Last week Google acquired Zagat, the review provider powerhouse that has been in business for over 30 years. According to Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land, “This is huge news for Google (capital “H”) and for local. Google is a content publisher now and the content that Zagat brings arguably closes the gap between Google Places and Yelp. We’ll have to see the implementation”. Google Buys Zagat Ratings, Rocks Local
In light of this recent acquisition, customer reviews are once again at the forefront of the news which makes for an excellent opportunity for businesses to start pondering how getting more online reviews can fit into your business.
There are four types of businesses when it comes to reviews according to Andrew Shotland of Search Engine Land:
• Businesses that get most of their business from referrals, don’t get any online reviews and could care less about them (perhaps the biggest chunk of businesses).
• Businesses that get most of their business from referrals, get online reviews and think that nobody reads them or cares.
• Businesses that think reviews are hugely important and work hard to get a lot of them.
• Businesses that think reviews are hugely important and work hard to get them, but don’t get many, if any.
The problem with the first two types of business who rely heavily on referrals and pay little attention to reviews is that sometime in the future somebody is going to write a review about your business and there is a good chance that it will be negative. This can have serious consequences if the review gets around, and it probably will thanks to Google. The business that is paying attention to reviews will have an opportunity to catch the negative review, and remedy it in some way, usually in the form of a response to the reviewer.
For the business that works hard at getting lots of reviews there will be much opportunity for increased business. According to Andrew, “While positive reviews are great, the real power is in the reviewer. A customer willing to spend the time to review you is a brand ambassador. Instead of just asking them for reviews, you should be thinking about how you can harness your relationship with these valuable people to help spread the word, both online and off.” Satisfied customers will have no problem with spreading the love!
Lastly, Andrew offers up 5 golden tips for asking customers for reviews:
1. Don’t offer incentives. A percentage of your customers will do it for free. If you offer to pay your top brand ambassadors, it’s possible they will get turned off, which could hurt your business by dampening the enthusiasm of these mavens.
2. Make it easy for customers. Don’t send them a link to review you on Google unless they have a Gmail address.
3. Don’t ask people for Yelp reviews. This almost always backfires. You may get a few positive reviews in the short term, but if your customers are not active Yelpers, Yelp’s SPAM filters will eventually toast their reviews. You’ll end up with no reviews and potentially some angry customers who wonder why their work of review art disappeared.
4. Do it promptly. Don’t wait. People are most likely to give you feedback right away. The longer you go from the time of service to the time of request, the likelihood of getting reviews drops precipitously. According to Ted Paff, CEO of CustomerLobby, a review service, “Comment card reviews solicited at the time of service can see completion rates of 80-90%” vs. much lower rates for other forms of review solicitation.
5. If you have the customer’s email address, follow up your initial request three days later with a reminder email containing links of where to for review submissions. Reminder emails can account for a huge percentage of review conversions.
Bottom line to all this is that customers are basing decisions about which service or product to purchase, or which destination to visit more on reviews than ever before. According to a study done by the e-tailing group and PowerReviews, about six in 10 (59%) online shoppers say user-generated customer product reviews have a significant or good impact on their buying behavior. “The 2011 Social Shopping Study” indicates that customer reviews have the largest impact by a considerable margin.