It’s bad form to offer customers hard incentives to write you reviews. That includes money, products, work, massages, Starbucks cards, Chuck-E-Cheese tokens, or anything else of tangible value.
On Google Plus it’s also against the rules. For once, Google’s review policies are relatively clear:
Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.
You can’t hold raffles or contests that reviewers can enter by writing you a review.
Then there’s the unofficial word from 20 months ago that you can’t hold review contests that donate to charity, where Google apparently stated that “Any incentive offered in return for a review of a specific business is against our policy.” But that “policy” wasn’t part of the rules then, and it certainly isn’t now:
To encourage reviews for your business: Remind your customers to leave feedback on Google. Simply reminding customers that it’s quick and easy to leave feedback on Google on mobile or desktop can help your business stand out from sites with fewer reviews.
Even in the “Tips for writing great reviews” document there’s no such broad stance against “any incentive.”
After flip-flopping for too long, Google’s’ not only OK with your asking customers / clients directly for reviews, but also encourages you to ask. It’s just that you can’t butter your reviewers’ bread.
So what can you do besides beg?
You appeal to the little Mr. Rogers within each of your customers.
You do it by telling customers that whichever employee, technician, hygienist, etc. who helped them will get a small bonus for any positive feedback about the job they did.
It’s not a new concept, but it’s worked like a charm for my friend and long-time client, who’s put it into practice for getting reviews on Google and elsewhere. Here’s exactly what he tells customers:
By the way, any members of our crew who served you today will get a bonus for any positive comments you’d like to add about their performance.
This works because you’re not waving money or an Amazon gift card in reviewers’ faces. You’re not telling them that their word – their very reputation – is worth just $25 or $50.
Rather, you’re appealing to the part of human nature that enjoys helping other people out. You’re also deferring to your customers’ judgment.
Of course, you’re not telling reviewers to give you 5 stars. They can write, “The prices were high, the person who answered the phone was an ogre, but at least Fred was polite and did a good job for me.”
To me, this approach is just a smart way of encouraging – not even “incentivizing” reviews. You’re not trying to grease customers’ wheels, and you’re only asking for positive feedback to the extent that your customers feel that someone on your team earned it. And it seems to work.
What do you think of this approach to encouraging reviews? Have you tried it? Leave a comment!
We have found that simply asking nicely can be enough. Better still, a simple customer service orientated email after the purchase is complete and where the customer responds with glowing praise a simple, heartfelt request for a review works wonders.
“That’s great, so glad you are happy. I wonder if we could ask a small favour? We are a small company and online reviews really help demonstrate the level of service we pride ourselves in. If you had a few spare moments and could leave us some feedback at the link below we would really appreciate it.”
We all need to avoid the temptation to overcomplicate these things and follow the path of least resistance! 🙂
I agree, Marcus. That’s been my experience, too. It’s just important to know all the tools in the toolbox. Especially this one, which is a one-line, “By the way…” addition to the request. Hardly complicated 🙂
Darren Shaw says
And as a sweet side effect, when the staff knows there is a bonus in it for them, THEY are incentivized to ask for reviews.
Exactly! That’s how it’s worked out in the case I described.
Jon at Grade.us says
I’m throwing out my Chuck-E-Cheese tokens and following this sage advice. Thanks, Phil!
Seriously, I always marvel at the level of nuance involved in this work: it can be deeply psychological, even personal. I think that’s why I like it–figuring out what motivates people to help one another never feels crassly commercial, even when crass commercialism pays the bills!
Thanks, Jon. I agree. Encouraging reviews issimple on the surface. But to do it effectively, to do it in a tough industry, to do it in a way that isn’t cheesy or offensive, and to adapt to Google’s changes…well, you start peeling an onion.
This is a great point to mention, Phil.
Currently using a tactic like this with a client and made a competition out of it. If the reviewer uses the servers name in the review we keep track and the server with the most mentions wins $100 cash money at the end of the month.
We placed a grease-board where all the employees walk in and out and keep the top 5 up there. Needless to say, a little internal razzing goes a long way.
Result: 250 reviews (and counting) in 9 months.
Also, we suggest that the servers only ask tables that they feel are excited about their visit. This is double sided because we have found that more employees work harder to connect with their tables a.k.a provide better customer service. So a win, win. If you know what I mean.
That’s awesome, Mike. Thanks for the first-hand take.
Matthew Shepherd says
Thanks for this Phil. I’m using GetFiveStars for a client and while it is doing a great job at collecting testimonials, people just aren’t leaving reviews elsewhere.
We are going to change up messaging to try and encourage those 3rd party reviews, but I think we will also give your advice in this post a shot.
Good call, Matthew. Yeah, it will take some experimenting. The ideal situation is that any kind of email outreach is a follow-up: I’d ask in-person first, if at all possible.
Matthew Shepherd says
Good point. Thanks Phil!
Rodney Robinson says
Thanks for sharing this, Phil. I have not attempted to encourage reviews yet for my site, but your statement is absolutely true: “Appeal to the Mr. Rogers in them.” Be warm and inviting in your request. It makes sense that Google would now support the encouragement of reviews. An honest request for feedback is the classic way to do business. Of course, you ask with the intent of obtaining positive feedback. Thanks again, Phil.
Adam Smith says
I have consulted for several dental practices and I have seen this work for many of them. Great article Phil!
Randy Stucki says
We just started implementing this at my practice and are seeing great results! Anyone who is not doing this is missing out!