Top Excuses for Not Asking Customers for Reviews

Many people don’t want to do things that, deep down, they know are good for them.

Asking customers / clients / patients for reviews can be one of those things.

You probably know that reviews are important not only to your local rankings, but also to compelling would-be customers to say, “Hey, I think I’ll give this place a call.”

But you might have some reservations about asking for reviews (to say nothing of some of the obstacles you can’t do anything about).  You’re not sure how best to approach customers, and you’re not sure if it’s worth the trouble.

Many of my clients know that when it comes to reviews I’m like the drill sergeant on Full Metal Jacket.  I’m hard-nosed about reviews, because I’ve seen what a smart, sustained effort to get them can do for a business’s local visibility.

I’m not talking about reviews on one specific site.  True, reviews on Google+ and Yelp are important, but so are reviews on InsiderPages, Yahoo, industry-specific sites (e.g. Avvo, DealerRater, WeddingWire, etc.) – you name it.  I’m talking about why you need to bother with reviews in general.

But some people are still gun-shy.  I’ve heard every excuse there is.  And I’ve got a rebuttal to every one of them.

If you’re ambivalent about asking for reviews – or if you know someone who is and who needs a nudge – then this post is for you.

 

Most of my customers aren’t computer-savvy.

Make it so they don’t need to be.  Make it easy.  Offer guidance.  Give them simple instructions (examples here and here).  You still won’t get reviews from every customer, but that’s always the case, and it’s not the point here.  If you break the process down into simple steps, you’ll get reviews.

 

 

My customers don’t want to set up Google+ accounts.

Again, make it as easy as possible for them – like by telling them that they don’t need to spend an hour filling out their profile, for starters.  Also, if there is a subset of people who are dead-set against touching Google+, just ask those people to review you elsewhere.  You shouldn’t be steering everyone toward Google+ in the first place.

 

They forget.

Then remind them.  Sure, don’t be a pest.  But a polite, casual follow-up to your initial request is appropriate – and it’s a great pretext for getting in touch to say “howdy” and see how they’re doing.  It’s also an important experiment to run: you’ll want to know whether many of your customers really do “just forget,” or whether there might be other barriers to their writing reviews.  Also, mix it up.  If you initially asked someone in-person for a review, send him/her an email as a follow-up.  Or vice versa.

 

I’ve tried asking, and very few people end up leaving me reviews, so I feel like it’s not worth the effort.

You probably won’t have a high batting average – and that’s fine.  As long as you occasionally get a couple reviews, things are heading in the right direction.  On the other hand, if nobody leaves you reviews, that actually tells you quite a bit.  That bit of intel may tell you that you need to tweak your approach to asking for reviews, or that you need to spend a little more time getting to know your customers in the first place.

 

My reviews will only get filtered, so what’s the point?

You’re making the dangerous assumption that reviews are useless for as long as they’re visible on your listings (e.g. Google+, Yelp, InsiderPages, etc.).  What if one of your customers – just one little old customer – told you that the deciding factor in hiring you was your impressive reviews?

(Some of my clients have told me the deciding factor for them was my testimonials, and some have told me that their customers went with them as a result of their reviews.  One of my clients, a top-notch window cleaner in Oregon, said he won a customer just as a result of his Google+ reviews – and he’s only got two of ‘em to date.)

 

There’s never a good time to ask.

Even if it seems that way (emphasis on “seems”), ask anyway.  Experiment with different media, and with asking customers at different times after the transaction (e.g. a day after, a week after, etc.).  Also, what might not feel like a convenient time for you to ask for a review might be a very convenient time for them.

 

I don’t have their email addresses.

Then ask them in-person for reviews.  And try to get their email addresses from now on.  You should be doing so anyway – if only for the reason that if they need your services again, you’ll want to be top-of-mind and as easily reachable as possible.

 

My industry has regulations against it.

If that’s true, congratulations!   You may have the only potentially legitimate excuse reason I know of for not asking customers/clients/patients for reviews.

