Customer reviews have become a key step in the customer journey, with a whopping 95% of customers reading reviews before deciding on a purchase.
Customers have always had the power to recommend (or discredit) a brand to their friends or family. But being constantly connected has given them greater ability to influence many other customers’ buying decisions as well, whether they’re posting a Tweet or writing a Yelp review.
Here, we’ll cover the importance of reviews, how they affect a business’s bottom line, the best review sites, how to get customer reviews, and how to respond to negative ones.
Table of contents
- The importance of customer reviews
- Customer review sites
- How to ask customers for reviews
- How to get good reviews from customers
- Responding to negative reviews
What are customer reviews?
Customer reviews are feedback about a business’s product, service or overall customer experience. Customers write reviews on a business’s website, third-party review websites such as Yelp or on social media.
The importance of customer reviews
From retail to B2B SaaS, reviews have an impact on how customers perceive your business, which ultimately affects profits.
- Customer reviews build trust
- They provide valuable feedback
- And increase conversions
- They also empower customers with information
Customer reviews show social proof and boost a brand’s online reputation. They’re powerful because they come from real people as opposed to a business, which makes them feel more authentic than traditional marketing.
In fact, research shows that people trust word of mouth more than brand advertising.
Eighty-three per cent of customers say that they trust friends and family, which isn’t surprising. But 66% say that they trust opinions posted online by strangers, with 91% of millennials trusting online customer reviews as much as friends and family.
‘Customer reviews are essentially word of mouth online,’ said Emily Washcovick, Senior Field Marketing Manager at Yelp. ‘In our digital age, customers can get feedback both from people they care about and know in real life and other consumers who have had real experiences via online reviews.’
From the quality of your product to the ease of your sales cycle and the effectiveness of your customer support, reviews provide valuable insight into what’s working well for your customer-audience and where there’s room for improvement.
‘Reviews enable businesses to keep a constant eye on their brand,’ said Washcovick. ‘You can’t be everywhere, doing everything and connecting with every end user of your product or service, so reviews give you an opportunity to get an abundance of feedback.’
More than half of consumers won’t use a business if it has less than a four-star rating. On the other hand, just a one-star increase in rating on Yelp can lead to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.
Just a one-star increase in rating on Yelp can lead to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.
Customer reviews are user-generated content about your business. Like a community forum within a knowledge base, reviews can answer customers’ questions before they need to contact your support team by providing customers with insightful information.
‘Customer reviews are a powerful tool for businesses to connect directly with people who want to know more about them. A customer can go to a restaurant’s Yelp page to get ideas of what to wear or what options are on the menu,’ said Washcovick. ‘Customers want to search for more things online because they have access to so much information.’
Customer review sites
|Reviews best for
|Google My Business
How to tell if a review platform is legitimate or trustworthy
Not every customer review site is created equal. Here are three key things to consider:
Does the review website go beyond ratings with quality content?
Seventy-three per cent of consumers think that written reviews are more important than ratings.
Quality review sites follow up ratings with written explanations for context. ‘On Yelp, we want to know information – we aren’t just a star rating site,’ said Washcovick.
Does it use a truth metric?
Context is key, but some review sites just want a lot of content, whether it’s legitimate or not. That’s why it’s important to find out if a review site measures content with a truth metric.
Yelp’s recommendation software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability and activity on Yelp.
Does it balance the power of technology with the power of human intelligence?
Technology creates a good user experience, but people keep a review site human.
In addition to automated software, Yelp allows businesses and consumers to report harmful or spammy reviews and has a team dedicated to reviewing all inbound flags.
‘As a business owner, sometimes it’s appropriate to flag a review. We’re not going to let a customer go after an employee with demeaning language or allow an ex-employee to bash a business in an aggressive way. Reviews are about helpful – not hurtful – content,’ said Washcovick.
How to ask customers for reviews
The key to asking for reviews is to make it feel genuine. You don’t want to come across as spammy. Here are some tips on how to ask for feedback from customers:
1. Meet customers where they are, on the channels of their choice
The first step to increasing customer reviews is to make the experience as easy as possible. If a customer has to work hard to leave a review, they’re likely to give up.
