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A business’s guide to customer reviews

Most of your customers read reviews before deciding to purchase. Here's how to get more reviews that convince people to buy.

By Hannah Wren, Content Marketing Associate

Published September 16, 2020
Last updated February 2, 2021

Given how connected customers are in today’s digital world, businesses can’t avoid ratings. Buyers can find customer reviews on your company website, third-party sites like Yelp and Google, and even on social media.

Instead of dreading this input, make customer reviews work for you by mastering how to ask for—and deserve—great reviews.

Jump to:

  1. How customer reviews impact your business
  2. How to get great customer reviews
  3. How to handle negative customer reviews
  4. A crash course on customer review sites

How customer reviews impact your business

From retail to B2B SaaS, reviews impact how customers perceive your business, which ultimately affects your profits.

Reviews build trust

Customer reviews are powerful because they come from real people and often feel more authentic to buyers than traditional marketing.In fact, research shows that 63% of people trust influencers’ opinions of a brand (the new age word-of-mouth) more than brand advertising. Eighty-three percent of customers say they trust friends and family for recommendations. But 79 percent say they trust online reviews as much as friends and family.

“Customer reviews are essentially word-of-mouth online,” said Emily Washcovick, senior field marketing manager at Yelp. “In our digital age, customers can get feedback from both people they care about and know in real life and other consumers who had real experiences via online reviews.”

Reviews provide valuable feedback

Reviews provide insight into what’s working well for your customers and where there’s room for improvement—from the quality of your product to the effectiveness of your customer support.

“Reviews enable businesses to keep an open eye to their brand at all times,” said Washcovick. “You can’t be everywhere, doing everything, and reviews give you an opportunity to get an abundance of feedback.”

Reviews empower customers

Like a community forum within a knowledge base, reviews can help customers get answers to their questions before they reach out to your support team.

“Customer reviews are a powerful tool for businesses to connect directly to people who want to know more about them. A customer can go to a restaurant’s Yelp page to get ideas of what to wear or what options are on the menu,” said Washcovick.

How to get great customer reviews

Collecting great reviews is a two-step process. First, you have to give your customers an experience worth reviewing. Then, you have to make sure you give them the opportunity to share.

Earn them

Companies that receive positive feedback are consistently creating review-worthy experiences through excellent customer service. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money or do something elaborate. It’s often little everyday things that stick with customers, like solving issues quickly or reaching out before a problem escalates. Not just saying you care, but proving it with your actions, is how to get customers to leave reviews.

Online retailer Zappos has probably the most famous customer service culture of any modern-day business. The company encourages their support team to stay on customer calls for as long as they need to (the record is 10 hours 51 minutes)—not just to solve the issue but also to build relationships.

Here are a few things you should try:

  • Listen to customers’ needs. Use customer feedback to create a better experience. These can include comments in satisfaction surveys, pain points mentioned in your community forum, or something customers continuously tell agents. Postmates is one company that’s hitting customer listening out of the park. Their customer experience team partners with their product and analytics teams to use customer feedback in key product decisions.
  • Actively engage with customers. Give your customers the opportunity to connect with your company by cultivating an online community on social platforms. Assign specific team members to respond to customers’ comments and questions, and use chatbots for 24/7 interaction. If you need more engagement strategy ideas, check out our blog or a ton more info.
  • Let your customers know you appreciate them. Feeling unappreciated can send customers to your competitors. But when customers do feel valued, they're more likely to share their experience with others. Create a customer loyalty program or long-time buyers, and invest in social causes your customers care about. There are a lot of ways to show your buyers some love, so we created a customer appreciation guide for more tips.

Ask for them

If you’re regularly creating great support experiences but your reviews aren’t taking off, give your customers an easy way to rate your company. If a customer has to work hard to leave a review, they likely won’t.

  • Offer multichannel review options. The first step to increasing customer reviews is to make the experience as easy as possible. Consider linking to your Yelp page in your social media bio and email newsletters. Set up your messaging software so customers can leave their reviews directly through the channel on which they’re connecting with you. Likewise, if you're communicating via email, customers should be able to leave a review in the body of the email.
  • Follow up on recent interactions or purchases by asking for a review. Automatically request input by email after a recent purchase or customer service interaction. This is one of the most common ways businesses ask for reviews. Use your customer service software to send customers a satisfaction survey after a recent interaction, with an option to leave a customer service review.
  • Train your service teams to ask for reviews. Teach your team to recognize when it’s a good time to ask for a review, like when a customer expresses appreciation for your brand.
  • When all else fails, offer incentives. A study by PowerReviews found that more than half of consumers who aren’t writing reviews need more motivation to do so. Incentives like discounts or free company swag can give customers the push they need.
  • Whatever method you use, don’t ask customers to write a “good review.” You don’t want to unfairly influence their response. Instead, focus on gaining authentic, honest customer feedback.

