If you’ve ever needed to find a local dentist, a veterinarian, a dog groomer, a plumber, a car repair shop, a new car or a new appliance, you’ve probably Googled local businesses and read and compared reviews for the businesses you are considering before you made an appointment or committed to spending money.

This is exactly why every business should be making review generation a part of its standard marketing process.

Reviews influence consumer buying decisions and the businesses that have the most verifiable online reviews and 5-star ratings stand out in Google search results.

Since online reviews are a key decision-making tool for most consumers today, every business should be asking its happy customers, clients and patients to take a minute and leave a review on Google, Facebook, or the industry specific sites its customers frequent, such as Houzz, TripAdvisor and Wedding Wire.

In today’s digitally connected world, online reviews serve as signposts guiding consumers to the businesses they believe they can trust to deliver superior service and products.

Forbes’ Michael Fertik explains,

Millennials don’t trust advertising, celebrity endorsements or any of the more traditional, one-way communications strategies. They’re even growing skepticism of “influencers,” and are beginning to doubt their credibility. This skepticism is in large part due to the “fake news” phenomenon that has plagued (and to some degree, powered) politicians and celebrities alike over the past few years. Such untrustworthy media banter has eroded trust among U.S. consumers — and Millennials are probably the most wary of us all. So how do you build trust with younger consumers online? With user-generated content (UCG) — like reviews… Nearly all Millennials (97%) read online reviews before selecting a business, and 89% trust those reviews. And a recent UK study found eight out of 10 Millennials never buy anything without first reading a review.

The 97% quoted by Fertik is from Bright Local’s 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey.

Every Business Needs To Be Getting Multiple Reviews

The business that has just 1 or 2 reviews isn’t positioning itself to win over today’s digitally savvy consumers. Bright Local’s research shows today’s consumers want to see an average of 40 reviews before they trust the accuracy of a star rating.

Without a plan in place to consistently increase your online reviews, it could take months or years to acquire 40 reviews – and by then consumer expectations will be even higher. In 2017, the average consumer expectation was just 34.

While the number of reviews is important, the freshness of reviews is another important factor in positioning your business at the top of your marketplace.

That’s why getting a steady flow of new customer reviews online is vital.

  • In 2017, just 18% of consumers only took into account reviews from the last two weeks. A year later, the 2018 study found 40% were paying the most attention to reviews posted within the most recent 2-week period.
  • 85% of consumers say they disregard reviews that are more than three months old.
  • Consumers are reading an average of 10 reviews before they feel like they can trust your business.

Reviews are essential for smaller businesses, as Forbes writer Cory Capoccia explains:

If you run a small business today, the single most important thing you can do to attract new customers is to take control of your online review score on sites like Yelp, Google My Business, Foursquare and TripAdvisor… In the past, small businesses had to rely on inefficient “push” methods to attract new customers. If you buy a radio ad, for example, the message has to do two hard jobs: Convince the customer to spend money with you and create urgency to do it now, before distractions take over. When a consumer uses a review platform like Yelp or Google My Business, the decision and urgency to buy are exactly what prompted the person’s search. If traditional advertising is a megaphone that enables businesses to shout and see who’s listening, review sites are tractor beams that pull consumers toward local businesses precisely when they’re actively looking to spend money. That’s an invaluable opportunity for small businesses with tight — or non-existent — marketing budgets.

How Do You Increase Reviews for Your Business?

The best way to generate meaningful, authentic and timely reviews from your customers is to just ask. By asking every customer to leave a review, you’re far more likely to grow the number of reviews quickly and naturally. 70% of consumers that have been asked to leave reviews went on to do so.

9 Best Ways to Increase the Number of Online Reviews for Your Company

1. Ask your customer directly in person.

The person-to-person request is most effective, especially if the requester has spent a lot of time with the customer. Asking a customer for a review in person can get you seven to eight times more reviews than asking via email.

Let’s take an interior design company as an example. The designer might spend weeks or months helping each client make dozens or hundreds of decisions concerning the design blueprint, materials, finishes and furnishings as part of their remodeling project. Over time they develop a mini-bond as they share details about their lives and their families and get to know each other well. When the project is completed and the customer is delighted with the outcome, that is the best time for the designer to ask the client to leave a review that help future clients who are researching them decide if they are a good fit for their needs.

How and when a review is requested will depend on the nature of your business. In a restaurant, for example, the server could request a review at the end of the meal. A realtor could request a review when the property closes or when the keys change hands.

2. Ask for reviews via your website

Whether you’re an eCommerce business or a local business with a catalogue or portfolio website, there are multiple ways you can ask for reviews via your website. An easy way to begin asking for customer reviews on your own domain is to use the stickers or widgets that some platforms provide. These link back to your profile on the review platform in question, encouraging customers to share their experiences.

Another easy way to ask for reviews on your site is to fold it into your checkout process. When the visitor goes to their online cart to pay for their order, add a review request to the confirmation of order screen.

We recommend that you also display the reviews you have received on your website to make it easy for other customers to find them. Publishing reviews on your site increases the length of time that people spend on your site (one of many factors that help your search engine optimization) — and can reassure potential customers that they can trust your business to deliver superior quality products and services.

