Everything You Need to Know About Customer Reviews

With social media, review sites, and millions of blogs available online, it’s never been easier for customers to speak their minds. Customers can easily post content that represents the best of your brand – or generates negative buzz.

While negative posts typically get more attention, there are satisfied customers who are happy to share their experiences. To keep these positive reviews coming, it’s important to spend time building relationships with these customers.

In this guide, we’ll explore several success tips on how to get good customer reviews. We’ll also show you how to use good reviews to your advantage – and how to handle negative reviews properly.

The Importance of Online Reviews

While digital marketing has become the strategy of choice for today’s businesses, it doesn’t mean that word of mouth isn’t a factor. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and it’s become even more relevant as review sites become more popular. Online reviews are today’s version of word-of-mouth marketing, and they can boost – or severely damage – your business.

Benefits of Positive Reviews

When a customer shares a positive experience on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or other platforms, it matters. These reviews are social proof that your business offers value to customers. In fact, customer research from Harvard Business School indicates that a one-star boost on Yelp leads to a 9 percent sales increase.

Good customer reviews also provide SEO benefits, since Google favors long-established sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Many small businesses may not reach the top of search results, but their reviews may appear in a favorable position. Businesses with a large number of excellent reviews may even find themselves at the top of Google’s results.

Women at a coffee shop counter hoping that she gets positive customer reviews
Positive reviews from customers are some of the best free marketing perks a business can receive.

Drawbacks of Negative Reviews

Of course, a bad review often has the opposite effect of a positive review. Unfortunately, negative reviews also provide more powerful social proof than favorable reviews. While a positive review indicates that your business offers value to consumers, a negative review indicates a lack of value. This tells customers to steer clear of your brand – and they may tell others to do so as well.

Fear of having a negative experience often influences prospective customers’ decision-making process. This concept is known as Prospect Theory, and it was created in 1979 by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The theory outlines how consumers naturally rely on loss aversion when they make purchasing decisions. Ultimately, the hope of having a positive experience is outweighed by the possibility of a negative one.

Getting More Customer Reviews

Brands must care about what customers are thinking as well as what they are saying online. So, how do you receive more positive reviews – and reduce negative ones? Angry customers may be quick to type up a scathing review, but how do you get happy customers to share their experiences? Here are two tips:

1. Make it Simple

Showing website visitors exactly where to leave reviews is a great way to increase positive buzz. Include a direct link to the review site or social media platform to make the process easy.

If you meet with customers face-to-face or communicate with them over the phone, let them know that you’d appreciate a review. Then, point them to the platform or site where they can provide the review.

Offering incentives is another good way to increase positive feedback online. For example, you can give special discounts to those who “Like” your Facebook page.

2. Ask Customers Directly

Sometimes it’s necessary to simply ask a customer to write a review. This doesn’t mean offering a customer a free product or service in exchange for a glowing review. Such a practice is unethical and often leads to distrust of your brand.

If your business has a brick-and-mortar presence, leaving a QR code that takes customers to a review site often is effective. Another way to encourage reviews is to follow up with customers after a sale. Send an email thanking the customer for his or her purchase, and then ask for a review. Be sure to include a link that points them to the review site in question.

Brick-and-mortar stores also can collect email information from customers as they complete transactions. Offering a discount in exchange for the email address is a good way to entice customers into sharing their information. Once you have this information, you can send messages politely asking for a review.

Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews

When your brand is consistently getting good reviews, it can offset the occasional bad ones. In most cases, a ratio of better than four to one is preferable. However, you can’t please everyone, and there will be a time when a customer is dissatisfied with your business. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance the unhappy customer will share his or her experience with others. If you’re facing an unsightly review, don’t panic – instead, follow these steps.

Step 1. Assess the Negative Review

When a bad review surfaces, you may feel defensive or extremely apologetic toward the customer. However, it’s important to take a moment to collect your thoughts before responding. Here are a few things to consider as you examine the negative review:

• Was it a problem with your product or service, or the customer’s unique experience?

