In an economy where user experience and social networks dictate buying behavior, customer reviews become priceless.
Fortunately for businesses, driving a healthy stream of customer reviews is also possible.
Knowing how your customers feel about you is crucial. Whether the message is channeled through user reviews, service issue calls, surveys, or feedback forms, having full visibility into your customers’ sentiment spells the difference between business success and stagnation.
More importantly, discovering how actual customers feel about a product strongly impacts the purchase decisions of prospective buyers. The reason is simple. People naturally ask friends and peers on whether a product or service is good or bad before signing up and gladly parting with their money. This practice just carries over to the digital era where peer advice takes on a new, more powerful form: the customer review.
Today, both individual consumers and corporate clients seek testimonials and customer reviews to make a solid case for or against buy-ins. In fact, online reviews influence the purchase decisions of nearly all (93%) consumers while virtually the same proportion (92.4%) of corporate buyers will likely purchase a product or service if they read a trusted review about it.
When the overall sentiment is positive, customer reviews spur online traffic and improve revenue performance. They help drive a conversation about the brand, build stronger relationships, and nurture communities. Customer reviews also help businesses innovate by fixing issues, delivering superior service, or designing better products.
However, not all companies fully engage the customer reviews ecosystem. This means these companies miss out on the valuable benefits honest customer feedback offers.
If you think generating a steady flow of customer reviews is challenging, you are absolutely right. Unless they experience extremely positive or negative emotions, customers rarely volunteer to offer feedback. You have to create opportunities and offer incentives for them to do so.
Fortunately, there are easy and effective ways to run a successful customer reviews campaign without breaking the bank or enduring a massive headache.
To get you started, here are some tips on how to ramp up positive customer reviews for your business:
1. Be shareable.
Start by offering decent products and delivering excellent customer service. You’ll never want to get mentioned on review sites for the wrong reasons. If you’re not confident about what you provide, hold off any major customer feedback campaign until your entire team is honestly comfortable with your offerings. Instead, consider performing covert A/B tests to infer sentiment and improve your product before actually asking customers to give feedback.
2. Make it easy.
For busy people, convenience is key to just about anything. Gone are the days when customer feedback was gathered using snail mail. In the always-on digital era, you need to be where your customers are. Depending on the context, you can use mobile, phone calls, social media, SMS text, your website, email, or even video conferencing to glean how customers feel about your products.
Take a look at this example from Nextiva, they created and marketed an unbiased piece of content breaking down all the pros and cons for a small business to purchase a VOIP system.
Now all the people who read this article and signed up on their website were asked for feedback and you can see how specific their feedback is in this G2 Crowd review.
Setting context like this sometimes helps to better target people you want to ask for a review.
In general you should provide opportunities for customers to leave comments or ratings without overwhelming them with too many queries or steps. Guide them towards immersive landing pages and active online communities.
You should be encouraging happy customers to share their experiences on popular review sites by providing these customers with relevant links and easy templates to use/follow. ReviewTrackers published a useful article on how to ask customers for reviews using a variety of methods.
3. Get smart.
Don’t be too eager to get feedback all the time. You’ll just annoy customers and defeat the campaign’s purpose. Instead, be strategic when it comes to context and timing. Depending on the product or service, a few days after the buy-in would be a good time to request for feedback, for example. Ask as few questions as possible but make sure they are the right ones.
Be creative at running your customer reviews campaign. Use contests, newsletters, social media activities, surveys, and industry events as platforms for soliciting customer feedback. Optimize content for various devices, with a special focus on mobile phones. Make reviewing your product an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.
Finally, consider using reputation management and reviews software such as Podium, ReviewTrackers, and BrightLocal. Many such solutions help teams drive, analyze, and manage customer reviews at scale.
Demonstrate the premium you give on customer feedback by publishing selected reviews or success stories on your home page. This will help prospects and new leads evaluate whether they share similar pain points with existing customers and whether they can expect the same positive outcomes.
Ramit Sethi’s client testimonials on GrowthLab and the success stories of Outreach.io’s corporate clients are excellent examples of how you can present customer reviews in away that resonates with your target buyers while also marketing your brand.
Collaborate with customer service people so you can regularly post stories that explore problems of real customers and the specific solutions that worked for them. If you have adequately addressed customer complaints regarding your service or product, publish those as well. No one asks you to be perfect. But honesty and authenticity matter a lot in the new economy, especially among millennials and Gen Zers.
5. Follow up.
All types of customer engagement — from business development to sales — involve follow-ups. That’s because attention spans are getting shorter and customer mindshare among competing brands shifts pretty much all the time.
Use email marketing and warm calling techniques to your advantage. If you have mobile apps associated with your product, be sure they have robust support for various types of notifications.
Nothing hurts as much as unrequited love (or hate). Respond to all legitimate reviews — especially those that raise negative issues about your services.
Show appreciation to customers who gave highly positive, detailed, or helpful reviews. Ask them permission to quote their statements on your website and other marketing channels.
On the other hand, closely engage customers who post sharp, biting or unfair comments about your product. Find ways to address their issues whenever possible. Be polite and honest. Approach sensitive situations with utmost grace. If you’re facing this challenge, BrightLocal posted a short 7-step guide on how to manage negative online reviews.
Sometimes being nice is not enough. Just paying lip service to customer appreciation wears people down pretty fast. If you really appreciate customers, show them how you feel in tangible ways.
Work with other customer-facing teams and draw up compelling rewards and incentive programs for loyal or engaged customers. Make clear pathways towards brand ambassadorship. Provide meaningful and memorable rewards. Always go for creativity instead of cost.
Writing comprehensive reviews is no easy task. So don’t scrimp on giving the appropriate recognition. Note, however, that incentive programs do attract unscrupulous people who will do anything for a quick buck. As TrustRadius recommends, you still need to properly vet reviewers to preserve the accuracy/objectivity of reviews and ensure that your incentives budget only reaches deserving people.
Caption: A sample reward posted on Twitter for G2’s customer reviews program.
Customer reviews help validate your value proposition. They enable you to quickly address customer issues, improve your product, and provide better service. They also help market and sell your product. After all, is there a better pitch than one coming straight from the lips of happy customers?
That being said, it still takes a lot of positive customer reviews to move the needle. One review with a perfect score is no match for thousands of independent reviews with a slightly lower rating. So be sure to proactively request for feedback at moments where doing so is reasonable and compelling.
Remember, how customers think about you is a good indicator of how well your revenue performance will pan out.
About the Author
Dmitry grew a startup from zero to 40 million views per month and got acquired by Google in 2014. He translated his know-how into JustReachOut.io a SaaS which is now used by 5,000+ entrepreneurs and brands to pitch journalists and get featured in press daily.