Enabling customers to write reviews on the channels that they prefer, and are already using, makes the review process more seamless. For instance:
- Include links to your Yelp page in your social media bio or newsletter footer.
- If a customer contacts you on a messaging channel, they should be able to leave a review in the messaging thread so that they don’t have to navigate outside the experience. In addition, if you’re communicating with a customer via email, they should be able to leave you a review in the body of the email.
- If you have a mobile app, give customers the option to leave a review there as well as on the product pages on your website.
2. Follow up on recent purchases or customer service interaction
Automatically sending customers an email following up on a recent purchase or customer service interaction is one of the most common ways for businesses to ask for reviews.
I recently bought a pair of flat shoes from Birdies and received a review request with seven brief questions that I could answer in the body of the email a week or so after my purchase.
Similarly, businesses can use customer service software to send customers a satisfaction survey after a recent interaction, with an option to leave a customer service review.
3. Maximise customer loyalty moments
Sixty-six per cent of loyal customers are likely to write a positive online review.
When customers demonstrate their loyalty, asking for a review feels more natural. You might ask a happy customer to write a review after:
- They have referred a friend
- They’ve been a customer for x amount of time or spent x amount of money with your business
- They’ve praised you publicly on social media
But remember – it’s not authentic to show only the flattering reviews, so a brand will want to make sure that it’s not just asking for reviews from loyal customers. In fact, negative reviews could even be the source of your next customer.
4. Train customer advocate or service teams to ask for reviews
Tain customer advocate or service teams to ask customers for reviews at the right moment, for instance:
- When a customer expresses appreciation for your brand
- If a customer wants to provide feedback
5. Offer incentives
A study by PowerReviews found that more than half of consumers who aren’t writing reviews need more motivation to do so. This is where incentives such as discounts or company freebies can help.
The cafe down the road from my flat offered me a free drink to write a review – and I left one second later.
The key is to not ask customers to write a ‘good review’ when offering an incentive so that you don’t influence their response.
Strategies for receiving positive customer reviews
Asking customers for reviews only goes so far. Companies with great customer reviews don’t necessarily have to ask for them – they do things regularly to create a review-worthy experience.
This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money or do anything elaborate. More often than not, it’s little, everyday things that customers remember, such as solving their problems quickly or reaching out proactively before a problem escalates.
Here are eight strategies for getting great company reviews by customers:
1. Listen to customers
Receiving positive reviews begins by listening to your customers’ needs and expectations.
Whether it’s a comment in a satisfaction survey, a common pain point mentioned in your community forum or something that customers continuously tell agents directly, use the feedback to create a better experience.
For instance, Postmates’ CX Team partners with their Product Team, as well as their Analytics Team, to ensure that customer feedback informs key product decisions.
2. Actively engage customers
If customers are engaged with your brand, they’ll be more motivated to write you a review. A few tried-and-true ways of engaging customers include:
- Building an online community where customers can engage with one another
- Providing personalised service
- Leveraging AI to create interactive experiences, such as via chatbots
Learn more customer engagement strategies in our blog.
3. Show customers that you appreciate them
Feeling unappreciated is the top reason why customers stop purchasing a product or service. However, when they do feel valued, they’re more likely to share their great customer experience with others.
Here are a few ways to show customers that you appreciate them:
- Create customer loyalty programmes
- Support social-justice causes that your customers care about
- Surprise and delight customers with gifts
Read our customer appreciation guide for more tips.
4. Share positive reviews
Customers write reviews because they want to feel heard. When a business shares reviews in an email newsletter or on social media, they show customers that it cares about what they have to say.
‘When companies share reviews, they show that this ecosystem of what customers say about their business matters and that they’re proud of it,’ said Washcovick. ‘This will naturally make other customers more likely to share their experiences too.’
5. Deliver an excellent customer experience
After having had a positive experience with a company, 77% of customers would recommend it to a friend.
