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Why and How to Encourage Online Reviews

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One of the first things consumers look for when considering a purchase is a review of the product or service. They look to their peers for input and advice and trust those voices far more than your brand's, especially if they've had little to no interaction with you.

Once they've dealt with you and trust you, reviews do become much less critical. But how do you get those first few reviews to help curb the concerns of new purchasers?

I'll answer the following three questions in this article:

  1. Why should you encourage online reviews?
  2. How do you encourage online reviews?
  3. How do you respond to negative reviews?

Why Online Reviews?

People trust their peers. If consumers don't know you, they don't trust you. But if others have taken the time to share their experiences, consumers listen.

Besides getting new buyers across the purchasing threshold, feedback increases the likelihood that your company will make improvements to its products or services. If customers can see a noticeable improvement, or if they notice that your company is at least making an effort at listening and improving its products or services, then they will be more likely to continue doing business with you.

Remember, customers love to feel as if they are being heard, and online reviews are an easy way to listen to them. Moreover, if you allow the reviews to be public, you will not only gain social credibility from customers' peers who approve of your product but also engender a reputation for accountability (for having done something about problems listed by users).

Building Online Reviews

You can go about gathering online reviews in various ways, but the key is to make it as easy as possible.

Don't wait for reviews, ask for them if need be. For example, at the end of a transaction, on your website homepage or on your main navigation bar, include a link for a survey. Here are some ways to encourage customers to fill out a survey:

  • Make the survey the final step so they can speak to the entire experience.
  • Send a survey request via email after the transaction.
  • Offer some sort of promotion, such as a small gift or a discount on their next purchase.

Quick and Easy Surveys

The first way to get online reviews is via a quick and easy survey at the end of any type of online interaction or transaction. The survey should take users no longer than 2–3 minutes to complete. Questions should be multiple choice, and an option for additional comments at the end ought to be available. (Keep in mind that you can also send surveys as postcards in the mail or by email for those customers who have not made another purchase for a while.)

Comment Forms

On your company website—on specific product pages or your homepage—include an area for comment forms where all users can log in and write a comment. You should allow negative comments, and you should also allow users to reply to others' comments. By doing so, you will have encouraged interaction among customers, added credibility to your company, and increased your accessibility if company employees respond directly to negative (or positive) comments.

A comment area needs almost no encouragement to be used. However, a quick and easy way to promote it is to add a "post feedback" button to the screen following an online transaction, such as the purchase of a product.

Third-Party Reviews

Many consumers trust reviews on third-party sites more than they do those posted on a company's website. However, your customers may never take the time to go to one of those sites, unless they are highly dissatisfied with their experience.

Make it easier for customers to comment on review sites such as Yelp by including links on your site, possibly at the end of a transaction. Offer your reviewers a gift if they send you the URL of their reviews.

Negative Reviews

Often, negative reviews do not need encouragement. Most highly disgruntled customers will be more than happy to warn the online community of their terrible experiences. Do not let negative reviews push you to lose your cool, however. Send the reviewer the discount or gift for reviews anyway. And follow some rules to turn the negative experience into a positive one for your business:

  • Do not get defensive. Instead, try to look past any disparaging words and find the heart of the issue.
  • Contact the reviewer privately. Open up other lines of communication and find out what will make the customer happy.
  • Be timely. Don't let the problem fester. Respond immediately. Sometimes, a reviewer will change her review or submit an update if you can mollify her.

As discouraging as negative reviews can be, remember that you can use them as a way to improve the operations of your company or your customer service. Also, the more reviews you have, the more open and transparent your company seems. And if you keep improving your services, then eventually you are bound to have more positive online reviews than negative ones. And that only increases the trustworthiness of your company.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock: Man making thumbs up sign)

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Tara Hornor writes for, an online printing company offering flyers, brochures, business cards, posters, postcards, and more print media.

Twitter: @TaraHornor

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  • by Michal Wed Aug 29, 2012 via web

    I agree with almost everything you have said. However, offering a reward for reviews smacks a bit of bribery. I have found that offering great customer service, then letting customers know it's important and making the review process easy is enough to get customers to post reviews and foster the online reputation you need to stand out.

  • by Bob Wed Aug 29, 2012 via web

    Great article. Online reviews are the bomb, but it is now against the law to offer a reward for a review onless the person reading the review knows that the writer was compensated for it. The FTC just came out with some very strict guidelines on this topic.
    There are also some very good review gathering website out there. My favorite is the five star review system that on bestlocalreviews dot com. Others include FutureZoom, Demandforce and CustomerLobby.

  • by Richard Thu Aug 30, 2012 via web

    Agreed. Online reviews work brilliantly if they are transparent.
    The best in my opinion is Trustpilot dot com.

  • by rash Mon Sep 3, 2012 via web

    Yes, we all want to read reviews before buying any product/service. It gives an instant feedback about the company.
    Can anyone share few good review posting websites online?

  • by Sean Tue Sep 4, 2012 via web

    I've been in contact with hundreds of online retailers over the last 12 months. Almost all of them say that generating UGC (for product reviews) is virtually impossible without some kind of prompt. Whilst most retailers jumped on the review bandwagon a few years ago, there have been few truly successful at achieving both quality and quantity, and it's just become an expense without any real ROI.

    The whole point of having reviews on a site is that there should be enough opinions to make a decision to buy - or not. Review aggregators solve this issue by giving instant access to millions of reviews with no effort from the retailer, without driving them away from the site. As they are impartial and sourced from thousands of different sites, both expert and user, they are also becoming far more trusted than just having reviews from their own customers.

    Happy to discuss the benefits of TestFreaks with any online retailer focussed on the consumer electronics categories.

  • by Jessica Robertson at Terillion Thu Nov 1, 2012 via web

    Tara, I appreciate the time you took to put this great blog post together. It was a fantastic article filled with wonderful and accurate advice.

    I thought you might be interested in a solution to easily collect real reviews. I work for a company called Terillion ( and we help local businesses get real reviews from their real customers at the point of service. Customers simply write a quick review on our new iPad kiosk app. The customers themselves then distribute those reviews and interactions to places like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yelp, Trip Adviser, our own Terillion directory and more. With this service, fake reviews aren't needed and real reviews are easy to collect and distribute.

    Just thought I'd share so you could know that there are things being done to help local businesses easily collect and distribute real reviews. :) Again, thanks for the great article. It's very much appreciated.

    Jessica Robertson

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