Consumers trust one source of information above all else when researching products or services to purchase: their peers. Whether asking for advice in person or on social media, or reading reviews and testimonials across various platforms, buying decisions are heavily influenced by the experiences of other people. And that can be either very good news, or very bad news for your business, depending on what (if anything) is being said.
The Reviews Are Good… but No One Knows
You may have the happiest, most loyal clientele on the planet, but if their testimonials aren’t out there for the people to read, no one may ever know how great your product or service is. When prospects search for you—or what you’re selling—you don’t want the only content out there to be “corporate speak.” This is especially important if your competitors have glowing reviews, both on their website and across other sites (like social media). That “social proof” of positive experiences with other brands is strong motivation to buy from the competition. If you have satisfied customers, their stories need to be heard by potential customers.
The Reviews Are Bad… and You’re Silent
Even the best-regarded product, service, or company can get a bad review from time to time. Some customers are just too hard to please, but most consumers can overlook an isolated rant in the context of otherwise glowing reviews. However, if your reviews are more mixed, or consistently poor, the worst thing you can do is ignore them and hope the problem goes away. Staying silent speaks loudly to consumers—but it communicates according to their perception of you, rather than the reality. It’s possible you need to make internal changes to improve customer satisfaction. Or you may need to reach out to satisfied customers and ask them to share their positive experiences to offset bad reviews. Or your industry might be more susceptible to bad reviews (such as when outcomes are based not only on your services but the customer’s actions or compliance with your recommendations). In any case, bad reviews are not something to be avoided (leaving people to read between the lines—and not in your favor), but an opportunity to right a wrong, perhaps win back a customer, and demonstrate that you care about your company, industry, product/service, and the customer. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you’re made an error, and offer to make it right. If the customer is willing to work with you, also ask for a follow-up review (or a removal of the bad review) if they’re satisfied.
Oh, and there actually is one worse thing than staying silent: getting in arguments with customers by commenting defensively or aggressively on their public reviews. Take a walk around the block if you have to, but don’t respond to an angry customer with more anger, unless you want to sink your business in a very public, and ugly way.
The Reviews Are Fake… and People Can Tell
If you’re lacking in testimonials (especially in comparison to competitors), it may be tempting to buy online reviews as a shortcut, but you should never do that. Paid reviews are a violation of FTC rules, and have even been punished globally. Another temptation is to offer an incentive to customers to write reviews, and many websites and marketers recommend offering coupon codes or other nominal benefits. But even if you don’t “force” your customers to write positive reviews, it’s still violates the law if you don’t disclose that reviews are rewarded. Customer reviews that are incentivized are not “unbiased,” and the FTC has punished companiesfor such practices.
How to Get Reviews the Right Way
As you build relationships with your customers and offer them a product or service that delights them, simply ask for a review. Make the process easy with direct links to where they can contribute their review, and thank them for their time. Continue to provide a great experience, and your customers will be happy to spread the word about you.