Most negative reviews are based on the customer’s experience, not the actual product or service. Product or service issues are usually easy to fix, but a customer service problem sometimes indicates a deeper problem. You may need to evaluate your business practices to determine what is troubling the customer.

Is the problem solvable?

While many customer complaints have clear solutions (refund, product replacement, etc.), some are more difficult to solve. Opinion-based reviews often are difficult to resolve because there are no tangible solutions available. In this case, sending an email to the customer thanking him or her for the feedback may go a long way. Sometimes one message is not enough, but reaching out may help you better pinpoint the customer’s issue.

Could the review be seen as constructive feedback?

Negative reviews are never pleasant, but they often bring to light company problems. Taking a negative review as constructive criticism allows you to make your processes better.

Step 2: Address the Review

After assessing the negative review, it’s now time to reach out to the customer. Being authentic is key – if your brand appears dishonest, it will make the situation worse. Look at the situation from the customer’s perspective. Would you feel frustrated if this happened to you? What would it take for you to feel satisfied with the company again?

Begin by reassuring the upset customer that you will fix the problem. Try to be as specific as possible, mentioning any relevant details. However, make sure that you make promises that you can deliver on. It’s even better if you set expectations that you can over-deliver on.

Step 3: Present a Solution to the Customer

The process of settling negative reviews isn’t complete until you deliver what you promised. It’s also important to resolve the issues in a timely fashion so that the customer remembers the initial review. Plus, a quick response means that the customer may share the now-positive experience with others.

Step 4: Stay Calm – and Move On

After completing these steps, it’s time to calm down and move on. Hopefully the customer will delete the review after you successfully resolve the issue; however, it may not happen. Don’t pressure the customer to delete the review immediately; give him or her time before contacting them again. In a few weeks, send a friendly message asking if he or she would consider deleting the review.

Man checks his customer reviews on his cellphone outside
It’s easy to overreact when people post negative comments about your business online. Staying cool is key.

Negative Reviews: What Not to Do

Staying calm and addressing the customer’s needs will help you survive a negative review. But there also are a few things that brands should never do after getting a bad review, including:

Overreacting:

Don’t immediately issue a press release or make a company-wide change based on one review. Overreacting also might drive even more negative attention to the situation.

Ignoring the review:

Pretending the review doesn’t exist is almost as bad as providing an impolite answer. To the customer, ignoring his or her review simply reinforces the fact that your brand provides negative experiences. Plus, other customers may wonder if your company actually cares about customer relationships.

Begging for positive reviews:

Encouraging customers to write positive reviews to “cover” the negative ones is a questionable practice. Customers should want to provide positive reviews on their own accord – forced reviews often don’t sound genuine.

Customer Reviews: The Ultimate Social Proof

It may be difficult to not take customer reviews personally, especially if you’re a small business. Small businesses rely on positive word of mouth, and a negative review can significantly impact business. Customer reviews affect the public’s perception of your brand, which is incredibly personal for business owners. Click here for more tips on social media best practices.

Despite the personal nature of customer reviews, keep an open mind when viewing the latest feedback of your business. Use the information found in customer reviews to improve your processes and make the customer experience better. While bad reviews may seem terrible in the moment, over time they may be valuable learning experiences for your business.


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Avatar for Eric Melillo

Eric Melillo

Eric Melillo is the President and CEO of the COFORGE Marketing Agency. COFORGE is an award-winning agency servicing a B2B clientele from their offices in New Haven, CT, and New York City. Eric is also a Senior Brand Strategist and internet marketing expert as well as a lover of family, friends, and life. Eric enjoys good health, Tae Kwon-Do and discovering the most influential marketing trends. He lives in the North East where he helps clients from all around the world grow their brands through cutting edge Digital Marketing diversities in SEO, PPC, Sales Automation, Conversion Analytics and "Big Picture" Marketing Strategy.

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