Having negative online reviews about your site is not the same as having bad reviews. Yes, I distinguish the two: When site visitors and customers leave just a short review like “good,” or, “It was okay,” or leave no review at all, what you, the business owner, are seeing is what I call a bad review.
The problem is, such reviews don't provide you with enough insight as to what you are doing well or what you need to improve on, something is wrong.
Generally, most businesses are fine with just the good reviews. But do they know how to respond to negative reviews? And, if you're one of those businesses, how do you get your customers and site visitors amped enough to want to write positive, honest and extensive online reviews about your site?
Here are a few tips I've found that work across all markets and industries.
1. Use an online reputation management software.
You can be forgiven for thinking that every customer who is satisfied with your product/service will leave a review. The fact is that most customers can't be bothered about that, but you should be. Why? Consider this: 88 percent of customers read reviews, but only a very few write them.
The software will route your customers seamlessly to your business profile on review sites that you use (consider using sites that customers can log-in to through their social media accounts so that they do not have to create a new account first). The software can also give you another chance to deal with unsatisfied/unhappy customers by guiding them to a service recovery.
These software options are basically an automated, proactive way of asking, reminding and guiding customers through the entire review-writing process. The easier it is for customers to leave a review, the more inclined they'll be to write one.
2. Educate customers on how to leave a review.
While some customers do not care about writing reviews, others are not sure how to. Many customers do not really comprehend just how important reviews are for businesses in today’s digital business world.
The onus is on you, then, to make sure that they understand the vital role of reviews in your business's success. So, write a short article on your blog that describes this importance and describes how to leave feedback and where it can be posted.
To make this content more engaging, consider presenting it in the form of an infographic or short video. These content categories have been proven to provide more customer engagement than text.
3. Ask every customer for feedback.
Rick Steele, founder of Select Blinds, shares his strategy for generating online reviews: "Ask everyone to start the review process, whether their experience was good or bad," he says. "We started this technique almost 10 years ago, well before the term 'social media' was prominent, and to date, have generated over 300,000 reviews of our company.
"It builds amazing legacy and forces you to get better. Asking everyone to write a review will expose most flaws publicly, giving you free insight on how to improve the business."
Considering the vast amount of time and money companies spend to gain customer insights after the sale, this may be a good economical starting point.
4. Respond to reviews honestly and publicly.
If a customer leaves feedback, respond to it publicly, whether it is positive or negative. If it is positive, leave an honest note of thanks; and go further than just a generic “Thank you, Bob.”
If the review is negative, don't be reactive. Instead, take some time to regroup so that you can respond with a cool head and do so in public too, directly on the review page where everyone can see it. Apologize, and work with the customer toward solving his/her problem. Be humble and conciliatory in your approach.
This will help customers appreciate the fact that you are listening to, and engaged, with them, which will often encourage more positive feedback. This method of solving problems also helps to endear prospective customers toward you and is likely to turn them into brand ambassadors.
5. Provide an incentive for customers to write reviews.
This should absolutely be your last resort if all else fails. The idea is to provide incentives, to encourage customers to leave a review. Just make sure that you do not make the incentive (freebies, coupons, discounts) conditional on the customer leaving a positive review.
Related: How to Spin a Bad Online Review
The offer must be one with "no strings attached" that is available even if the customer leaves a bad review.