Successful marketing agencies know the key to building trust with clients is owning what customers say about a business online – that starts with reviews. But 39% of review writers have not received a direct request to leave a review in the past 5 years, however, if asked, more than half of customers will always or usually write a review.
To get more reviews for your clients, you have to start with a “review funnel.” The review funnel anticipates what will motivate customers to write a review, and funnels them from their experience of the product or service to completing the review process.
A review funnel strategy can use multiple tactics, channels, and assets (human, print, email, web, mobile, etc.), but the formula is simple. Happy customers who intend to write a review still won’t do it if they forget, it’s too hard, or they’re too busy. So the task of any review funnel is threefold:
- Remind each customer to write a review
- Make the process quick and easy
- Target them during their downtime
1. Get Customers Into the Funnel
As we’ve seen, a customer’s motivation to write a review is typically weak. Unless they’re a “superuser” or just had an awful experience, they’re not likely to even think of writing a review. Not to worry, though. You can help. Here’s how:
- Invite customers to give feedback: If you collect your client’s customer information such as an address, email, or phone number, you might send customers a message after a transaction inviting them to give feedback about their experience.
- Craft the right message: When developing the message, remember that happy customers generally want to help others find good products and services (altruism) and help business owners who served them well (reciprocity). It’s important to craft a message appropriate to your client’s business and to train any staff who might be delivering that message.
- Offer an incentive to engage: Offer a no-strings incentive to get customers a step further into your review funnel. For example, attach an offer to a landing page. The offer — may be a discount code or a free download — should be available to anyone, whether or not they post a review. But making the offer available on a page otherwise designed to guide customers through submitting a review increases the odds of getting one.
With Grade.us, you can easily automate review requests for your clients through email and SMS campaigns.
2. Guide the Customer Through the Review Process
Getting customers into the review funnel is the hard part. So you want to ensure that the actual review process is as easy as possible to keep them there.
The ideal review funnel solution gets customers to leave reviews where they count the most: on third-party sites that others use to discover, evaluate, and compare companies, products, or services.
However, you probably care about more than one site if you have more than one type of client — and which sites you care about will change over time. So an alternative is to follow this simple approach to adapt to changes and maintain over the long term:
- Drive the customer to a landing page you or your client’s control: Over time, new review sites and communities rise to prominence while others fade away. Google’s algorithm creates new winners and losers. To make it easier for yourself or your client, create a landing page online that asks for feedback. A landing page means you won’t have to adjust your process as frequently or for every single client every time something changes.
- Focus the customer on leaving a review: Focus exclusively on reviews and strip the landing page of all other calls to action — even the site navigation.
- Help the customer select a review site and complete their review: Link to just a few sites to avoid overwhelming the customer with options. Be sure to provide an email address, phone number, or link as well in case they need to contact your clients for direct feedback or concerns.
3. Monitor & Respond to Reviews
To turn customer reviews into an effective marketing channel you have to be proactive to get customers to share the word about your client’s business on review sites. You also have to be responsive by addressing reviews publicly or privately when they don’t reflect the reputation your clients want.
To make reviews work for your clients, you have to be attentive. You need to know what people are saying, good or bad, about your client’s business. And to the extent possible, you need to take in and evaluate those opinions and act on what you learn.
There are tools to make it easier. If you’re a marketer with an entire stable of clients, you’ll want to engage in an automated review monitoring service to help you keep track of what’s being said on review sites. Review monitoring and alerts are included as part of Grade.us. But whatever solution you choose, you’ll want to make sure you know about any new reviews within a reasonable timeframe. A matter of hours or days is acceptable. A matter of weeks or months is not.
If a highly negative review lingers in the public eye without a counter-response, the damage is greater. Keeping your finger on the pulse of reviews can also help you act when there is a flurry of activity that indicates a real problem, such as a staff performance issue or product deficiency. The most recent reviews may matter most: researchers have demonstrated a “wrap effect” where readers of reviews form their impression primarily on the first and last ones they read.
Responding to Reviews
Not every review site allows businesses to respond, but you should take advantage of those that do. Because over 90% of consumers report they’re influenced by business responses to reviews. There are a few rules of thumb for responding publicly to reviews:
- Do not respond to all reviews — it’s hard to keep up with all the clients you may support, but it may look less genuine. Instead, strive to respond to all or most negative comments. And respond to positive comments that may highlight an aspect of personal attention or detail that customers would otherwise not know about. Work with your clients to set some KPIs around this to track progress.
- In general, you should respond to negative reviews wherever possible. Readers tend to see positive reviews as self-serving, patting the customer on the back for their good taste, while they may assume negative reviews were directly caused by the customer experience and therefore more valid.
- In any response, thank the reviewer for their time and feedback — no matter what the truth is, your client’s image will do best when you assume that reviewers are just trying to help.
How to Respond to a Negative Review
There has been significant research on how to effectively respond to and defuse negative customer feedback – much of it from the hotel and hospitality industry where reviews have an even larger impact. Here are the most important aspects of a successful response to a negative review:
Say thanks. The customer took the time to right a perceived wrong. You may disagree, and the customer may be ill-informed, unfair, or vindictive, but they have created an opportunity for progress.
Don’t try to win the argument. You can’t. And when the argument plays out in public, you will lose big. An ageless law still holds in the digital age – the customer is always right.
Decide whether to address the issue publicly or privately. Experts are divided. Some point to the risk of a public exchange becoming messy or unwieldy as a reason to take it offline. Others point out the benefit of demonstrating superior customer service in an open forum. For some professions, navigating a public response is even more complex. For example, physicians or lawyers can’t respond with specifics that compromise confidentiality. You will have to use your judgment based on the type of client it is.
Take responsibility. Apologize for the customer’s subpar experience, accept fault and explain what went wrong if you can. Be appreciative and positive – or at least fake it.
Take the big picture into account. When positive reviews of a business outweigh the negative, readers typically dismiss or rationalize any negative comments in the business’s favor. But when there’s a bulk of negative opinion, readers will attribute it to legitimate service failures. The latter requires a stronger response from the business and a conversation with your client.
Consider compensatory action carefully. You want to avoid the appearance that the business rewards complaints, but sometimes compensating the customer for their trouble is the most appropriate response. If the review suggests an extensive or undeniable failure, giving the affected parties a voucher or other real compensation shows a commitment to accountability that will give new customers confidence in your client’s business. Just make sure this is something your client is willing to provide.
If you make amends, suggest an amendment. If things resolve amicably and you deem the negative comments to be unduly damaging, you can ask the customer to edit or remove their comment. Just be careful how you go about this (i.e. make sure it’s not done publicly on the review site). 63% of consumers will update their negative review or low-star rating once an owner response resolves their complaint.
Make the resolution known. If you resolve a customer issue in private but the negative review remains, let readers know that it was handled offline: “Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. As discussed on the phone…”
Research shows that customers care about fairness and accountability, and a so-called “service recovery” of the kind described above can convert a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied, loyal one.
In responding to negative reviews, it’s critical to satisfy the complaint in a way that benefits future readers of the exchange. Given the stakes of the game and the nuances of playing it, the person charged with responding to reviews should be empowered to make decisions. The marketer overseeing review management for your clients should be well-informed, have an intimate knowledge of your client’s business, and demonstrate tact and writing skills.
As a marketer, you know your clients have much to benefit from reviews. But often there is so much more to review management than just generating reviews. See how Grade.us can make it easy for you to get, monitor, and respond to your client’s reviews.