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One of the most important factors for any small or local business is how easy it is for potential customers to find you online. How can you increase feedback that will improve that visibility? With 92% of consumers reading online reviews before making a purchasing decision, it’s important to consider what they find when they look for businesses like yours in an area you serve. What do they find when they click on your pin in Google Maps or Yelp?

increase-feedback-for-online-reviewsIf you’re a new business attempting to build a customer base, reviews are an incredibly important component of your strategy to get this attention. Even just 1-3 reviews can help form an opinion for a consumer in 40% of cases, but 44% of people who evaluate reviews look for recent posts, wanting those reviews to be published within the last month.

To ensure you get more reviews and get the online feedback you need to be as visible as possible, we’ve gathered 7 tips for engaging and soliciting from your customers.

Solicit Reviews Actively from Your Website and Social Presence

Take advantage of every platform you currently operate to increase feedback and solicit reviews. You may not realize it, but you have several broadcast points online. You may already have a website, Facebook Page, Twitter account, blog, and anywhere else you are actively promoting your brand or engaging with customers.

Use these to your advantage by periodically asking for reviews. At the same time, provide passive opportunities for people to leave reviews. Create a page on your website with instructions on how to leave a review for your business. Create a call to action button on your Facebook Page that solicits reviews. On average, only 1-10% of customers leave reviews, and positive reviews are harder to solicit than negative simply because people don’t think of it as often. So you need to stay top of mind with your customers to encourage them to offer that feedback.

Build an Email List and Ask for Feedback Regularly

If you have email addresses for your customers, this is an extremely effective way to further engage them and increase feedback through reviews. Email open rates are, on average, 2-3 times higher than social media engagement rates, meaning you can reach a higher percentage of a more engaged audience if you send regular email newsletters.

Your emails should do more than just ask for reviews of course. They should provide valuable information about new products, sales, and events happening at your store or business. They should also prominently request reviews from customers who you know are already thinking about your business. If you don’t yet have an email list, consider building one in store. Offer a customer loyalty or frequent shopping discount and require an email address to sign up. It’s a fairly common practice and can help to boost your engagement both offline and online.

Add Review Links to Your Email Signatures

This is a quick and easy way to request reviews passively from people who you are actively engaged with. This is especially important if you are in a one-to-one business in which you frequently interact with customers directly via email, including professional services like accounting, investment services, or a law firm.

Add a short “leave a review” link in your email signature and you’re guaranteed that the majority of your customers or clients will see it at some point.

Increase Feedback at the Point of Sale

A study in 2012 showed that comment cards had completion rates as high as 80-90% when explicitly requested from customers. Rates like this are unheard of online, because it’s frequently hours or even days later that someone interacts with a business online (unless they are upset about something).

increase-feedback-for-online-reviewsWhereas sites like Yelp incentivize users to leave reviews of all kinds (positive and negative) when they visit a new business, this doesn’t benefit all business types. Contractors, landscapers, pest control companies and other service-oriented businesses often see lag between service and feedback unless there is a problem. To combat this, include a comment card with a link or QR code linking to a Google Business page. By requesting that review as soon as the service is rendered, you greatly increase the chance that someone takes the time to leave a few nice words about your services.

Engage with Every Review You Receive

The first rule of reputation management for small and local businesses is to engage with the reviews you receive. Engagement does a few things:

  1. First, it shows all of your prospective and current customers that you care about their feedback. It creates a more inclusive relationship with people, even before they do business with you.
  2. It encourages people to leave complaints or concerns in a more constructive form. If an upset customer sees that you generally reply to concerns and fix them as quickly as you can, they are less likely to flame your business on every review site and social network they have access to before contacting you and asking for resolution.
  3. It encourages positive reviews. When your customers see an active and socially engaged business owner, they’re more likely to drop in and say hi or thank you for your good service.

This is an easy process that requires daily checking of the top review sites for your business. A few quick minutes replying to reviews can have a huge positive impact on your business.

Own Your Profiles on Online Review Sites

Spend some time and claim all of the current profiles for your business. You may not realize it, but there are dozens of profiles, directory listings, and map listings for your business. Some of these sites scrape public directories and populate new business data. Others will create a new listing when someone leaves the first review for your business. Either way, you may have profiles you don’t know about.

By claiming all of these, verifying them, and updating any incorrect or incomplete data, you create a consistent profile for your business online. This makes it easier for people to find information relevant to them about your business and leave reviews.

Incentivize Your Staff to Increase Feedback

Your staff is the front line in interacting with customers. These are the men and women who will make the strongest (positive or negative) impression with customers, encourage them to take further action, or not. Staff without incentive to request reviews usually won’t do so.

To help with that, offer incentives to your staff for reviews completed. Have them request reviews from every customer they interact with. Provide them with comment cards or links to your review profiles that will encourage action.

You can do this through monetary means with a bonus for each successful review. Or you can have a contest that rewards those who perform the best. Either way, it will help the staff take ownership of how your business is perceived online. A nice positive side effect of this approach is a staff that becomes more engaged and invested in your success.

Increase Feedback and Build Your Business Online

By creating the channels and communication needed to encourage your customers to interact with you further online, you’re guaranteeing you will get more reviews. The vast majority of consumers don’t review businesses because they forget or don’t have time. By making it easier for them, streamlining the process, and building relationships well before the review is left, you encourage them to interact at a much higher rate, and that is the ultimate goal to help your business grow.