How do you get your most satisfied customers to become your biggest online brand advocates? The importance of online reviews is evident. No amount of advertising, tweeting, and direct mailing can stop the impact customers can have writing online reviews. While many businesses outside of the food and hospitality industries find it rather difficult to ask for reviews, there’s no denying online reputation playing crucial role in building a strong brand online.

It can also be rather frustrating to receive great feedback from customers in person yet not see that translate onto online review sites, where a majority of your potential customers are. So what’s a business to do?

How to Ask In-Person

The best way to ask for an online review is ask for it in person. The person-to-person interaction is quite effective, especially if you have recently spent a lot of time with that customer. For example, if a sales associate at a retail store spent an hour suggesting outfit combinations and switching out sizes and styles for the customer, he or she would be well positioned to ask for a customer review. The sales associate could explain that this would help other customers who are researching the brand a true perspective about the business.

Tip: If you are thinking about asking for customer reviews in person, map out the customer touch points within the business where the deepest relationships with the customer are formed. Is it a sales person or manager that asks? Is it before or after the purchase? Is it during the purchase? Uncovering those opportunities can give you the best chance to catch a satisfied customer who will be willing to provide a positive review.

How to Ask Through Email

Naturally, email is not as personable as an in-person interaction, but there are times when email is your only option. If you’re going to ask for a review via email, it’s important to pre-screen customers with an internal survey. This is the best way to pick out your most satisfied customers while also addressing concerned customers internally. While this might sound shady, it’s no different from what you would do in person.

If a customer is clearly upset, you would never encourage them to go online and write a review. Internal surveys act along the same logic.

The average customer isn’t going to be looking for ways to leave your company a raving review. So it’s important that when you do send the magical email, that it have direct links to make the process as easy possible. Additionally, you may consider:

  • Adding a personal email as the “from” address – even better if it comes from the person who helped them 
  • Have the email written in a personal way as a personal request
  • Have a direct, very clear link to the survey or review site 
  • Include customer name in subject line 
  • Ask for the review promptly and don’t wait
  • Don’t be afraid to send a reminder or follow up email 3-4 days if you don’t hear back

Be Careful with Incentives

It’s been argued that offering incentives to customers who write reviews corrupts the system, but offering a small incentive for a customer who takes time out of their day to write a review can be a good thing. Just make sure that you’re offering the incentive for writing a review, not a positive review.

Tip: You can offer a surprise incentive after the customer submits their review as a token of appreciation. That way your incentive doesn’t sway your customer’s opinion.

Overall, online reviews are critical for the online success and growth of a business. The best ways to ensure that this is adopted as an organizational initiative:

  • Executives making an effort to communicate the importance of reviews
  • Training key employees on how to ask for reviews
  • Having an internal survey / online review process in place to encourage positive reviews while addressing concerns internally 

Other Things to Keep in Mind…

While Google encourages asking for online reviews, Yelp does not. Doing so may actually backfire. You may receive positive reviews from users, but if those users aren’t avid Yelp users, Yelp’s spam filters will not publish those reviews.

We understand that reputation management is a fairly new terrain and many business owners assume they can’t do anything about their online reviews. The simple act of asking for reviews places the power back in your hands.