There is no question that online review sites can be huge traffic generators for businesses, particularly those that rely on local search to bring customers to their door. However, positive comments don’t happen by magic. A business needs to be proactive in generating those reviews on a regular basis. Especially for restaurants, a business in local search is often only as good as its last three reviews posted on a popular search site.
Setting the Groundwork
A business should be clear right from the start that it wants to hear from its customers and that online opinions are considered important. If the business isn’t taking reviews seriously, then customers won’t bother with writing them either.
Wherever possible, a customer should be provided the ability and means to go online and post a review. Many businesses use the point of sale to provide that opportunity, either providing the survey or review information on a receipt or with an extra communication explaining the importance of the follow-up. Either way, by paving the path, a number of customers will follow through and post given the chance to do so.
Just like there are food critics who visit restaurants, there are now product critics who review products. Finding these folks online can also help generate commentary traffic. By giving them a sample of a service or product for free to review, the results can produce significant traffic and more commentary as people try out what the blogger or reviewer tried and talk about it as well.
Make Commenting Part of the Experience
No matter the product or service, reviews should be part of the consumer experience. Otherwise, the customer gets away without the business ever realizing the valuable feedback. There are different ways to embed the requirement. For services, customers should be called after the service delivery, and asked how they felt about the service and encouraged to provide commentary online, if possible. For products, communication material can be included in the packaging upon delivery or at checkout. This forces the consumer to share the business’s value of reviews.
Avoid Negative Exchanges
While there may be the occasional negative comment, it should never be challenged online. Instead, a business should try to contact the unhappy customer directly and work the matter out. In many cases the customer will post again, noting how the business took steps to fix the problem and provided a viable resolution. That in turn makes a negative post turn into an even more powerful online comment in local search. Unfortunately, that sort of great result won’t occur if a business engages in a flame war with snarky responses back and forth in a public forum.