Dear Dan: We'd like to capture customer testimonials and feedback and post the best stuff on our own website. Is that likely to be beneficial? What's the best way to do it? - Under Review
Dear Under Review: Customer ratings and reviews are all the rage online these days, and for good reason. Studies show that more and more ready-to-buy shoppers use these reviews as an influencing factor when choosing between competing merchants. But many small business owners are either oblivious or uneasy over what customers are saying about them online.
Tea Guys, LLC, a family-owned and operated Hatfield, MA-based retailer of exotic tea, considered the same route that many small businesses take -- ask a few customers for testimonials and post them on the company website. But in this age of instant communication via social media, and skepticism about testimonials that businesses gather themselves, Tea Guys wanted something more cutting edge and compelling.
So they turned to RatePoint, Inc., one of the new web-based firms that have gained popularity by providing an online customer review service that you can use to collect and post reviews on your own website. You place a "Rate this business" button on your own site which takes customers to the online platform where they can enter comments and a rating. The reviews look similar to the most popular online review sites, including the "star" system of ratings. Unlike other review and rating services, however, these reviews are posted directly to your website.
Installing a system to collect and publish reviews "has exponentially accelerated our positive word‐of‐mouth, and allows us to connect with our customers in a way we had previously been lacking," says Oliver Rich, founder and owner of Tea Guys. "It's a way to tap into your customers and allow your biggest supports to help you get the word out about your business," he says. "It has increased our exposure and credibility online" -- two things that are vitally important to local businesses as more customers search for them online.
A set of detailed review guidelines help ensure that reviews are legitimate and factual. If someone posts a negative review or comment, the business can complete a dispute resolution process before a review is posted.
Other benefits include:
- Unlimited collection of reviews and testimonials from customers
- Unlimited automatic posting of content such as e-mail campaigns, coupons and offers to Facebook and Twitter by simply checking a box
- Unlimited use of online surveys to collect customer insights
- Unlimited campaigns to up to 125 e-mail contacts
As Rich, of Tea Guys points out, we've passed the point of having clear lines between online businesses and traditional brick and mortar businesses. Today, there's an online component to nearly every business, since that's where customers go to find out about you. "It's no secret," says Rich. "Customers respond well to feedback from other customers, and when that feedback is positive, it has an even greater impact."
The system, of course, meant to help you bubble up the best ratings, reviews and comments from customers. But it's not intended to sweep complaints or negative comments under the rug. The dispute resolution tool helps businesses quickly learn about and respond to problems, improve customer satisfaction and build credibility.
Costs to implement one of these plans vary based on the number of reviews you expect to collect and publish, and the size of your email list for customer campaigns. At the lowest level, there's a free version, with price points thereafter ranging from about $10 to $350 per month for large lists of up to 100,000.
"Customers appreciate when a business is proactively listening and responding to their feedback," says Neal Creighton, CEO of RatePoint. "When a small business asks for feedback, customers are much more likely to share their experiences, resulting in positive word-of-mouth that will fuel more sales."