I like to eat lunch at a quaint little pub called O’Malley’s just up the street from our Raleigh internet marketing office. Their servers are always friendly and attentive no matter how busy it is. So you can bet I left them a positive online review!
It’s true – we generally only go to review sites when we’re upset with a business. So how can a business owner trigger more positive reviews and social mentions?
Please note: DO NOT under any circumstances, contrive positive reviews for your business. This is unethical, easily detected, and most likely illegal. This is called “astroturfing” and just like in politics, can ruin your credibility or damage your reputation even further.
Make sure you deserve a good review.
Most business owners think their service is impeccable and as long as people continue to buy, they have nothing to worry about. Like an IT technician is trained to look for problems with the physical layer first, you should make certain that your business gives exemplary service BEFORE you should expect any positive mentions or reviews. If your business model or practices are uncouth or shady, you cannot expect anyone to say anything nice about you online. Some businesses are inherently going to make some people upset, but this comes down to managing expectations.
Everyone’s a Critic
Look at the reviews you already have.
Duh. You can’t generate good reviews (at least not legally) unless you have happy customers to write them. No amount of asking for user reviews or soliciting feedback will help compensate for a bad first impression. Greasy fingerprints on glass doors are a turn off of mine. Even if I get great service and the food is great, my first impression is that diner doesn’t care if they appear to be clean. Start by making sure to resolve any issues that particularly bother your customers if you possibly can. How do you find out what those issues are? By reading reviews left about your business. If you know a patron that left a bad review, ask them if you’ve improved.
Consider asking for reviews.
Tread lightly if you decide to do this. Don’t ask for good reviews, just reviews, and not until the end of the transaction. The request should come after a meaningful interaction of some sort, not with every routine transaction. I had an exterminator ask me to give a 5 star review on their page on the yellow pages website. He explained there was a contest going on for the field techs to get good reviews. I thought, “That’s a neat idea,” until I went digging into the full scope of their reputation online. There was a reason they were asking for 5-star reviews, to cover up the 300+ 1-star reviews they had. After reading several, I could tell which reviews were contrived, which ones were asked for, and which ones were legitimate complaints. I chose not to leave any review at that time, and decided I didn’t want to contribute to this company’s cover-up. I may have left a good review had I not been asked to write a 5-star review, when the service was not the extra mile.
Make your web presence known.
If a majority of your customers are younger than 30, asking them to post a review may turn them off. Instead, simply engage with them in the online world by creating a Facebook group and Twitter account for your business. Customers in this age bracket are so accustomed to posting online about every experience they have, they’ll almost certainly share their thoughts about your product or service without asking them to… good and bad. So make sure you are prepared for them.
Respond quickly to bad reviews.
The best way to deal with a bad review is to resist the urge to defend your company, product, or employee, an approach that almost always makes things worse. The key is how you respond is not just for the person who made the complaint, but for the general public that will see how you reacted. If a complaint is valid, thank the customer for the review and apologize for their bad experience. Most times, the consumer just wants you to acknowledge that you, the business owner, understands there’s a problem and wants to fix it. Some customers will often go back and update a negative review once the issue has been resolved, so you can turn a negative into a positive if you act quickly. If the bad review is unwarranted, it’s especially imperative to resist the urge to get defensive. Respond with empathy and appreciation for their honest feedback.
Reach out to negative reviewers directly.
Not everyone recommends responding publicly to bad reviews. Sometimes it is never a good idea to respond online to negative reviews, because doing so tends to put the business in a defensive position. Some companies elect to contact negative reviewers directly if they can be found, and tries to resolve the issue. Thoughtful, constructive responses go much further than ignoring them or rebutting them defensively. You may offer an extension of a complimentary dessert or a coupon for their next visit.
Make reviewing your business easy.
By putting a link to a review site page right into your website, you can expect you’ll get more reviews. Some strategies include ‘give feedback’ or ‘suggestions’ button on your website so that users can do so without going public. Think of this as the comment boxes you used to see in places that were corporately owned but locally operated. This does a few things for you; it can keep a good majority of complaints from ever being seen by the public, help you address and resolve the customers problem in private, and allows you the opportunity to ask for a review. If you’ve not claimed all your profiles on Google Maps, Yelp or Urban Spoon, you should do so right away to prevent a situation such as this from getting out of hand.