Customers today love to share their experiences, especially if there was an emotional connection in their experience or interaction with the business. If you have not done so already, read my blog on creating great customer experiences and wowing your customers. After you have delivered a great customer experience and wowed your customers with your amazing offerings and customer service, it is time to ask them for a review of your business.
In my opinion, positive reviews are your most effective marketing resource. More positive reviews means more customers who will trust your business and be willing to do business with you. So it is imperative to have a system in place to garner reviews. It is completely normal to receive some neutral or even negative reviews in the process. You cannot please everyone all the time. However, negative reviews must be attended to promptly. I recently wrote a blog on How to Handle Negative Reviews that you may find valuable.
Although people will leave you reviews whether you ask them to or not, I believe it is imperative to have a structured process in place that encourages and facilitates reviews. Timing is important. It is best to ask customers to rate their experience and review your business immediately after the transaction – before they forget the details and have moved on. The sooner the better. I recommend that my clients ask their customers to rate their experience as part of their transaction workflow. For instance, one day after the customer receives their product or a customer makes a purchase at a store, they can receive an SMS message or an email asking them to rate their experience from 1 to 10.
We have all seen the fake positive reviews left by business owners or their friends! They’re usually easy to spot. Yelp and other review sites are wise to these tricks and have established algorithms to detect and automatically remove or demote these reviews. Unfortunately, their algorithms sometimes flag legitimate reviews as fake or suspect. For instance, if a person opens a Yelp account and leaves a 5-Star review for a business, that review has little chance of seeing the light of day. However, if that person proves that he or she was physically at the business location, by checking in, their review would be validated and will show up. If they also upload photos when they check in, the review ranks even higher. Reviews by long-time Yelpers with many friends on Yelp and many reviews receive higher rankings than ones left by newer Yelpers. There are some tried and tested ways to help ensure that your customers’ reviews are accepted and displayed prominently.
If you have a physical business location that your customers visit, encourage or incentivize them to check-in to your business location, on their favorite social networks. One idea is to offer free Wi-Fi to the people who check in. Most social networks will ask those customers to rate your business in a day or so. There is an added benefit to having customers check in. It proves to the directory or social network that the customer was, in fact, present at your business, which legitimizes their review or rating. Those reviews usually get higher rankings than the ones without a check-in. Adding pictures further validates and increases the credibility and ranking of the review. Top ranking reviews are usually the ones that were preceded by a check-in and include photos and were posted by users who are usually active on that social network.
People already love to take pictures with their smartphones. You can add interesting photo subjects in the lobby or waiting area and encourage photography. For one of our clients, we erected a life-size cardboard photo cut-out of the handsome doctor in the lobby with his arm extended inviting patients to stand next to him. Patients, male and female, loved taking pictures and posting them on social media sites, and tagging the clinic or the doctor. The cut-out was near a wall sign that promised a Delicious Guilt-Free Vegan Cookie with a social media check-in. Many patients posted pictures of the cookie on Yelp and social media sites along with their check-in.
I always recommend that my clients ask their customers to review their products and services. It tells customers that you care about their experiences and opinions. It helps my clients improve their services and offerings, and it helps our agency gauge the effectiveness and success of our marketing campaigns. I recommend having a structured way of asking for reviews. Here are some ideas:
Anyone who responds with a rating of 6 or less should be considered a detractor. These can easily result in a negative review or bad publicity for your company and brand and they should be handled immediately. Ratings of 7 and 8 are considered passive or neutral. These customers are susceptible to leaving your company for a competitor’s. We recommend offering these customers an incentive to come back, such as a coupon for their next transaction. Ratings of 9 and 10 are obviously happy with your company and offerings and are usually happy to share their experience. These are the customers who should be asked to leave your company a review on their favorite review site.
If customers do not review their experience within a week, you can follow up with a phone call, thanking them for doing business with your company and asking them to rate their experience. We found that it helps to let them know how valuable their input really is and how much it means to you personally if they could take a few minutes to write a review. Again, this is about making a personal non-icky connection to the customer. Don’t be pushy. Use your judgment and ask for it nicely where appropriate.
A heartfelt video testimonial is the most effective marketing resource of all. At my ad agency, when we produce infomercials or other marketing videos, we include as many testimonials as we possibly can. Why? Because they are credible and research has shown unequivocally that they work. Shoppers who view videos are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non-viewers. (Hubspot)
I remember that back in the 1990s when we were running a lot of long-form (30 minute) national infomercials, we were at West Telemarketing’s call center in Omaha watching the phones and the graphs on the large overhead screens that showed the volume of calls and sales. The graphs would shoot up just after the testimonial section of the infomercial. I learned early on that to sell a product, I just needed to shoot videos of customers telling their stories passionately. We would fly customers out to our LA studio to shoot them or hire a local videographer on location to shoot customer testimonial.
