- they write with the reader in mind: your potential customers
- they understand that the review they write will be helpful for your business as well
- they know that the review will be read and even responded to, so they won't exaggerate
- they write the review as a 'thank-you' for the service* that they have received
*you will be aware by now that HelpHound works for businesses that provide a service; that service may involve selling products, but we are all about reviews of your business, not reviews of the products you sell. Think Waitrose: we would work to get reviews of their customer service, not the quality of their fresh vegetables (although, as you might imagine, there can be considerable overlap).
Here is a review, first posted on the business's own website and then reposted onto Google (this is the Google version, but they are identical in content):
Why is this review particularly interesting? When we first meet with businesses they commonly say things like 'We are sure it is easy to get people who have bought a pair of shoes to write a review, but we are pretty sure none/very few of our customers/clients/patients will do so'. And, to be absolutely honest, that was a big concern for us at HelpHound when we first ventured into the realm of what one might describe as 'sensitive' businesses. Who, when asked to write a review - publicly visible, for all the world to see - of their...
- financial adviser
- legal adviser
- estate agent
...would be prepared to do so? Even we were about to leave 'psychiatrist' off the list...
But the answer, unlikely as it may at first seem, is 'about half'. That's half of all the people who are invited. Let's mine down into the psychology of this. To arrive at that fifty percent there is another fifty percent who won't write a review. They include the following...
- those who don't have access to a computer (not a lot, but still some...)
- those who have access to a computer but are convinced that leaving any information on the web will somehow result in their bank account being instantly cleared out (more...)
- those that think signing up to Google will be difficult (it takes about a minute...)
- those that think they will be exposing themselves to ridicule by friends and family (?...)
- those that think 'It's not my job to do the business's marketing' (we all know one of those...)
- those that are simply 'too busy' (it takes two minutes to write the average review...)
- the 'not another b....y request for a review' objection (we have some sympathy...)
And there's absolutely no point in trying to change their minds; we have watched businesses try and the results are simply not worth the effort (it can even backfire, as we are sure you can imagine).
But that still leaves the fifty percent who think...
- they worked hard for me, it's the least I can do - we call these 'the grateful'
- what I write may help their future customers decide if the business is right for them - the 'community-spirited'
And it would be neglectful of us to leave off the most motivated group of all...
- the dissatisfied customer (more - much more - about them later in this article)
And here's the crucial issue. Businesses need to plan the way they go about asking for a review very carefully. We know what works - and we definitely know what doesn't work (how many times have we fielded that call: 'You told me we would get a great response and no-one has written a review.'?). And we now know there are laws to be obeyed.
What doesn't work?
- sending out an email and keeping your fingers crossed
- hoping the customer will make the effort to find your Google listing without any help
- apologising for asking
What does work?
- mentioning that you will be asking for a review when face-to-face with your customer
- explaining just why the review is so important to your business
- explaining just how easy it is to write a review
- explaining that you will help them if they cannot manage
- reinforcing all those messages along the customer journey
- including a direct link in the email asking for the review - so your customer is not left searching the web (we've seen examples of customers reviewing the wrong business when left to their own devices)
- following up the email with a phone call, within an hour of sending the email: 'remember I mentioned how important reviews are for us, now's the time!'
How will your dissatisfied customers behave?
This is the aspect of review management that most concerns businesses when we first meet. To understand the answer to this important - vital - question one must understand how consumer behaviour on the web has evolved since Google entered the reviews market.
Before Google: businesses - with the possible exception of hospitality where consumers knew that TripAdvisor would accept a review that would be seen by thousands - would often take the risk that their disgruntled customers would either do nothing or write of their experience on a website that few of their future customers would find.
Google changed all that: it gives consumers a platform where their review will be seen by almost every customer of the business in question...
- if they are looking for the business's website
- if they are looking for their phone number
- if they are looking for directions
...in fact, if they search for that business for any reason at all.
So denying your customers the opportunity to write a review on your own website or on Google will not prevent them from doing so, and when they do so it will be seen and read and it will impact your business. In fact, they are more likely to write what we call a 'killer review'*; if you give them no option but to go direct to Google.
Welcome reviews and this kind of customer is much more likely to engage in a private dialogue with your business.
*a killer review: one that has the power, all on its own, to stop the phones ringing. Usually detailed and written with authority.
Back in 2014, we predicated our business model on a response rate of + 2 percent. In simple terms, if a business asked a thousand people to write a review then we reckoned twenty would. What we found, in practice, was that businesses adopting the 'email, sit back and hope' strategy got a response rate of between half and one percent but businesses that accepted our advice often approached 50% (some even exceeded - and continue to exceed - this). They invited ten and got five. And this 'rule' applies equally to the reviews on the business's own site and to Google.
There is one more great thing about these results: that they can be achieved from day one. No waiting, no bedding in - you will see the reviews appearing straight away.
If you follow these guidelines:
- your customers - or at least half of them - will willingly write a review
If on top of this, you employ a review manager that incorporates a moderation system into their service you will be defended against the overwhelming majority of inaccurate and malicious reviews.