Seven Ways Businesses Can Get More Online Reviews

Whether it's a good review or a bad one, you and your team should respond with empathy. If someone compliments your business, show grace and gratitude. If someone criticizes your business, show responsibility and accountability.

Consumer reviews
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A good review can give a prospective customer who's somewhat familiar with your business the final push to make a purchase or sway them to pick your business if they're on the fence.

The numbers back up the importance of online reviews. According to research conducted by the Medill Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University, "a product with five reviews is 270%" more likely to be purchased than one with zero.

Plus, online reviews also play a role in bolstering SEO for organizations. According to the SEO tool Moz, to determine SEO rankings, Google looks at the reviews from three main sources: reviews on Google Business profiles, reviews on third-party sites "like Yelp" and finally, reviews directly collected on a business website (such as testimonials).

So, how can you get more online reviews? First, I'll state the obvious: I don't think there's a business owner on the planet who wants a negative review. At the heart of positive online reviews is excellent customer service. Even with excellent customer service, there's no guarantee that people will leave glowing reviews, but by implementing a few strategies, you can increase that likelihood.

1. Put a Process in Place

You need to have a process to get a steady stream of online reviews. Don't sit back waiting for reviews to pop up about your business.

Set a goal for how many online reviews you want to generate for your business within a given time span. Then create a process for asking for online reviews. That process could involve sending customers an email asking them to leave you a review after project milestones or reaching out and asking long-standing current customers who haven't yet left you a review. However, no matter which approach you take, keep the guidelines of different review platforms in mind. A good rule of thumb is to avoid asking for positive reviews; simply ask for reviews in general. And don't offer freebies in exchange for reviews.

You'll also need to determine who on your team will respond to your online reviews and when. More on that later.

2. Don't Wait Until the End of a Business Relationship to Ask

Don't wait until the end of a relationship with a customer to ask for a review. Instead, ask customers if they could leave you reviews during important project phases.

For instance, if a customer has a great onboarding experience or is happy with a result you generated for them, ask away! The customer is in good spirits and, more importantly, is currently engaging with your business. It's easier to ask a customer you're already in direct contact with to leave you a review than to ask a customer whose project with you ended a while ago. Now, this advice isn't always applicable. If your company sells, say, sweaters or sweets, those customer relationships end after the purchase (loyal customers aside). But there are ways to navigate those situations as well. One strategy, for example, is to put a quick note on the receipt asking customers to leave your business a review.

3. Introduce Micro-Commitments

The concept of micro-commitments is one I learned from attorney Sam Mollaei, who I once featured on my podcast. He's collected over 3,000 reviews for his legal services.

One of his most effective strategies to get those reviews has been to ask the consumer if they're willing to give him a review first and if they say yes, then he sends them the link where they can leave their review. When customers give a yes, they're making a micro-commitment and are more likely to follow through on that promise.

4. Incentivize Your Team

Incentivization is something you have to be careful about. It's against Google's guidelines to incentivize customers to leave reviews.

However, you can encourage your team to ask customers to leave reviews. For example, you can run a company-wide challenge where you divide your employees into groups, and the group that asks the most customers to leave a review wins a bonus at the end of the month or quarter.

5. Leverage Technology

Different customer review software tools on the market can give you a leg up regarding your business's online reviews. For instance, some of these tools will automatically message customers to leave you a review, freeing up your time. These tools can also help you keep an eye on incoming reviews so someone from your team can respond as appropriate.

And as obvious as it sounds, sometimes people overlook this: Take a mobile-first approach to your reviews. Many people walk around with a smartphone in their hand, and if you make it easy for them to leave your business a review with a few taps (such as by texting them a link to your review page), there is a higher chance of conversion.

6. Respond to all Reviews

It may sound counterintuitive, but you and your team should respond to all of your online reviews, good or bad.

Doing so shows that you have a pulse on how your customers feel about your business and that you pay attention to them under all circumstances. Whether it's a good review or a bad one, you and your team should respond with empathy. If someone compliments your business, show grace and gratitude. If someone criticizes your business, show responsibility and accountability. Treat your customers how you'd like to be treated.

And common courtesy aside, there's another reason why you should be mindful of how you respond to your customers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Consumer Review Fairness Act makes it illegal "for companies to include standardized provisions that threaten or penalize people for posting honest reviews."

7. Conduct Retrospectives

This brings me to my next point: Conduct retrospectives to improve your customers' experiences.

If a customer leaves you a negative review, don't just respond to the review and call it a day. Instead, take real action to make things right for that customer and put processes in place to minimize the chances that future customers will have bad experiences. And if a customer leaves you a positive review, take note of what went well and do more of it.

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