This article was posted on Tnooz in July, 2012

woman taking photo_360pixWhatever product or service you’re selling; online customer reviews have real bottom-line benefits including increasing conversion, lowering return rates and customer dissatisfaction, and boosting SEO efforts. But while the positives are clear for businesses, why do customers take the time to leave their feedback? And by understanding these motives, how can you encourage them to keep doing so?

Altruism

It may sound surprising, but one of the key reasons why people submit reviews is because they have a desire to help others. They consider what information they themselves would want to see when making a buying decision, and post this so other shoppers can make an informed choice. It makes them feel like a valued member of the online community, and is the same phenomenon that prompts people to post offers and competitions on online deal sites.

This helps everyone involved in the process – businesses gain from the content added, reviewers gain by feeling good, and other customers gain from honest and unbiased information.

What you can do:

Start appealing to your customers’ altruistic side by asking for their help. Tell them that you value their feedback and that it’s important to both you and your other customers. And remember to say thank you!

Rewards

Brands today are asking more and more of their customers – asking them to like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, sign up to their newsletter, tell their friends about them, post a review etc. etc. etc. All these different requests have the ultimate same goal (to help drive sales), but they acknowledge the power of the individual in extending audience reach – using customers as part of an unofficial marketing team.

The result is that consumers are now becoming savvy to this, and with numerous brands seeking to make them a brand ambassador, they often expect – and require – some sort of reward for their efforts.

What you can do:

Rewards don’t have to be of a monetary value – a reward could be that you provide your reviewers with exclusive content or early access to a sale. Some 3rd party review sites such as Tripadvisor have very strict rules about this, so be sure to check the rules of each site to avoid being blocked or penalised.

If you’re gathering reviews on your own website, or gathering feedback on your Facebook page, then you may also want to consider offering online reviewers an exclusive discount code,  freebie or entry into a competition to help encourage submissions, but also show your customers that you value their help and are willing to say thank you in a real and tangible way.

Influencing

Some reviewers are prompted by a desire to help brands improve their products. They might ask for a clothing retailer to make an item in a different colour, or for a transport supplier to add a new route.

In doing so, they not only provide companies with essential customer insight, but have an opportunity to help steer a brand’s product and service portfolio towards one that best meets their individual needs.

What you can do:

Tell your customers that their feedback will be listened to and considered – and follow through on this promise, updating them on any changes you do make. If they feel they have a real chance to influence change, they are more likely to respond.

Complaint

When you add review functionality to your site, with it should come an understanding that not every review will be a glowing one. And whilst the good usually far outweighs the bad, you will find the odd unhappy camper will take to the keyboard to make public their dissatisfaction.

You may be nervous about negative reviews, but a site full of five-star reviews will set alarm bells off. Nobody expects everything you do to be absolutely, unwavering perfect – and the occasional bad review will show balance.

It’s also worth remembering that what one person rates poorly (e.g. a closely-fitting garment, or quiet hotel bar), another may  see as a positive; and your customers are smart enough to spot unfair comments or posts from those with unrealistic expectations – and will often spring up in your defence.

What you can do:

Have a clear process for customers to complain in place – be it a dedicated phone number, email or Twitter account, and encourage unhappy customers to use this. Offensive or inappropriate reviews (e.g. a tirade against store staff on a product review) can be deleted, but contacting the reviewer telling them why you have done so will help prevent further actions, and also open communication for you to resolve any issues. Click here to read our previous post with some more tips on how to deal with a negative review.

Loyalty

In today’s competitive marketplace, brand loyalty can be hard-won and easily lost. But brands that deliver consistently great products or services, or have a reputation for superior customer service, can build up a loyal legion of fans who want to shout about them – which includes leaving glowing reviews.

Talking about the brands we love, makes us feel closer to them and affiliates us to whatever they represent – be it the pioneering spirit of technology, the glamour of high fashion, or the freedom of travel.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a global giant or small start-up – if you’re doing a good job, you will start building a fan base. Foster these people and you will reap the rewards.

What you can do:

Bring your reviewers closer to your brand by shouting about them. Hold a ‘reviewer of the month’ competition, where the winner is publicised on your website and social channels. Consider calling or emailing them personally saying how much you appreciate their efforts, or treat them with a gift voucher or discount code.

Fame

An especially heart-warming, vitriolic or comedic customer review has the opportunity to go viral. Part of the joy of social networking is the sharing of content that catches our eye. From cat videos to customer service mistakes, we love to share the unusual and the amusing – and that includes off-the-wall reviews.

Amazon is famous for its bizarre reviews of cult items, as the product pages for David Hasslehoff’s music efforts clearly show.

While these unusual reviews may not have you seeing pound signs, consider that their entertainment factor means they are more likely to be shared – and the more they are shared, the more extended your brand reach.

Also consider that with every view, traffic is being sent to your site – and while people are there, they may be tempted to look around.

What you can do:

Encourage people to say whatever they want – explaining that you value honesty and opinion above all else, or think about a competition to find the most amusing or inventive review.  Although a word of warning – make sure your review solution includes a moderation option and a swear-word filter.  Our award-winning reviews and ratings solution automatically blanks out any profanity and enables the client to approve/edit any reviews before going live.

To find out more about the benefits of reviews for your business, call us on +44(0)1179 055 195 or email info@digitalvisitor.com

Why do you submit reviews?