In the digital age, businesses are tasked with managing their online presence. It’s not enough to have a website; you also need to make sure you can be readily found on the internet. And while investing in SEO services and social media marketing can undoubtedly help to raise your profile online, you need to supplement those efforts by encouraging online reviews.

Online reviews play a crucial role in how consumers perceive your brand. In many cases, they’ve actually replaced word-of-mouth -- and if you don’t have any reviews, you’ll have a hard time getting customers to trust your business.

That said, online reviews -- especially positive ones -- can be hard to come by. Unless a customer has had a particularly bad experience, they may not be inclined to spend time writing a review for a given business. That’s why it’s important that you communicate just how valuable online reviews are to your customers and convince them to voice their support (or even their constructive criticism) online. But how exactly do you do that? And is it really worth the effort? Below, we’ll take a closer look at how to get customer reviews for your agency and why it matters so much.

Why Online Reviews Are So Important

First, let’s talk about the importance of online reviews. While it might seem like customer reviews may not need to be a top priority, they probably play a more essential part in your marketing and brand perception than you’d think.

Data shows us that customers place immense value on a company’s online reviews. According to statistics, 90% of consumers say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. Around 91% of young consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while a 2019 survey found that 62% of respondents feel that online customer reviews are very helpful.

Of course, the more reviews you have, the better off you’ll be. The average customer thinks that a business needs around 40 reviews before they’ll even trust its rating, but a few reviews are still better than none at all. When a product receives at least five reviews, its chances of being purchased increase by 270% -- but having zero reviews is even worse than having some negative reviews peppered in. While having a rating of three to four stars is ideal (as customers aren’t likely to trust five-star reviews as much), negative reviews can actually help you. In fact, 82% of consumers seek out negative reviews and shoppers will spend five times as long on a site when interacting with negative reviews. What’s more, those interactions show an 85% conversion rate increase! Conversely, having no reviews at all (or only outdated ones) can be the very thing that makes a customer walk away. Around 15% of consumers won’t trust a business without reviews, which means you could be doing your business a real disservice by failing to solicit reviews from customers.

Keep in mind that customers will trust online reviews over advertising almost every time. While this doesn’t mean you should stop your ad spend, it does mean that you’ll make better use of your marketing budget if you’re also putting effort into generating online reviews for your business. We’ll show you how in the next section.

Creative Ways to Encourage Customer Reviews

Although customers clearly value online ratings, the majority of U.S. consumers won’t leave reviews. That makes it challenging for business owners to effectively manage their reputations on the web. Knowing how to get customer reviews can ultimately set your business apart from your competition and help to solidify your position as a leader in your industry.

So how can you encourage customers to leave a review? You have to do more than merely set up a profile on Yelp and wait for the reviews to roll in. Here are just a few of our favorite tips that we suggest to clients who want to know how to get customer reviews -- and we even use some of these techniques ourselves!

  1. Put Reminders On Your Site: Even if repeat customers are familiar with your site and social media pages, they might not be inclined to write a review. Generally speaking, you’ll need to nudge clients in the right direction. One way to do this is by placing helpful reminders on your website. Putting a link to your Yelp page or a button that brings a visitor right to your Facebook reviews can make it even easier for a customer to leave you some feedback. A testimonials page can also be helpful, but because those reviews are curated by the business, don’t forget to include third-party review platform links somewhere on your site.
  2. Automate Email Asks: Automation can make menial tasks a lot more efficient. While it’s important to still offer a personal touch, there’s no reason you can’t solicit reviews with help from automated practices. Those who run e-commerce sites can automatically send customers an email reminder to leave a review on a product they’ve purchased -- and you can emulate this by including a request for an online review in an email blast to your mailing list. Since you may not want to email everyone in your address book, you can target a specific audience (for example, established customers with whom you have ongoing relationships or new clients from the past year). You can even segment these emails so they aren’t sent at the exact same time; instead, they can be sent in small groups on an ongoing basis. This can prevent one platform from being flooded with a deluge of reviews, which could look suspicious. But by automating this process, you can cut down on the effort you have to exert without putting review generation on the back burner.
  3. Mention Reviews During Calls: When we’re asked how to get customer reviews, our first piece of advice is simply to ask! In addition to automating (or personally composing) emails to clients, you can also mention the idea of leaving a review while you’re on a call with them. Many times, clients just don’t know that you’re in need of reviews. If your relationship has been a positive one, your client might not be inclined to leave feedback; most people will only think to leave a review once they’ve left a company or if they’ve had a bad experience with a product or service. But if you mention leaving a review on a call with your client, you can communicate how they can continue to support your business (a cause that might be quite personal to them!). While you don’t want to pressure them to leave a review, the reminder might serve as enough encouragement.
  4. Focus on Exemplary Customer Service: One thing that will always impress clients is a dedication to customer service. Providing high-quality products and stellar results will always matter, but your commitment to stellar service will almost always outshine everything else. If a customer is trying to decide between yours and another agency, your customer service will often be the factor that puts it over the top. Remember not to lose this after you win your client! If you consistently go above and beyond for your customers, they’ll be more likely to rave about your business online -- particularly if you follow up an interaction with a request for a review.
  5. Consider Possible Incentives: This is a bit controversial and requires some careful thought, but it can be appropriate in certain situations. Many third-party websites have strict rules about incentivizing reviews, so you should familiarize yourself with these guidelines before trying out this strategy. Some businesses will offer discounted services or products in exchange for an honest review, but the reviewer may need to disclose this exchange in the review. That could reflect badly on your business, in certain cases. But you could also offer an incentive to customers that could help you increase your sales; if you’re able to add them to your email list or simply ask them to follow you on social media, you can then leverage those tools to increase your online reviews. That way, you won’t be providing a direct incentive in exchange for a review but you can still increase the chances that a customer will leave feedback.

