How to Create a Positive Review Strategy for your Business

In 2011 Google conducted a significant deep dive into its data and came out with a key finding that many business owners are unfortunately unaware of to this day.

These findings were titled ZMOT, or Zero Moment of Truth.

Google identified that the modern consumer goes through predictable behaviour patterns before they will make a purchase.  These patterns are present whether someone is buying a pen or a £30,000 car.

One of the key findings is that prior to making a purchase, the modern consumer will go through an internet research phase whereby they will review your website, social media and crucially, your reviews.

It’s vital today that businesses create a positive review strategy as part of daily business because your customers will review them, and they will be influenced one way or another.

 

How important are customer reviews?

Below is a quick list of reasons why online customer reviews are so important today.

  • 91% of consumers regularly check online reviews before making a purchase.
  • 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
  • 94% of consumers report they have avoided a business after reading a negative review.
  • Consumers are 21% more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one.
  • Rating filters mean more customers are actively searching for negative reviews.
  • The average consumer reads 10 reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • You cannot remove them from third party websites.
  • Reviews are a crucial ranking factor in SEO.

With the above in mind, it is vital that either you, or someone within your business has responsibility for developing a review strategy that encourages customers to leave genuine, high quality and positive reviews.

How to get customer reviews?

At Lilac James our advice is to allocate someone within your business the specific responsibility of generating genuine, high quality and positive reviews.

This will need consistent long term focus and the value of having this in place will build over time.

As we have seen from the stats on how important customer reviews are, negative reviews can have a huge impact on consumer behaviour.  Naturally, with any customer facing business there will be occasions where your customer service may slip below the level you aspire to, or there may be a personality clash between a client and a member of your team, or quite frankly, you could just be very unfortunate and deal with a particularly challenging client who likes to leave bad reviews.

The longer you employ a consistent positive review strategy, the more reviews you will get, and the more you de-risk your business from the occasional bad review.

Here are some simple ways you can achieve positive reviews:

  1. Put someone in charge of your review strategy.
  2. Actively contact customers and ask for reviews.
  3. Ask at the right time and preferably in person.
  4. Give them a simple review structure to follow.
  5. Make it as simple as possible for them by providing links to the third-party sites you would like reviews left on.
  6. Incentivise them. Ensure there is something in it for them.
  7. Share positive reviews on your social media.

It’s not rocket science, but does need active commitment and focus to ensure you consistently develop a strong review culture over time.

  1. Putting someone in charge

By making someone responsible for your review culture you have also made someone accountable.  We suggest you provide this individual with a small amount of training and set clear and agreed expectations of what they will deliver.

Often we have found where no one is specifically responsible for generating reviews businesses often struggle to provide the consistent focus generating high quality and positive reviews requires.

 

  1. Actively contact customers and ask for reviews.

If you want something, ask!

Many customers, regardless of how exceptional your customer service and experience was, will simply not think to provide a review, but if you simply ask, more often than not they will be happy to do so.

Human to human contact is always stronger than doing things by email so for best results, get someone with a good relationship with that customer to make contact either in person or on the phone when they make the request.

You’ll be surprised how successful simply calling people and asking will be.

 

  1. Ask at the right time and preferably in person

Asking at the right time is key, you don’t want to be asking either too soon or too late.  Exactly when is the right time will largely depend on the sector, product or service you’re offering.

Consider if you’re an estate agent, moving homes can be one of the most stressful things you can do in your life, so you’re not going to want to contact a customer the day after they move in because they won’t be in the best frame of mind and they will have 1000 other things to do.

You’re also not going to want to contact them one year down the line the chances are the memory of the moving experience will have diminished.

However if you were to contact them on the phone two weeks after moving in to see how they’re doing and check they’re settling in well, you will find the memory of your service and emotional connection will still be strong.  You could let them know you’ve sent them a small congratulatory moving gift to help them celebrate and politely ask for them to leave you a review.

  1. Give them a simple review structure to follow.

When you secure agreement for a client to leave you a review people will often struggle with what to say, so make things easy for them and provide a simple structure.

