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:
- Why should you encourage online reviews?
- How do you encourage online reviews?
- 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.)
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.
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 http://www.yelp.com/ 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.
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)