    How to handle negative customer reviews

    Even for the best brands, negative reviews are inevitable. It’s impossible to please 100% of buyers 100% of the time. Don’t lose sleep over them, and don’t try to take them down. Hiding this feedback can actually destroy customers’ trust in your transparency. Instead, learn how to properly manage negative feedback.

    “No one is perfect. Consumers even prefer to see some negative reviews,” said Washcovick.

    When reviews appear to be too good to be true, consumers lose trust. ReviewTrackers found that the most-trusted star review rating is 4.0/5. Buyers seeking reviews want real feedback, and perfect reviews might be a sign that they were written by bots.

    Here are a few of Yelp’s tips for responding to a negative review.

    1. Publicly acknowledge and thank the customer—quickly

    When customers write negative reviews, they do so in order to be heard. Openly acknowledging that you’ve received their message and are listening can often do more for a customer’s experience than immediately fixing the issue.

    “We recommend initially responding publicly to negative reviews, and in that public response to thank the customer for taking time to share their experience,” said Washcovick.

    Time is also of the essence. Responses are most effective within 24 hours—both because the customer is eager to resolve the issue and because other consumers are watching.

    Among consumers that read reviews, 96 percent ead businesses’ responses to reviews. Responding promptly and courteously will likely boost other reviewers’ impressions of your brand.

    2. Offer to have a private conversation

    After you acknowledge the complaint, your customer service team should send the customer a direct message to resolve the issue in more detail. Another option is to leave the ball in the customer’s court and provide a support email or phone number in their public response.

    What you don’t want to do is only respond through a private message. From the public’s perspective, it will look like you didn't respond at all or like you're trying to hide something about the interaction. Switch to private messages only when the issue resolution has become too specific to be helpful to a larger group of readers.

    3. Try your best to resolve the issue

    Harvard Business Review found that people who complained or wrote negative comments about a brand on social media and received a response became more loyal than those who never complained at all.

    “Not every reviewer is going to get back to you and give you the chance to resolve the issue. But if you can resolve it, it will go a long way,” said Washcovick. “That’s how you keep a customer.”

    You won’t always be able to resolve a customer’s issue exactly the way they’d like you to. In those cases, offer the customer alternatives you can provide.

    A crash course on customer review sites

    An important component of managing your customer reviews is understanding where they’re posted and where your customers go looking for them. Use this quick guide to get up to speed on common review sites.

    Popular third-party customer review sites

    Review website Reviews best for
    Yelp Any business
    Google My Business Any business
    Facebook Any business
    Twitter Any business
    Amazon E-commerce
    Angie’s List Service-related
    Trustpilot Any business
    Glassdoor Employee experience
    Capterra B2B SaaS
    Manta Small businesses
    Tripadvisor การท่องเที่ยว
    Foursquare Local businesses
    OpenTable Restaurants

    While Google My Business ranks as the top review site overall, Yelp is popular for brick-and-mortar businesses, with 40.47 million monthly visitors.

    Online retailer Amazon has made a business model out of reviews. Many e-commerce shoppers buy more from Amazon than any other website due to the sheer volume of buyer reviews.

    Glassdoor offers employer reviews. Today, many job seekers turn to Glassdoor before even filling out an application.

    How to tell if a review platform is credible

    The above table lists popular review websites, but it’s by no means exhaustive. Thousands of review sites exist, but not every site is trustworthy. When trying to decide if a review platform is legitimate or not, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Does the site go beyond ratings to include quality content?

    Seventy-three percent of people believe reviews with written comments are more important than ratings. Customers want to know the why of the reviewer’s score and the details of their experience. A legitimate site should encourage or require reviewers to provide a written explanation for their feedback, not just a number rating.

    “On Yelp, we want to know information, we aren’t just a star rating site,” said Washcovick.

    2. Does it filter for spam reviews to keep ratings authentic?

    Technology creates a good user experience, but customers want real reviews from people—not bots.

    Yelp allows businesses and consumers to report harmful or spammy reviews. They also have a team dedicated to reviewing all inbound flags.

    “As a business owner, sometimes it’s appropriate to flag a review. We’re not going to let a customer go after an employee with demeaning language or an ex-employee bash a business in an aggressive way,” said Washcovick. “Reviews are about helpful—not hurtful—content.”

    Use a CRM to attract great customer reviews

    Providing a great customer experience starts with using a CRM that streamlines interactions between you and your customer. Look for a CRM that makes it easy for your buyers to get ahold of you on the channel of their choice. Look for a platform like Zendesk that lets you automatically follow up with a customer survey. We make gathering positive reviews easy for you.

    If you’re ready to learn more about how Zendesk can help you gain solid customer testimonials, contact us today for a free 14-day trial.

Guide to world-class customer service

Good customer service leads to good customer reviews