You can get 68% of your customers to give you reviews just by asking for them. But in a review-driven economy, sending a form email or making a quick verbal request may not be enough.
You may need closer to 80% or 90% of your customers to leave (good) reviews to compete, especially if you're in a huge city saturated with professionals just like you.
Time to get creative without doing anything that lands you on any blacklists, or which gets your reviews filtered.
Here's 8 ways to do just that.
1. Make it personal
In some industries, you get to know your customers pretty well, because serving them means working closely with them over a period of time. If that's you, then you can take advantage of the opportunity to personalize your correspondence so you're more like a friend asking for help than a company asking for a review.
And email isn't the only way to do it. "I send a handwritten note and a gift card," says Kaitlin Cooper, a wedding photographer working out of San Diego. "I thank them for being part of their wedding day. I then ask if they can take a few minutes to write an honest review about their experience with me. I include $10 gift card from Amazon or Starbucks. Giving to them first means couples are pleasantly surprised."
You should note, of course, the order of events there. Giving people gift cards or other benefits in exchange for a review is prohibited. Putting them in a nice mood by giving them something whether they leave the review or not is not. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one.
Strapped for cash? You don't necessarily need to give anything of monetary value. Sometimes your attention and interest are enough.
"Mention something specific about their wedding," adds Lindsey Nickel, a wedding business coach. "For example, 'it was so fun to see your grandma on the dance floor all night.'"
2. Watch their memberships
People aren't likely to leave a review if they don't have an account on the review site of value. To find the optimum review platform to steer them to, you need to look for clues about where they've got accounts.
Did they reach out to you on Facebook? Then asking for a Facebook recommendation becomes an easy choice. Email addresses can be a big clue too, as Virginia Case, CEO of StraTac Marketing, points out. "If they requested service with a Gmail address on your contact form, you know they can easily leave a Google review."
Of course, that's the whole premise of the Grade.us review funnel. If you're automating the process, it can be easier to provide customers with a few review sites to choose from and if they have a Facebook or Google account, it will auto-direct logged in users.
"For us, it's important to find out what platform every client found us through, and later on, ask to contribute their thoughts on the same platform in order to help others," says Sun Dahan, Associate Director of Operations and Marketing at the Law Office of Matthew J. Kidd. Thanks to sites like Avvo, this strategy works especially well for lawyers, but could also work in any industry where industry-specific platforms exist.
3. Do good in the world
Are you a lawyer who works pro bono from time to time? A home contractor who has been known to devote time, talents, and materials to community projects or people in need?
Any time you help someone out by providing any kind of professional services for free you've got grounds to ask for a review after the job is done. And given these people are likely to be exceptionally grateful, it's not a hard ask.
Please note. This is not saying, "I will do this thing for you if you will give me a good review." That's backwards, and it's a violation of the Terms of Service you'll find on most review platforms.
You do the good thing first, so it's clear it's not contingent on you receiving anything at all. Then, when the job is done, you ask the beneficiary of your services to help you out with a quick review.
4. Start an employee rewards pool
You can't always be there to ask for reviews. But you've got an entire team of people who can be.
And if you read 10 Incentives You Can Give Your Employees for Requesting Reviews, you know giving individual rewards out to the team can be helpful. But for some businesses individual reward programs might not be feasible.
And the staff might feel a little awkward about it, or just not particularly invested.
James Fedich of Village Family Clinic in Hackettstown, New Jersey has a solution to both problems.
"Get business cards made up. Did you enjoy your visit today? Could you leave us a review? Every time a patient gives us a nice compliment like 'I'm feeling better', or 'you guys are so nice', the staff hands out a card. We found staff would sometimes hand out some of these cards, but if they have a bonus they will really hand them out.
I found pooling the reviews works better, so I offer $35 per review. If we get ten in one month, that's $350, a cash bonus which gets divided up between the entire staff."
This is a pretty cool method because it absolutely guarantees at least a couple of dollars in the employee's pockets, and gives them reason to pull together as a team, rather than competing with one another for finite resources.
5. Watch for peak customer happiness
This tip comes to you from Devin Beverage, Founder & Growth Strategist at the DevBev Digital Marketing agency. But he wasn't always in digital marketer. Once he was a Realtor, and that's where he developed this strategy.
"Figure out the highest point of your sales or service process, and ask the customer to review you then. When I was a Realtor, the best time to ask for a review was as soon as we were closing. Everyone finally breathing for the first time in months. Sighs of relief, tears of joy."
In a closely related technique, Angat Saini of Accord Law advises piggybacking off of client comments. "Wait until the client has complimented the service in some way. This way, asking for a review comes as a natural next step, and is going to be more personal and less naggy. You also have a better chance of getting the review."
6. Put the reminder on a gift
Giving customers something physical, tangible, and inexpensive that is nevertheless useful has always been a good way to win goodwill, even if it's just a little fridge magnet.
Miles Guidon, President of Hollywood 3D Printing uses this technique to great effect.
"We give away 3D printed keychains we've designed in house and printed on the same machines we use to fill customer orders. We put these in the box with the customer's order, along with a 2-sided business card. One side has the words, 'Leave us a review,' and a QR code that automatically loads our Google My Business page review box when scanned with a phone camera. The other side of the card says, 'here is a gift, thank you very much for your business, and oh, by the way, we would love your feedback!'"
Again, and I really have to stress this, the gift is given before the review, not in exchange for the review. The gift is in the customer's hand regardless of whether they give the review or not. This must be the order of operations here, both to keep you on the right side of Terms and Conditions and on the right side of great customer service. It's not a genuine gift if customers have to give you something in return.
7. Make 'em laugh
Flattery will get you nowhere, so goes the saying, but humor can take you almost anywhere. And if nothing else, inserting a little humor into what could easily become a tedious and repetitive process is more fun for you.
Ally LaBriola of Museum Hack, an unconventional museum tour company, says their tour guides have adopted this approach. "They make it part of the experience, saying something like, if your tour was less than a 5-star experience, please don't tell my boss, and if it was, please go online and review!"
Tone matters as much as the words do, of course, as does a good read on your audience. This is unlikely to work on someone who is dissatisfied by their experience. But if you've got a good "read of the room" and feel like your customer's pretty happy, it could even change his or her perception enough to turn what would have been a 4-star review into a 5-star one.
8. Give them something to talk about
It's not just a Bonnie Raitt song. It's a talk trigger, something cool you do which you know will inspire people to talk about your business.
And it can help you turn things around when you've got nothing else to leverage. Case in point, Zach Hendrix, co-founder of Green Pal. He describes getting one negative review not long after he and his partner launched their Nashville office. The reviewer had never even used their service, but Yelp refused to take it down. They reached out to the reviewer, but he wouldn't answer.
That single, unmitigated one-star review was making it hard to get any business at all.
After brainstorming, they came up with an idea to turn things around.
"When a homeowner signs up for our service we ask whether they have pets, and, if so, what their names are. We do this so our lawn vendors know to be careful when entering the yard. We decided we could use this info about our customer to send a personalized gift to our customer's pet, addressed to them. This really wowed our customers. We received personal thank-you notes, photos posted to Yelp and Facebook, and thank-you tweets. It worked really well for the time and money we invested."
You can bet everyone who recommends this service to their friends is mentioning the pet gift, too.
What's Your Strategy?
Do you have a creative or interesting review generation strategy like the ones listed above? We'd love to know about it! Just let us know in the comments below.