Reviews provide persuasive social proof as well for website visitors who may not have done any prior research before visiting your website. Once you have created a dedicated page to showcase your reviews, ask visitors to review you and give links to your chosen review platforms to make it easy for them to do so.

3. Ask for reviews via text

Home service companies such as plumbers, handymen, landscaping, internet installation, etc. – could send a prompt follow-up message to every customer they service asking if they are happy with the service provided and if so, would they mind leaving a review? Sending the request via text message and email can increase the probability that your client will leave a review for you.

4. Ask for reviews via email

Sending customers a quick email message requesting a review is also effective approach and one that most consumers will feel comfortable with.

Many reputation management platforms provide a review request template to help you get started. You should be able to customize the wording of your review request.

Many consumers today expect a review request to be emailed to them shortly after doing business with a company.

The best review request emails are clear, concise and feature a call to action. Keep it short and snappy and no more than a paragraph or so.

The email should feature your branding so the recipient is clear on who’s asking for a review. Visible branding can also help prove the email’s authenticity so make sure the design is consistent with your website, social media profiles and catalogues.

Use personalization to make an instant connection with the recipient.

Where applicable, include the order number, product name or other service details to refresh your recipient’s memory and ensure they review the right thing.

5. Ask for reviews in-store signage

If you have a physical bricks-and-mortar location, you can ask for customer reviews in-store in any number of ways. Restaurants can include review requests on table tents and/or the cashier counter / point of sale. Bars with a big screen TV showing sports programs can display a branded screen when there’s no game to show that reminds customers to go to TripAdvisor to leave their review.

Posters on the wall, or business cards that employees can give to customers are another way brick and mortar retail shops can ask for reviews.

6. Ask for reviews on your business card

Use the back side of your business card to ask customers to leave a review along with links where they can go to leave you a review.

This is an easy addition to make to any business card and can be incredibly effective, especially if you’re in a field where you hand out dozens of cards each week (such as sales manager, insurance agent, accountan, etc.).

7. Ask for reviews via Live Chat

If your website has a Live Chat function, your chatbot should end each conversation with a request for a review.

The great thing about this method is you can easily provide both a link to your preferred review platform and instructions for leaving the review without any extra effort.

8. Ask for reviews via your booking system

You can remind customers to leave a review with a message on screen when the booking is made, add it to the email confirmation sent from the system to your customer, and include it on e-tickets and vouchers issued to the customer.

If your booking system sends a transactional message after the booking has been used, you’ll most certainly want to include both a request for a review and a link for your customer to do just that.

9. Ask for reviews via physical receipts

Both online-only businesses and bricks-and-mortar locations can use physical receipts to ask the customer to leave a review:

Add a line or two of text to your register receipts asking customers how their experience was and providing a review platform name, inviting them to leave their own review.

If you email receipts to customers, add the same text plus a link to your review platform of choice at the bottom of the receipt or invoice.

If you enclose an order receipt, invoice or even a returns slip in packages you ship to customers, ensure the request to leave a review is also included on that document.

For those physically shipping items, it’s well worth considering taking this a stage further and including a flyer which asks for a review and provides a step-by-step guide for those who aren’t sure how to do so.

Always Respond to Reviews

It’s important to respond to reviews and answer any questions or concerns posed by the reviewer.

Responding to reviews is a Google ranking factor according to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors study, it also shows customers that you value their feedback and it gives you a chance to deal with any negative reviews. The more responses and acknowledgement of reviews consumers see, the more likely they are to leave one for you when asked.

What’s more, 89% of consumers read local businesses’ response to reviews as part of their research. Neglecting to respond in a timely fashion could mean that you fall at the last hurdle and leave consumers to continue their search for a local business.

Use Review Platform Tools to Generate Reviews

 

Google has a Google My Business Marketing kit containing free stickers, posters and social media posts. TripAdvisor additionally has a range of useful assets including the ability to print physical request cards, a collection tool and downloadable flyers.

Showcase Your reviews in an Attractive Way on Your Site

 

Showcase Reviews on Your Website

Making your reviews visible on your site can also help you to attract more reviews, and when connected with schema, they can generate your average star rating in search engine results (SERPs) for your business.

Ensure that they are easy to find and presented in an attractive manner. You can use your reviews page to link back to your review platforms, encouraging visitors to leave a review for your business.

Turn your reviews into Google My Business Posts to attract more reviews

Google can also help you showcase your best reviews on your Google My Business page.

 
Showcase Reviews as Google Posts
 

As of April 2019, Google My Business has recommended that every business showcase their positive reviews as a Google My Business Post. Suggestions are based on four and five star reviews your business has received and you’ll have the option to edit the suggested review before publishing the Post.

Conclusion

Every business needs to make review generation a core element of their standard customer service procedures. Asking customers for reviews can be simple, quick and easy – and increase revenues substantially as customers perceive your business as the top choice when making a purchasing decision.


Read More: 15 Ways to Increase Customer Reviews: Bright Local Study