But, even so, I’m pretty sure there’s no regulation that says your customers/clients/patients are actually forbidden from writing reviews if they so choose.  If that’s the case, then your mission is simply to build “awareness” (I hate that word, but couldn’t think of a better one).  Have links on your website to your Google+, Yelp, and other listings, include those links in your email signatures, and otherwise just generally let it be known that you dig anyone who writes you a review.

Also, you need to look to your competitors on this one.  If they have reviews, either they’re doing something illegal / unethical, in which case you should report them to whatever powers-that-be, or you’re just granting them the upper hand with a shrug.

 

My customers are too concerned about privacy.

Surely not all of them are so concerned that they won’t put in a good word for someone who did a good job for them (you).  But for the ones who are extra-shy, you can ask them to review you on sites that don’t require their full names to be shown in the review.

 

I’m in an industry where people might feel embarrassed to leave me a review.

Some people, sure.  But not everyone.  Let them know that they don’t have to go into detail.

I can’t think of an industry where clients are simply mortified.  When I type in “DUI lawyer,” I see lawyers with reviews.  Likewise if I type in “marriage counseling.”  I once made a Google+ review handout for the owner of a sex toy shop.  Now that place had some glowing reviews.

 

I don’t feel as though it’s professional to ask.

Why?  You shouldn’t be groveling.  That would be unprofessional.  Just make the review come across as a personal favor to you.  Odd as it may sound, people like doing small favors for people who’ve helped them out (even when there was money involved).  It makes us feel more like there’s more of a give-and-take.  But if you still don’t see it that way, have someone else in your organization do it – someone who doesn’t have those reservations.

 

I don’t have the time.

Asking someone for a review takes 90 seconds to maybe 3-5 minutes, depending on whether you ask verbally or by email or through some other medium.  You’ll get even faster once you’ve done it enough that you don’t have to think about what to say every time.  But if you’re that harried – which I doubt – then delegate it to one of your more-senior employees.

 

I already have testimonials on my site, so I don’t need reviews.

They’re not the same thing.  It’s nice to have testimonials on your site.  But they won’t help your rankings, and they won’t help attract people from other sites and get them onto your site in the first place.  Only online reviews can do that.  You should have both reviews and testimonials.  You need social proof everywhere – in every part of your “conversion funnel.”

 

I want to focus on my rankings first.

Can you chew gum and walk at the same time?  How about pat your head and hop on one leg?  Yes, you can multitask.  Also, it’s less likely you’ll get rankings in the first place if people never click through to your Google listing or website after seeing them in the local search results.  Google knows how much (or little) searchers engage with your rankings/listings and – in my experience – those engagement stats influence rankings.  Reviews are signs of life.

Even more significant, rankings without reviews can be a waste.  People need a reason to click.

 

Yelp doesn’t allow business owners to “ask” for reviews.

Yelp is just one site of several that you’d be wise to get reviews on.  Still, you bring up a good point: It’s absolutely true that Yelp is absurdly opposed to your asking for reviews (even in a no-pressure way).  That doesn’t mean you can’t find ways simply to let everyone know that you’re on Yelp.

 

I don’t want to invite bad reviews.

You won’t.  Truly angry customers will write them anyway.  You’re not giving them any ammo, or capability that they didn’t have already.  If they slam you, they were going to slam you anyway.  On the other hand, if some customers give you a 3-star review, there’s probably some constructive criticism in there that you could learn from. Your #1 goal needs to be to deserve good reviews.  How are you going to do that if you just assume that you’re doing everything perfectly already?

Having some bad reviews is inevitable.  You can either crawl under the blankets and pretend that impossible-to-please customers don’t exist and can’t figure out how to post an online review, or you can do what you can to get the happy ones to speak up.

 

It’s all so confusing.

Then read the following pieces and apply the advice in them:

Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews

The Complete Guide to Google+ Local Reviews – and Especially How to Get Them

My SMX West 2013 Presentation on Customer Reviews

 

I’m afraid they’ll say no.

Right: some people will say no.  What about the ones who will say “sure”?

 

What are your reasons for being gung-ho about reviews – or your excuses reasons for not wanting to ask for them?  Let’s agree or argue – leave a comment!