The key to inspiring customers to leave a positive review is to deliver an excellent customer experience, according to Washcovick. While it’s not a business’s job to turn every customer into a Yelp reviewer, it is their job to create a good experience.
‘If a business leaves a great taste in customers’ mouths, they’ll be more likely to leave positive reviews,’ Washcovick said. ‘As a customer, when you love something, you want to tell everyone so that they can have that amazing experience too.’
6. Provide the best customer service
Customer service is a key piece in the customer experience puzzle.
Getting good reviews is about building relationships, which is a sweet spot where customer service can help.
‘Customer service makes a huge difference in a customer’s experience and willingness to talk about it because it adds the personal touch.’Emily Washcovick, Senior Field Marketing Manager, Yelp
Five examples of businesses with good customer service reviews:
- Zappos allows its Customer Loyalty Team to stay on customer calls for as long as they need to build relationships. It even allows customers to call or text the business about anything, whether they’re lonely on a Saturday night or are looking for Netflix recommendations.
- Nordstrom offers seamless returns – no questions asked. There’s an old story that it even let a customer return a tyre.
- Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts provides personalised customer service via text messages.
- Warby Parker lets customers get help via the channels of their choice, including the phone, email, chat or its knowledge base.
- Birchbox uses service recovery to flag customers’ complaints and then turn the experience around to repair the relationship.
7. Build a business around authenticity
A review-worthy experience is an authentic one, according to Washcovick.
‘The businesses we see get the most support on Yelp are the ones that are open and honest,’ Washcovick said.
Authentic companies lead with transparency, use truth and emotion to tell their brand story, and operate with a conscience. This includes:
- Sales being transparent about pricing
- Marketing setting realistic expectations about the product or service
- Customer service acknowledging when the business has made a mistake
8. Respond to reviews – even negative ones
Among consumers that read reviews, 97% read businesses’ responses to reviews.
‘In addition to sharing reviews, businesses should also respond publicly to reviews. A potential customer will be more inclined to share their experience before they even have it when they know that a business cares about their feedback,’ said Washcovick.
How to respond to negative reviews
Negative reviews are inevitable. The key isn’t to lose sleep over them or try to take them down, but to use them to find some resolution.
‘No one is perfect. Consumers even prefer to see some negative reviews,’ said Washcovick.
In fact, when reviews appear to be too good to be true, consumers lose trust.
Customers want real feedback, and perfect reviews are a sign that they were written by bots – the Spiegel Research Center found that reviews in the 4.2 – 4.5 range are more likely to have a positive impact on purchase decisions than five-star ratings.
Reviews in the 4.2 – 4.5 range are more likely to have a positive impact on purchase decisions than five-star ratings.
Here are a few of Yelp’s tips for responding to a negative review:
Acknowledge the customer and thank them for sharing their experience
‘We recommend initially responding publicly to negative reviews, and in that public response to thank the customer for taking the time to share their experience,’ said Washcovick. ‘This demonstrates your customer service practices to potential customers.’
Offer to have a private conversation
After you’ve acknowledged the complaint, your customer service team should send the customer a direct message to talk about how to resolve it in more detail.
Or, some businesses leave the ball in the customer’s court and provide a support email or phone number in their public response.
Responses are strongest within 24 hours.
‘You have to be the professional one,’ said Washcovick. ‘Take a deep breath and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Get some help from a team member if you’re feeling emotional about it.’
Try your best to resolve the problem
Harvard Business Review found that people who complained or wrote negative comments about a brand on social media and received a response were more loyal afterwards than those who never complained at all.
‘Not every reviewer is going to get back to you and give you the chance to resolve the problem. But if you can resolve it, it will go a long way,’ said Washcovick. ‘That’s how you keep a customer.’
Better reviews, better bottom line
How your customers think and feel about your business affects your bottom line. And when you create a great experience for your customer, they’ll want to share it with the world. Now you know how to get reviews – whether you ask for them, or simply provide such a great customer experience that customers are compelled to leave product reviews – it’s time to go out there and get your consumer reviews.