The Customer Voice – In this article series, we are looking at reputation management and the importance of online customer reviews (which – let’s recap – boost your credibility and reputation in the market, stimulate better customer relationships and increase SEO and visibility, particularly for local search.)

Today we’re going to turn our attention to the customer voice – and the importance of eliciting customer reviews on a proactive basis.

Why is the customer voice so important?

Yes, it’s vital to respond to reviews that customer post on an online forum – but businesses must also take control of the process and elicit reviews on a proactive basis too. This gives your customers a voice and shows that you truly value their opinion and feedback. So don’t be coy about asking for a review, and be direct in guiding your customers to the place where you’d ideally like them to leave it – making the process as quick and easy as possible to encourage them to do so.

When to ask for a review?

There are plenty of opportunities in each customer journey, for example:

– Immediately after purchase
– When a customer makes a repeat purchase
– When a customer is spending a lot of time engaging with your website (you might want to ask for a targeted website review for example.)
– When the customer has had some kind of interaction with your business – such as contacting your customer service team.
– When the customer has reached an anniversary with your businesses (remembering that you can always incentivise a review with a competition entry, money-off voucher or similar offer to sweeten the deal!)

Using templates to stimulate customer voice

Although there are plenty of touchpoints in the customer journey that can be used to initiate a review request, it’s important to use different templates so that the customer feels that there is a degree of personalisation and engagement. These template requests only need to be a few lines long, but they should include your customer’s name – which can be automated when you use an online review management system.

How to adjust your approach by sector

Every business will have a slightly different ‘best practice’ approach to stimulating reviews from their customer base. For example, a travel business would expect to have a strong base of positive reviews on Trip Advisor. However, for a B2B business – which has a longer and more involved sales cycle – those reviews would probably be best placed on the website itself in the form of testimonials. Equally, for an eCommerce business in a consumer sector that does a lot of social media marketing, you’d expect to see customers leaving reviews on Facebook, and for a cafe or restaurant, Google would be an obvious destination from the local search angle. So think about your business sector and the online places where your customers are likely to turn for their reviews and prepare messaging that encourages them to leave their own.

Offering your own review platform

Your business website and social media feeds are also a natural – and highly desirable – online hub for customer reviews. So make it as simple as possible for your customers by providing a standard template and by asking for a review at the point of sale. A template makes it extremely quick and fast to leave a structured review that provides the information that you want to read. Also, you must track your reviews effectively, both to respond quickly and fro management information. For the latter, include a set of measures in your Spider Impact system. If you do not use Spider Impact, then you should!

Good practice ideas to ask for reviews

So you know where and when you want your customer to place reviews, you have your template wording and you’ve got your automated online review software system in place. Which tactics can you now use to encourage as many reviews as possible?

1. Actively reach out to repeat customers

You already have customers that love your business and your products. So follow up with your ‘power users’ and take extra efforts to personally engage with them and ask for their trusted, honest review. This could be as simple as an email that expresses your thanks for their custom and support, and which asks if they would be honest to post a short review.

2. Streamline and user test your templates

We touched on the importance of templates, which need to be customised and as user-friendly as possible. For example, some brands like Expedia split up the review into different topic sections and allow customers to offer a star rating for each element – such as service, value, comfort and so forth. User-test your templates and refine them according to the data that you gather.

3. Offer a nudge

People are busy and reviews take time, even when they are designed to be quick. So show your appreciation for feedback by extending a small incentive, such as a freebie, discount or some kind of shout-out. This could be a donation to charity, a £5 off your next order or a product sample in the post.

4. Offer choices

Give your customers plenty of choice by making it easy for them to leave reviews across different platforms, such as Facebook, Yelp or Google. Claim your business page on each relevant platform so that your customers can easily share their experiences – and so that you have ownership over your brand’s presence. Don’t forget, you want to hear the customer voice.

5. Actively share user-generated content

Look on social media for organic posts which talk about your brand and share these posts with your followers. This shows that you have fans who are engaged enough with your brand to talk about it naturally. Again, thank people that take the time to do this! On Twitter remember that you can use the branded hashtag and encourage customers to tag their reviews or comments for you to engage with.

6. Use an online review management system

Reputation management takes time and effort and an online review management system will make the entire process much quicker, easier and richer by automating it as far as possible and by offering insights and tools which allow you to do everything from identifying reviews and automating comments to measuring your brand’s reach and reputation in your target markets.

How will you encourage your customers to start leaving reviews for your business?