The Importance of Customer Reviews and How to Get Them

Customer reviews and revenue go hand in hand. In fact, companies with the highest customer loyalty typically grow revenues at more than twice the rate of their competitors.

Want more data? A study of 200 of the Fortune 500 firms across 40 industries found a 1 per cent improvement in customer satisfaction led to an increase in the firm’s value of approximately $275 million.

The typical business only hears from 4 per cent of its dissatisfied customers. And while 80 per cent of companies rate their customer service as superior, only 8 per cent of customers feel the same.

For every one complaint, an estimated 26 remain silent. Well, not exactly silent. A customer may not file a complaint with a company, but they may spread word of a bad experience to friends and family. The worse the experience, the more people they tell. On average, consumers tell 15 people about their good customer service experiences, and 24 people about their bad experiences. Another survey of 3,600 consumers, located in the U.S. and Canada, revealed that 79 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

This means there is a premium on asking for customer reviews and making them a strategic part of your business—online or offline. Here are four steps to do just that.

1. Ask

Let’s start with the obvious. To get customer reviews, you have to ask. But how?

The mechanics are fairly simple. If you run an online business, create a simple template in your email provider (an autoresponder) that includes a link to your page on the most relevant review site listed below. A week or so after every new sale, send a confirmation email (read CASL implications below). If your business takes place in person, then you can integrate a request-for-review email into your point-of-sale system itself.

Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of some of the major review sources, first by industry, then by category.

Service Review Sites

Considering most of these sites are free, they’re easily accessible. Once you’ve identified the sites most relevant to your business (check the categories above) create a simple profile page that lists your business, products, and services. Be sure to enter your location for local searches. Then—the most crucial part of the equation—ask for reviews.

Get proactive. Include links to the sites you’re listed at on your business cards, bills, invoices, and in all emails that touch your customers or prospects.

To go beyond quantitative data, such as simple ratings, and really crawl inside your customers’ heads you can also try qualitative data, such as surveys.

Major Survey Providers by Level of Difficulty

When drafting customer surveys, ask both closed and open-ended questions. Closed questions ask for data (quantitative questions about ranking), or they require “yes” or “no” responses. Closed questions are great because they don’t require much from your reviewer. They’re simple, easy to take care of, and quick.

Open questions ask for qualitative feedback. They ask for your customers’ opinions and feelings. Questions such as “What would you tell a friend about our product?” elicit more developed responses.

Once you’ve asked, don’t forget to share your results—not only on your own website and the review sites themselves, but across social media platforms. This is what persuasion expert Robert Cialdini calls “social proof”:

“When people are uncertain about a course of action, they tend to look to those around them to guide their decisions and actions. They especially want to know what everyone else is doing—especially their peers.”

2. Hold Contests and Offer Incentives

But what if no one responds? To increase participation—that is, actually get people to review—you may want to incentivize your customers.

Holding contests for returned surveys is a strategy that is often successfully employed. More notable examples of customer survey contests range from dine-in restaurants to auto part stores.

For example, by using the incentive of a Netflix coupon with a customer survey, a software company saw a 77 per cent increase in click rate and a 326 per cent increase in response rate.

Contests can be held via email by sending announcements with the incentives highlighted. These are great points of contact; instead of selling, your brand is giving away something truly valuable and exciting.

Social media contests can not only generate feedback but amp up the number of likes, follows, and email list subscribers. Facebook contests that aim at information collection have been labeled action-gating. Again, you incentivize information sharing by offering entry into a contest for prizes.

On-site customer reviews come in many forms. In fact, a great way to crowdsource feedback while engaging your niche is to ask for proactive participation in something like a photo-sharing or caption contest. User-submission contests are a powerful two-for-one. First, you get to run an incentivised contest that engages your audience. Second, you and your audience get real feedback by allowing other visitors to vote on the winner.

Rule of thumb: Offer multiple prizes. The mentality is that multiple smaller prizes increase the odds of winning versus one big prize, which increases the incentive to participate and also the number of responses.

3. Connect Offline and Online Reviews

One major source of confusion over implementing customer reviews comes from the conversion of offline sales to online reviews. In other words, what do you do if the majority of your transactions take place in person rather than online?

The easiest way to connect these offline and online reviews is to gather information about your customers right at the point of sale (POS). To do this, you’ll need a POS system integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) system.

With this kind of combined service, the POS process and review looks like this:

  • The customer makes a purchase on location.
  • The clerk is prompted to ask for their email.*
  • The transaction occurs and a “thank you plus request for feedback” email is sent automatically with a link to the appropriate review site.

*Remember, just asking for an email during POS (without informing a customer what they will be emailed) may not be considered consent according to CASL. Include disclosures when asking for consent—an opt-in needs to be an action that the consumer must take. Include clear steps for unsubscribing in any emails sent and remind customers how their address was acquired.

Automation is key, because the sooner the email is sent after the interaction occurs, the higher the likelihood the customer will complete the survey.

4. Provide a Dream Come True Experience

Chances are, middle-of-the-road customers won’t write reviews. The fringes do. This means both ends: the people who aren’t happy with your company and the people who love your company. Bottom line: The majority of respondents are the extremes. These people either genuinely love what a company has done, or they can’t stand it.

To create a dream-come-true experience, tell yourself a story. Start with the end in mind: If I were one of my customers, what is the best possible outcome? What would be an amazing payoff? What would make me want to share my experience with my friends? What would make me say “wow!”?

Then, think of all the ingredients that add up to that ending. For instance:

  • The product does exactly what it says it does.
  • Any trouble with the product was dealt with by a real person who I could contact immediately.
  • The product arrived on time and undamaged.
  • The product was shipped and tracked automatically.
  • The product shipped free.

The point isn’t to create satisfied customers, but rather, raving fans.

Go Get ‘Em

To supercharge both your online and offline sales by collecting customer reviews, follow these four steps:

How to Get Customer Reviews

Remember, your customers will talk about you. No comment isn’t an option. So, what do you want them to say and how will you get them to say it?

2015 State of Marketing

Share ‘The Importance of Customer Reviews and How to Get Them' On Your Site

About the Author

FAaron Orendorff is a contributor at Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Business Insider, Success Magazine, Copyblogger, MarketingProfs & Unbounce. You can check him out at iconiContent.com or follow him on Twitter.