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.
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!
Great list of (self-inflicted) objections, if we all step outside our comfort zone once in awhile we’re usually rewarded with new exciting experiences…
When business owners see the proof positive of a review, that’s usually all the motivation they need.
But if we don’t ask, we’ll never get it!
A must read for any small business owner, great post Phil – as usual.
Hey Chris, thanks for your compliments. Excellent point about how things usually click once business owners get one review and think, “Cool – I could do with more of these.” It’s either an upward or downward spiral. I hope this post helps people get out of the downward one.