Nowadays, everyone is shooting videos using their smartphones. And review sites are encouraging customers to record video reviews. On Amazon, although they still do not allow merchants to upload product videos, they do allow customers who have purchased a product to post a review video. And research shows that products with videos sell more (Hubspot) than ones without.
At Navazon, we sometimes ask our happy clients to record a video review. Our formula is easy. When we have a happy customer (which is always ☺), and a customer who is not camera-shy, we ask them if they would be willing to shoot a quick video, sharing their experience. Of course, we make it very easy for them by going to their place of business or wherever works best for them. And we make sure we are not too disruptive of their business. For your business, you could ask customers to shoot something on their smartphone and upload to Yelp or other sites. I recommend downloading that video onto your computer so you can place it on your website or social media pages.
We just finished launching a new Korean anti-aging skin care product line for a client in the US. The product has great science behind it and is truly a new, revolutionary product that we know people will love. However, it is brand new in the US market, so how can we expect US customers to trust it? We recommended conducting a six-week trial. Not a clinical research trial that is regulated by the FDA, but one that would get us honest feedback from users and validate the results that the Korean company reported. We invited five aestheticians and two regular people to use the product for six weeks. We took “before” pictures of their skin, and after six weeks, we took “after” pictures. Five out of the seven subjects reported dramatic improvements. The other two were not sure if they saw anything different. However, after we compared their before and after pictures side by side, they admitted that improvements in skin tone and wrinkle depth was undeniable. Pictures don’t lie. We ended up shooting seven testimonial videos of highly satisfied users. The five who were aestheticians spoke in more technical terms. All spoke very authentically and passionately. The product is now on sale on Amazon and the website will be ready in a few weeks. The seven testimonial videos are the centerpiece of our marketing efforts.
Customer-produced videos carry more credibility than company-produced videos. Company-produced videos are more like case studies than review videos. A badly produced video by a customer with amateur lighting and sound usually has more credibility in customers’ minds than a glossy corporate video that cost $30,000 to produce.
When we record video testimonials, we usually start by asking the customer what they’d like to talk about. I usually ask them a few questions to help the video flow better. A good video has a start, a middle and a finish. The questions I usually ask are something along these lines:
What was your initial concern? I ask them to expand on their fears, worries and concerns that they had when thinking about doing business with our client.
How was your initial experience? This could be the initial meeting they had with our client or the first time they used the product.
What was the final outcome? Here I am looking for real benefits that they realized while doing business with my client or using the product. The benefits should be crystal clear. In my experience, personal benefits work best. Even if we are promoting a business product and the customer can cite amazing statistics on how the product or service benefited their bottom line, I still ask the customer to share how it helped them personally, or how it made them feel. I think viewers respond better to a heart-felt share rather than one that is just citing dry business statistics.
Most importantly, I try to create an open and fun environment for customers in which to share their story authentically. I don’t want them to be very serious or dry. I may crack a joke and get them to laugh out loud just before I hit the record button. I encourage them to be animated and use their hands and arms like an Italian showman. I prefer that they are not seated in a chair. People are more energetic when they are standing. Or I may have them seated in a director’s chair that is high and keeps their elbows up and gets them to move their arms. In short, I try to have them portray a positive physical energy.
It is important to have a structured process or workflow in place that allows your customers to quickly rate their experience at all points of interaction. If a customer gives you a low rating of 6 or lower, follow up immediately to find a quick resolution to their issue before that bad experience turns into a negative review and damages your brand’s reputation. Reach out to customers that give your business neutral ratings of 7 or 8 to find out how you could have done better. These are customers that are likely to switch to competitors for their next transaction. This is your chance to win them over and ensure they come back to your business by being attentive and possibly offering them a premium.
When a customer gives you a 9 or a 10 in their rating, this is the time to reach out to them immediately and ask, in a non-cheesy way, for them to review your business on their review site of choice. If they are already big reviewers, you do not need to say anything more. You definitely do not want to be pushy at this juncture. The best you can do is to be helpful and create an environment that helps them deliver a fun and authentic review.
Some customers love your service but are not sure what to say. You can help them find their voices without putting words in their mouths. There is nothing worse than a fake review. Please do not give them a script to read or ask them to write one and read it. That comes across as horribly inauthentic and fake, and will work against you. Instead, ask them questions that prime them to phrase their experience in their own words. They must volunteer it in their own words and a happy tone. Otherwise, it comes across as fake.
I love authentic customer reviews because they expose the good, the bad and the ugly in a business. As a marketing consultant, that’s the first place I look to find the truth about a business – as do customers. A business can generate good reviews only if it has effective policies and practices in place that customers love. You cannot fake it anymore. Businesses that get a lot of negative reviews need to really reconsider their model, as they will not be able to sustain their model in today’s highly social marketplace. My recommendations only work for businesses that customers love. I always tell my clients, if your customers love you, my job is easy and I can take you to the next level. If not, let’s review everything from the ground up. If you cannot make your customers happy, find something else to do, where you are able to make your customers happy. Life is short, be happy and make others happy by being your true, authentic and happy self.