Why Soliciting Online Reviews is a Terrible Idea
by Curtis Boyd
As business owners, we have our own ideas about why our clients should write rave reviews about our companies. Our clients understand the value we provide, so why can’t they write about it? Well, perhaps we will offer them a little thank-you gift for their time. People need a little bribe, right? In my opinion, you should never give your clients anything other than a five-star experience for sharing their experience online.
Say a restaurant offers a free dessert when you show them a five-star review. Does that work? Arguably, yes—but temporarily. In the long term, that strategy is doing consumers and business owners both a disservice. The consumers are only reviewing for the free dessert and are being “trained” that they get something when they write a good review. What happens when they do not get something they want? They might be inclined to write a negative review now that they realize the value of reviews. Solicited reviews will also tend to be rushed; Customers will not take the time to describe their experience, but merely write something positive in as few words as possible. Compare those short worded reviews against quality reviews that take time to describe their experience and see the difference in confidence they inspire about a business.
If consumers are not willing to share their experience online unless bribed, then you need to consider the possibility that they are not being provided with five-star experiences. The most successful businesses are able to consistently provide five-star experiences, which is why their brand goes beyond reviews. You do not need to look at reviews for Subway, H&R Block, Disneyland and 7-Eleven. You know exactly what you can expect, the same consistent experience. Consumers want consistency. They have expectations in regards to how far their dollar will go and what they will get in return.
When consumers pay money for a product or service, they expect a high quality product or service. What they do not expect is red carpet treatment along the way, or an unexpected benefit that was offered gratuitously by the business. You can provide a great product but if your employee has a negative interaction with a customer, you will most likely wind up with a bad review afterwards. The most important point I can make is this: People are more likely to share their five-star experience online when an employee goes out of their way to provide extraordinary customer service.
At the end of the day, it is usually our employees that earn the five-star reviews. In my opinion, it is very important to track which employees are earning your reviews; these superstars are making you a lot of money. Instead of paying customers to write reviews, how about motivating your employees to earn five-star reviews with a cash bonus?
Soliciting reviews is not asking your clients to share their experience online; it is more along the lines of bribery or coercion and giving people the wrong reason to write a review. Motivate them to share their experience online by being the real deal. One of my favorite quotes in the online reputation world is by Mike Montano, and he says, “Stop marketing, and be remarkable.”
Curtis Boyd is the CEO of Future Solutions Media, a firm specializing in online reputation. They connect the link between high quality customer service and online reputation, work with business owners to address bad reviews and hidden reviews, and advise on best legal practices to generate new reviews from customers who are willing to share their experience online.
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