At Podium, we live and breathe reviews. We are constantly striving to find ways to improve customer engagement. We know from experience the best ways to approach customers and ask them for valuable feedback that helps businesses grow and get better. Over time, we’ve compiled a running list of best practices and lessons that have worked for our customers. That knowledge is distilled the list below.

1. Know when to ask

The timing of a review invitation matters. This is probably the most important lesson we’ve learned over the years. The longer you wait to ask a customer for feedback, the less likely it is for a customer to respond and leave a review.

The key is to build the ask into your sales process, so the invite occurs when the experience is still top of mind. It’s important to identify a place where there is some downtime where you can explain why reviews are important; when they will receive the invite; and where they will receive it (by text or email).

Our customers who have adopted this process into their online review program have seen significant gains both in the number of reviews received as well as the quality of content in those reviews. Both of which are important in helping your business get found and get chosen by consumers

2. Customers are willing

One thing that might surprise businesses is how willing your customers are to leave a review. The problem is getting them to follow through. That’s why you need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to provide feedback.

Old tactics like cards with instructions on how to leave a review or long, cumbersome surveys just won’t get the job done. You need to focus on directing them to review sites they are familiar with or industry-specific sites that don’t require them to create a login. The fewer steps to leave a review the better. When a customer leaves a review, they are doing you a favor, so respect their time and make the process as frictionless as possible.

3. Not all review sites are created equal

Businesses should place an emphasis on popular review sites like Google and Facebook. Most of their customers will have a Google or Facebook account, and many of those will already be logged into those sites on their smartphones. This is important because if a customer doesn’t have to log in to leave a review, it increases the likelihood that they will follow through on their commitment.

But collecting reviews on Google and Facebook isn’t enough. It’s important to have a balanced portfolio across a number of different sites. Not all consumers are the same. Many prefer to conduct research on industry-specific sites that include content that’s specifically focused on the type of purchase they are making. Because of this, we suggest finding out which review sites your customers frequent, claim your listings, and make sure you are collecting reviews there on a regular basis.

4. Keep optimizing

Online reviews are an important piece of the local SEO riddle, but they’re only one piece. Businesses that want to ensure they rank high in local search, need to take the time to optimize their online presence. Moz has developed a comprehensive list of factors that make up local search ranking. Below are some easy things you can do today to improve your ranking.

  1. Claim your Google Business Profile.
  2. Maintain a consistent name, address, and phone number on all listings and on your website.
  3. Collect inbound links.

5. Engage with your customers

One of the major benefits of collecting and managing online reviews is the opportunity it provides you to build and improve relationships with your customers. We encourage businesses to take the opportunity to respond to all types of reviews, not just negative ones. This will show customers and prospective customers that you are listening and value feedback.

6. Ask everyone

Some businesses might be afraid to ask all of their customers to leave a review. That is a mistake. If you only ask customers that you know are happy or know would leave a positive review, you run the risk creating an online reputation that isn’t representative of actual experience. Don’t game the system. All feedback is good feedback, especially if you are using it to improve your business and make the customer experience better.

7. Mobile devices matter

People love their smartphones. They seem to use them for everything (except maybe actually taking a call). Even though consumers can access their email via their smartphone, if you really want to reach them you should send a text message.

Text messages are fast becoming the preferred method of communication for many individuals, especially millennials. Text messages have an open rate of 99% with 90% of those being opened within three minutes. Because text messages are so effective, we encourage businesses to send review invites via this channel. This increases click-through rates and ensures that more customers leave reviews.

8. Consumers really do trust reviews

It might seem a little strange, but consumers really do trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends. Positive reviews also make consumers trust a business more and might be the push needed to move someone from consideration to purchase.

9. Consolidate online review management

The final lesson learned is the importance of consolidating your review management into a single dashboard. It’s almost an impossible task to manage your online reputation without the proper tools in place.

In the past, many of our customers resorted to using a spreadsheet to track site logins, user interactions, the number of reviews, but this was time-consuming and ineffective. Businesses that truly want to grow their online presence on the sites that matter most will look for ways to streamline their efforts.

The best way to do that is by implementing an online review management platform like the one offered by Podium. A good platform helps businesses increase visibility, improve consumer confidence, while also managing valuable insights that come from reviews.

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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