23 Things That Won’t Hurt Your Local Search Rankings

Ranking well in local search is a matter of doing 3 things at once:

1. Working on the factors that help you;

2.  Avoiding getting hurt by the factors that can hurt you, and

3.  Not wasting time and effort on the stuff that doesn’t count.

I talk about the first point all the time.  It gets a lot of attention in general.

The second one involves following the rules and not making blunders.

The third doesn’t get much airtime, even though people constantly ask me, “Phil, will I be shooting myself in the foot if I do such-and-such?”

That’s why I’m going to talk about the harmless stuff – the factors that, in my experience, don’t affect how your business ranks in local search (particularly in the Google+Local results).

Here are 23 items that won’t hurt your local rankings:

Google+Local listing

 1.  Using your home address, if you run your business out of your home rather than in a bricks-and-mortar building.

 2.  “Hiding” your address from appearing publicly on your Google+Local listing.

 3.  Having the same street address as other businesses.  This might be the case if you’re in a strip mall.

 4.  Not being located in or near the center of town (AKA the “centroid”).

5.  Seeing discrepancies between the way your address is formatted when you’re on your Google listing and when you’re looking at it through the Google Places “dashboard” or Google Plus page-builder.  For instance, sometimes you’ll enter your address as “Ave.” but it shows up as “Avenue.”  That’s OK.

 6.  Using a cellphone number as the “primary” phone number for your listing.

 7.  Specifying a secondary phone number (in the “alternate phone number” field).

8.  Specifying a “contact” email address that isn’t associated with your website.  It can be a Gmail address, a Yahoo address…whatever.

9.  Having near-duplicate Google listings for individual people.  (You probably don’t even have to worry about this situation in the first place unless you run a law practice, medical practice, real-estate agency, or insurance agency.)

10.  Having some parts of your listing that aren’t 100% Google-compliant but that get “grandfathered” in because they’re not grievous offenses.  For instance, if for the past 2 years your listing has had your suite number in the 1st address field (rather than in the 2nd) you probably don’t need to change it.

11.  Using the same page on your website as the landing page for multiple Google listings, if you have multiple locations.  Ideally you have a landing page specific to each location, but in my experience it’s totally fine to use the homepage as the landing page for multiple Google listings / locations.

12.  Not “merging” your Google Places and Google Plus for Business pages.

Website

13.  Using CSS to format a rich snippet that contains your business name, address, and phone number (“NAP”).

14.  Running your website off an un-fancy platform (like GoDaddy’s “Website Tonight”).  I love WordPress, but you can optimize your site just fine on a more-primitive CMS.

15.  Using non-crawlable phone numbers on your website – like in the form of images.  Doesn’t matter if they’re call-tracking or toll-free numbers; Google can only read text.

16. Having domains that forward to the landing page that you use for your Google listing.

Third-party listings (AKA citations)

17. Not claiming your business listings on third-party sites like SuperPages, YP, Manta, etc.  The only reason you’d need to claim them is if they’ve got incorrect info on your business.  Beyond that, you might want to claim your listings in order to add as many photos, descriptions, etc. as possible.  So it’s worth taking a couple minutes to claim them, but your rankings won’t suffer if you don’t.

18.  Seeing minor formatting discrepancies between your listings on various sites.  Various citation sources have their little rules about formatting: MapQuest might use “123 Main St” for your listing, whereas SuperPages might use “123 Main Street.”  One site might want parentheses around your area code, whereas another might not.  There’s nothing you can do about these little variations, but they don’t hurt your Google rankings.

19. Concealing your street address on your listings.

20. Building citations quickly.  It’s not like with links, where Google might penalize you if you get too many links in too short a period of time.

21. Using the same “additional info” from listing to listing.  For instance, it’s OK to use the same 300-character description on every site that allows you to include a description of your business.

Reviews

22. Having negative reviews.  I’m sure if you’ve got hundreds of one-star reviews on a variety of sites (not just Google), your wings might be clipped in terms of how well you can rank locally.  But short of that, a few negative reviews won’t hurt you (at least from a rankings perspective; customer-acquisition is another matter entirely).

23. Losing reviews to the “anti-spam” filters used by Google and Yelp.

Can you think of anything else that simply doesn’t affect your local rankings?  Any first-hand experience with the above?  Leave a comment!