Tips For Managing Online Reviews

After figuring out how to improve your reputation management and get customer reviews using these tips, you’ll probably find some new reviews for your business on third-party platforms. That’s great news, right? Well, sometimes you might not be so thrilled with the reviews you get. But rather than lash out at a customer, you need to keep a cool head and respond in the right way. And even if you’re getting largely positive reviews, you’ll still want to respond. Here are some basic recommendations to keep in mind for managing your online reviews.

  • Don’t panic. First of all, resist the urge to go right into crisis mode when you receive a bad review. We mentioned earlier that customers do expect some bad reviews. In fact, they’ll be less likely to trust a business that has five-star reviews across the board. One negative review isn’t going to make or break your business, in most cases. How you respond to negative reviews will matter a lot more to customers than the fact the review exists. While it is important to act quickly, you don’t need to panic. This is something every business owner deals with at one point or another, so don’t assume that your agency will be ruined by one dissatisfied customer.
  • Leave the emotion out. It’s hard not to take negative reviews personally. After all, it’s your business on the line. But remind yourself not to go on the offensive. Even if a customer’s view of a situation is drastically different than your own, you can’t risk getting overwhelmed by emotion. Rather than feed off of the negative energy that the customer brought into their review, fight against that instinct. This is business; it’s not a personal attack, even if it might seem that way at first. Before you respond to a review, run your reply by a trusted friend or colleague to ensure you are being factual, rather than emotional, in your response.
  • Make sure they feel H-E-A-R-D. Neil Patel cites the acronym “HEARD” as being a useful framework for responding to negative reviews. This format can help you address the task at-hand without becoming defensive or shirking responsibility. Even if you feel the customer is in the wrong, remembering these steps can help you save the day. You should Hear the uninterrupted story, Empathize with the customer’s feelings, Apologize for the situation, Resolve the issue, and Diagnose what went wrong to alleviate repetitive mistakes. Remember that other clients will understand that every detail won’t go perfectly every time, but the way in which you respond can make all the difference.
  • Take your time (but not too much). It is important to jump into action when a review comes in, but that doesn’t mean your response should be rash. If a review is largely positive, reply with a personalized message that thanks the reviewer and shows them you value their business. And if the review is negative, don’t reply in a fit of anxiety or anger. While you do need to respond promptly, you should take a breath and step away from the screen if you find you’re unable to respond calmly and rationally. You’ll probably get only one chance to respond, so make it count.
  • Attempt to remove dishonest reviews. Although this problem may be rare, it’s still a possibility many business owners have to deal with. Customers (and even random folks on the internet) may leave negative reviews in an attempt to hurt your business or even your personal reputation. Most third-party sites do have rules about what can be and can’t be included in reviews. If a user has posted false information about your business or is pretending to be a customer, you may be able to request that the review be removed. Do your research into the platform and cite any pertinent guidelines that might convince the Powers That Be to take the review down. These websites do pride themselves on providing useful and honest information to the public -- so if you can prove that the user isn’t doing that, you might be able to have it removed entirely. While you shouldn’t hang your hopes on this option, it can be a viable option for reviews that are libelous or off-the-wall.

As we’ve seen, knowing how to get customer reviews for your business can increase your online presence and brand awareness. Asking your clients for reviews -- and managing those reviews properly -- can allow you to grow your agency in new ways over the years to come.