can…
Create a call to action. An usual CTA — “Tell us what you think” or “Let’s hear your story” can inspire web visitors to create a review or testimonial. You can include your CTA on blog entries or in your social media pages to accompany relevant articles.
Open up your social media pages to comments. Facebook comments, Twitter tweets and LinkedIn recommendations can all work in your company’s favor.
Use email or e-newsletters. A well-designed HTML email or e-newsletter can be as attractive as a banner ad. Select a “customer of the month” and interview him or her. The customer will be flattered, and you may net some fine testimonial verbiage.
Add a “testimonial” sub page to your website. Once you have collected a handful of usable reviews, display them in a dedicated sub page. Visitors who read them may be prompted to add their own reviews. Make it easy for them to do so with a link to a submission page.
Dealing with Negative Reviews
Whether they’re on Yelp or through your own Facebook page, negative reviews are one of the risks of opening your website and social media to public comment. When such reviews appear, it’s your opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction.
First, assess the content of the review. Is it tied to customer service, or a product issue? Or is it something beyond your control, such as a weather event that delayed a delivery? Ask your sales reps or service people about the validity of negative reviews. If you recognize a legitimate problem (and not just a “troll”), you can use respond in kind.
Thank the customer for her feedback. Acknowledge her dissatisfaction and, as appropriate, describe the steps you’ll take to rectify the problem.
After all, even a dissatisfied customer isn’t necessarily a lost one. Even a very angry customer may remain a loyal one after you show that you care about his satisfaction. And doing so in a public forum gives other customers and visitors confidence that they can expect the same considerations.