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Marketing Online: Best way to generate reviews? Just ask

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Reginald Tucker

In this modern age of social media, it has become increasingly important for specialty retailers to effectively engage with consumers online. This not only applies to executing digital marketing initiatives relative to lead generation at the start of the product research phase, but also at the very end of the shopping cycle once the installation has been completed.

Experts like Taylor Cutler, digital marketing manager for Podium—a company that specializes in helping businesses communicate and interact with their customers to get reviews and feedback—recommends retailers follow a series of rudimentary steps to not only generate more online reviews but also better, more positive ones.

“First you want to make sure you’re collecting reviews on the right review sites,” Cutler said. “This means doing some research about the sites that your customers—and potential customers—might use. This includes Google and Facebook, obviously, but also several others that are industry specific.”

After that, dealers should get into the habit of inviting customers to provide positive reviews. “Customers tend not to do this on their own, unless they’ve had a very bad experience,” Cutler explained. “If you’re letting your reviews come in organically, you’re going to see a really polarizing effect where only those people who are motivated will jump through the barriers to give you a review.”

However, it’s not enough to ask customers for reviews, experts said. Dealers must also exercise good timing. Nine times out of 10, this means waiting until the purchase is made. “In the flooring industry, most of the time this is done after the flooring has been installed,” Cutler stated. “If you have a technician go out to install that carpet or another product, you want to make sure he or she asks the customer to kindly write a review—providing, of course, the customer is happy with the job. If you wait a week, or even a day or two, then the customer has likely already moved on.”

With all this emphasis on social media and digital technologies, Cutler said it’s important to focus on the fundamentals. “Even if you have the best online review platform in the world, if you’re not providing great customer service, people are not likely to give you good reviews, even if it was a good product.”

Above all else, it has to be easy for the customer to provide a review. In order to avoid illegitimate online reviews, most of the popular sites require customers to log in to those respective sites to prevent fraudulent activity. “It’s very difficult for customers to leave reviews anonymously these days; they actually have to have an account with that particular site,” Cutler said.

To help retailers keep things simple for the customer, Podium has developed software that detects the particular device the consumer is using to post a review, thereby removing any barriers. One of Podium’s key features is its text messaging system that allows businesses to ask customers for reviews with a push of a button. By using this feature, businesses are able to request a customer review seconds after a service is performed. This increases the business’ probability of gaining more reviews.

“If it takes the customer too long to leave a review, it could have the opposite effect,” Cutler said. “It’s best when the consumer is using her own device. It’s also wise to give the customer a heads-up that she might receive a text message asking for a review so she will be expecting it.”

While experts recommend retailers apply creativity when soliciting reviews, they caution against going overboard. “Retailers need to be careful about offering incentives for positive reviews, as this is against the guidelines for many review sites,” said Jim Augustus Armstrong, FCNews columnist, author and retail consultant. His recommendation? “Get into the habit of sending each of your customers an email asking for a review, and include links to several popular review sites.”

Like Cutler, Armstrong advises against having the customer use your store’s computer or tablet to write reviews, but for different reasons. “It’s easy for review companies to detect these kinds of kiosk tactics using incoming IP addresses and browser cookies,” Armstrong said. “It’s best to email the request and let the customer give the review from her home or personal device.”

Handling negative feedback
While most dealers welcome positive online reviews, there are situations where some customers might express their disappointment publicly. You’ve heard the story: A happy customer tells three people about her experience, but an unhappy customer tells 30 people.

The key to managing all this, experts said, requires action and a cool head. “If you get a bad review, reach out to the customer and try to correct the issue quickly,” Armstrong said. “Depending on the site, you may be able to comment on the review and explain the steps you’ve taken to make things right.”

Online marketing experts said it’s only natural—and realistic—to get a bad review every now and again. Studies show consumers are skeptical when they only see 5-star reviews online, so a less-than-perfect review can actually make you seem more real.

Armstrong recalled an incident regarding one of his clients: “‘I remember this guy’, a dealer from Minnesota told me. I had just pointed out that he had a negative review on Google. ‘He was rude to my staff and made unreasonable demands. When we told him we couldn’t give him what he wanted, he left this lousy review.’”

When someone leaves a negative review, it’s easy to get angry and defensive. Sometimes, however, the negative comment might be legitimate. In cases like this, Armstrong said, the reviewer has taken the time to point out a problem that is causing you to lose customers and money. The solution here, he said, is to swallow your pride and fix the problem.

“Sometimes all someone wants is a sincere apology,” he said. “Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you can still say things like, ‘I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I get it.’”

Also, just because you have received a bad review, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. “If you’ve resolved the problem and satisfied the customer who left you a bad review, kindly ask the customer if she will delete the bad review and give you a positive one about how you have fixed the problem,” Cutler said. “This has happened to me, and I’ve had no problem changing my review.”