It’s important that any review you generate is credible so ensure the client knows the review structure is optional and certainly never put words in their mouth.

The simple structure we use is:

  1. Introduce yourself with a business name.
  2. What problem were you experiencing that led you to us?
  3. What was the outcome from the services we provide?
  4. Would/would not recommend.

By doing this you give the clients a simple structure that will ensure the reviews you generate are high quality and contain the right information.

  1. Make it as simple as possible for them by providing links to the third-party sites you would like reviews left on.

Today people are time poor so the easier you can make it for them the more likely it is they will leave you a review.

What we like to do is after securing agreement on the phone, we send an email with links to the third party websites we would like reviews left on, in that email we include the suggested structure above.

We then thank them in advance and follow up as necessary.

  1. Incentivise them.

We have done this really successfully for many clients over the years.  If you offer a real and valuable incentive for them to leave you a review, you’ll generate reviews with ease.

If you can automate this process then even better.

One way you can do this is offer a discount or gift in exchange for the review.  You can put this offer out as part of an automated process.

Many businesses who make online sales have an automated email sequence that follows, as part of this sequence simply include an email which asks for reviews, including links and review structure as required.

Common incentives include discounts on future purchases and information products.

 

  1. Share positive reviews on your social media.

Positive reviews serve as great social media content, it communicates to your target customer that you are legitimate, it creates social proof and assists encouraging your target customer to desire what you’re offering.  It’s fantastic for increasing brand awareness and research shows that on average a client will read 10 customer reviews before making a purchase.

 

Why is it important to get reviews on more than one platform?

91% of consumers will check online reviews before making a purchasing decision.

Many of these consumers will find relevant reviews by simply asking Google to provide that information by searching for “product X reviews”.

Google will then produce a list of relevant information to the searcher, this list will include reviews on multiple different platforms and you can expect your potential client will look at a minimum of 10 across several platforms.

 

Which platforms should I get reviews on?

This largely depends on the product or service you are offering however the following are a must:

  1. Google My Business
  2. Facebook Recommendations
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Amazon – For products
  5. Trustpilot

What we suggest, is that you conduct some searches yourself and see where reviews are commonly being left for your specific sector, product or service.  Google will deliver it’s searcher the most relevant information so if Google is delivering reviews on page 1 of the results page for obscure websites it is likely because this is where consumers for those products and services get their information.

When I searched “Kia Rio Reviews”, Google’s top 3 organic results were for:

  1. whatcar.com
  2. carbuyer.co.uk
  3. autoexpress.co.uk

If I were advising Kia on where to get their reviews for the RIO model, I would be focusing on these websites as a priority.

 

Why respond to customer reviews?

Most popular third-party websites where customers commonly leave reviews give businesses the option of responding and our advice is always to take the time to do so.

Responding to customer reviews achieves the following:

  • Gives you an opportunity to engage positively with customers, increasing trust and confidence in your brand, which increases the likelihood of further sales.
  • You have the ability to respond to negative reviews, putting across your side of the story, and/or apologising.
  • Boosts your organic Google rankings.
  • Improves overall consumer experience
  • Helps you identify, and learn from business mistakes.
  • Makes you stand out from your competitors and appear approachable.
  • Increases human to human interaction.

 

Can I delete customer reviews?

It’s not possible to delete customer reviews on most third party platforms, albeit if the review is grossly unfair or malicious some companies do have procedures to challenge and remove the review.

Google has it’s own review policies and if a review clearly violates these there are protocols in place to have them removed, but it’s not easy.

It’s important to third party review platforms that there is credibility in their information and as such, they do resist any attempt to interfere with their processes.

This is why taking control of your review strategy is so vital because once a negative review is online they’re near impossible to get rid of.

 

What should your strategy look like?

As with all strategies it’s best practice to get them agreed and written down.

What this will look like will depend on a variety of factors that would be impossible to consider in a single blog post.  I’ve given some best practice and good things to consider in the above content that will hopefully assist you in designing and implementing your own strategy.

If you would like any further advice or guidance, please reach out to me at jamie@lilacjames.com

Author Jamie Stenton – Business Development Manager