One way is to offer bonuses to employees whose customers write favorable reviews about the company.
An online review is when a company allows customers to post user-generated reviews of their products and customer service right on the company's web page, or in some cases, the company's social media pages, such as Facebook. There are dedicated review sites like the popular Yelp and Angie's List that are not affiliated with a specific company and invite posters to evaluate their purchases and experiences with a wide variety of businesses. Those sites help potential customers decide which companies to hire. It's not just securing new customers, though. Once you start asking for reviews, your employees are going to step up their service.
Require employees to ask for online reviews of your services
Consider this story about a cable technician who arrived 1.5 hours late to the home of a customer to hook up a couple of new, widescreen TVs. The tech did not call the homeowner with a heads up about his schedule, and when he finally arrived, he acted like he was doing the man a favor. He was unfriendly and barely spoke to the man. He didn’t have all of the tools he needed for the job. And his work was so unacceptable that the customer called the cable company to request that a different tech be sent to his home to finish the job.
Fast-forward two years later. The homeowner had moved to a different house. Again, he had two big TVs to hook up, so he called the cable company. And the very same tech showed up; this time, however, he was on time and had a smile on his face. He was friendly, talkative and efficient. He did great work and he asked the customer what else he could do for him.
Then, as he walked to the door to leave, the tech asked the man if he would be willing to post an online review rating the tech's service that day. He said his manager had started considering positive customer feedback when doing employee performance evaluations and awarding bonuses.
In fact, the company had made it a policy to require every tech to ask every customer to post online reviews. The techs had cards to hand to customers that identified the techs by name and included the websites where the homeowners could post their reviews. What a difference that policy made.
That surly tech learned quickly that good customer service translates into good reviews and that late arrivals, rude behavior, sloppy work and a careless attitude result in bad ones.
In this tech’s case, good reviews equal more money for him. So he did everything he could – the second time around, after the policy took root – to make sure that customer posted a positive review.
Why are online reviews important?
Online reviews are important because so many customers rely on them to help them decide what to buy and where to buy it. Managers know bad reviews are bad for business. Even if employees know that, too, they might not care – unless the reviews they get affect their wallets.
Good reviews, on the other hand, are good for business. They can boost business and solidify a company's online reputation. A lack of reviews doesn’t do anything to help a business recruit additional clients.
Small business owners who want to bolster their book of business are finding ways to get their customers to post about good experiences on business sites like Facebook, Google and TripAdvisor because they know reviewer ratings and recommendations are convincing – even if they are not always trustworthy.
In fact, a Local Search and Online Reviews Survey found that 57.7% of consumers who search those sites looking for recommendations wind up making a purchase based on the reviews. More than half of consumers in the survey said they often or always read online reviews before they decide where to buy. More than 62% said they believe online reviews are important.
They are important, but not only for those consumers. They are important to every business that offers products or services for sale.
How to get customers on board with writing a positive online review
Here are five ways small businesses can get their customers to write positive online reviews.
1. Get buy-in from employees.
Some employees might not believe they have a stake in whether the business does well or poorly; they get their paychecks either way. Explain why online reviews are important for the survival of the business – and for the stability of their employees' jobs.
Employees who understand why the work they do is important to the company's owners, to the customers of the business and to the community often become more invested in doing a good job and helping their employers succeed.
Sweeten the pot with bonuses for good reviews, and that investment increases. Tie the success of the business to some sort of reward for the employees who pitch in.
One hitch: Well-paid employees might decide the bonuses they might get for getting their customers to post reviews are not worth the effort. So take the reward a step further than a monetary bonus: Like the cable company, tie positive reviews to employees' performance evaluations.
2. Mandate employees of all ranks ask for online reviews.
If asking customers to post positive online reviews is optional, many employees will skip that step. Require them to ask and to prove that they did by having the customer sign a card verifying it.
Don't restrict the mandate to only some employees. Require it across the board for any public-facing worker – including executives. If bosses aren't required to ask for reviews, lower-ranking employees will notice that and mimic the behavior.
Showcase the positive reviews at staff meetings. Show employees the nice things customers said about them – and about the executives and managers.
3. Tirelessly train for better customer service.
Good customer service is a learned behavior. Some employees are naturally friendly and helpful, and some simply are not. Teach employees how to dress, what to say, how to behave and, especially, how to do excellent work. Then, train them again every six months.
A happy customer is usually happy to post a favorable Yelp review. The problem is, an unhappy customer is doubly happy to post a hateful one. And as much as good reviews help bring in business, bad ones are equally successful at driving it away.
In fact, a survey by digital marketing company Go Fish Local revealed that even a single negative online review scare aware up to 22% of customers who are considering buying a product. Four or more can cost a business 70% of potential customers.
4. Make sales second nature for all employees.
A cable technician is a salesperson, even if his job title and position description don’t mention "sales." A cashier is a salesperson. A delivery driver is a salesperson. Every job is a sales job, especially for those who interact with customers and potential customers.
Not every employee knows that, and most don't believe it. Most nonsales employees would rather do anything but sell. Still, employee behavior, attitude, competence and helpfulness are sales tools. They're what keep customers coming back for more.
5. Generate gratitude.
It used to be that customers could expect to hear a thank you from a service technician, a cashier or anyone else they paid money to. Thank you is not a given anymore, but it should be.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. A customer who agrees to pay for a service or a product is, quite literally, doing a favor for the company that provided it. Train employees not only to say thank you but to mean it.
Customers who feel appreciated for what they do for your company are far more likely to return the favor with a positive online review than those who have to wonder, "When did 'thank you' become optional?"