Listen Up: Here’s How to Get Customers to Leave Reviews

Nearly every entrepreneur has at one time or another thought how amazing it would be to peer into the minds of their customers and get a clear picture of what they want most and what they dislike.

Imagine how effective you could be with this kind of information.

The good news is that it’s illegal for businesses to establish direct conduits into their customers’ brains. So you don’t need to worry about Target or Toyota or Tempur-Pedic sneaking around to install some sort of probe the next time you undergo routine surgery at the hospital. And, of course, you won’t be able to pull a similar stunt on your customers.

The better news is that you already have ethical access to direct insights from your customers’ minds. They’re called reviews. And the unfiltered opinions and observations included in your customers’ reviews can provide crucial data that will help you target your advertising, improve your products, and deliver the caliber of experiences that inspire loyalty.

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How to Get More Customer Reviews

Your goal should be to collect every possible review from your customers. The good and the bad. Angry customers won’t need any prompting from you prior to unleashing their reviews. These individuals usually have accounts with all the major review sites and are chomping at the bit for an excuse to write another novella highlighting all the ways that you failed them.

They live for these moments.

It’s the reviews that range from constructive criticism to glowing praise that you need to seek out. These individuals behind these perspectives are often less likely to write a review. Instead, they just discreetly carry their praise around in their hearts.

So you’ll often need to reach out to them and invite them to leave a review. But who has time to run around like a lepidopterist with a net trying to catch butterflies? You have a business to run, after all.

That’s where automation comes into play. A platform such as Podium or Chekkit can send out texts or emails to customers following a purchase or interaction. By making it easier for customers to share their impressions on a range of review websites, you’ll ensure that you’re balancing out the zealous negatives with some actionable positivity.

Here are some of the key places you should be directing your customers to leave reviews:

The simpler you make it to leave reviews, the more customers will do so. Most of them are just as busy in their own lives as you are in yours. So you need to apply some empathy to the situation and realize that if you’re going to ask a favor of your loyal customers, the least you can do is make it the lightest lift possible.

Making reviews a convenient action for customers has the additional benefit of instilling trust. Customers will recognize that you value their opinion and want to improve your service to them. By empowering them to speak up, your sales will often follow a corresponding trajectory.

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How to Use Customer Reviews

So how do you make the most of your reviews? First, you should feature the best customer feedback on your website and social media. Not only does this help to shine a spotlight on the areas where your business excels, but it also demonstrates that you’re customer-minded and seeks feedback.

Perhaps you even contact some of the customers behind the glowing reviews and see if they’d be willing to be featured in a post on your blog. Or you could create a short video about their positive interactions with your business and then share it on your social channels.

While all these tactics are outward-facing, there is crucial internal work that should also be done with your customer reviews. Namely, you need to use these insights as guideposts that help you create the best customer experiences in your industry.

Look for trends in the reviews that illuminate what you’re doing best and what must be improved. By treating your reviews like focus groups, you can delve into the customer’s perspective and see your business in its true light.

Once you’ve compiled a list of strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to go to work. Outline strategies for maximizing and promoting what you’re doing best. Incorporate them into your marketing campaigns and product launches.

Likewise, meet with your team to create plans for remedying the areas where you’re struggling. This is a good opportunity to reach back out to customers with an email survey. Explain that you’ve heard their feedback and are committed to getting better. Then ask them questions about what they most value and how your business can better deliver for them.

How to Respond to Customer Reviews with Experiences

Customer experience management has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have in recent years. The market for this type of management is valued at nearly $9 billion (USD) and is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of 18%.

As Franny Harold explains:

Your business could face serious consequences for lagging behind competition in customer experience […] Customers overwhelmingly agreed (83%) that they feel more loyal to brands that respond and resolve their complaints. Fellow business owners might urge you to level-up your customer care sooner rather than later. 73% of brands expect the number of inbound channels to increase in the next 1-2 years, and 53% also believe the same for outbound channels.

Exceptional customer experiences do more than generate positive reviews. They build the type of loyalty that can propel a business to new heights. Customers will buy more, spend more, and tolerate more if you deliver great experiences.

Research reveals just what you can look forward to if your business provides top-notch experiences:

  • 94% of customers will purchase more products
  • 94% of customers will refer you to friends and family
  • 90% of customers will trust you
  • 77% of customers will forgive you when mistakes are made

If these numbers don’t motivate you, nothing will. Customer experiences provide a prime opportunity for your business to rise above the competition. Pricing and positioning will always be a battleground. You’ll win some skirmishes and lose others. But if you deliver the best experiences, you’ll build a strong customer base that’ll see you through the toughest of times. Your competitor could lower their prices to bargain barrel level as a desperate ploy, or the economy might tank, but your business will remain supported by a stable base.

“Increasing customer retention isn’t just about creating warm, fuzzy feelings, it also has a dramatic impact on the bottom line,” says Mary Kate Miller. “Increasing your customer retention can drive revenue and profitability.”

How to Handle the Worst Reviews

There’s no escaping the fact that certain people are going to write awful things about your business. Some of them might be accurate, some might be mischaracterizations, and others might be outright lies.

You’ll need to respond to all of them, so it’s important to know how to handle customer reviews that are less-than-kind. Because ignoring a negative review is the same as letting it fester.

For starters, responding quickly does more than help to mitigate the negativity online. It also displays the customer you care about their opinions. Research shows that half of all customers who leave a review expect that business to reach out within 7 days. So quick action will be perceived as positive action.

Starting with an apology is a great way to diffuse the situation. Even if you don’t think you are at fault, this is an opportunity to show empathy and validate the customer’s feelings.

Here are 6 more tips for handling those times when a customer gets feisty:

  1. Introduce yourself: It’s easier to say mean things about an entity than it is about a person. Once you bring your name into the equation, you’ll set the stage for a conversation rather than an argument.
  2. Stay cool: It’s hard to remain calm when someone is trashing your business. But if you escalate your tone to match theirs, any chance of reconciliation is gone.
  3. Don’t take it personally: We’ve all had experiences where we were frustrated by a business’s products or delivery. So remember that the customer doesn’t hate you—they’re just having a bad day with your business.
  4. Avoid condescending phrases: Even if the customer is wrong about something, watch out for phrases such as “If you would have just read the instructions” or “That’s completely false.” They’ll only make things worse.
  5. Restate the problem: A good way to proceed toward a solution is to confirm you heard the customer correctly. By restating their words, you’ll show that you sincerely listened to what they had to say. And it’ll allow you to make accurate decisions moving forward.
  6. Be a problem-solver: Ultimately, most angry customers just want a solution. So it’s imperative that you offer them something fair and actionable. If they reject your solution, consider a compromise. Even if they aren’t interested in your suggestions, at least you made a genuine effort.

Communicating with your customers will always be an essential element of your success. Whether that’s seeking their opinions or responding to their complaints, your efforts will always be noticed and appreciated.

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