There’s only one thing better for your business than a happy customer. And that’s a happy customer who writes a glowing review of your business.
Customer reviews can be a powerful tool for small business owners. They’re a great way to build awareness, connect with customers, and gain trust. Positive reviews not only help boost your reputation, but they also may help your business grow.
As a small business owner, it’s time to reach for the stars. And we’re here to help.
In this guide, we’ll cover the importance of customer reviews, how to ask for them, and how to respond to them.
We’ll also reveal 8 ways to increase and improve your customer reviews.
Let’s get started!
Think about all the questions that run through your mind when you need to make a purchase or find a service provider, including:
“What do I need?”
“Where can I get it?”
“Who can I trust to help me?”
The consumer decision-making process can be overwhelming so many people turn to the internet for validation. Online review sites like Google and Yelp help consumers decide what to buy, where to shop, and who to hire.
So why are customer reviews important for small business owners?
Today’s consumers rely on feedback from like-minded customers to help them evaluate products and services. In 2021, 98% of consumers at least occasionally read online reviews for local businesses.
A few positive reviews can give your potential customers the reassurance they need to engage with your business.
On the other hand, a business with no reviews can potentially be a red flag to new customers. Without recommendations from others, your business may struggle to attract customers.
The bottom line: Customers rely on reviews more than ever before. As a small business owner, you will likely need online reviews to stay competitive and relevant.
Build credibility. A positive customer review can be social proof that your business is doing something right. When a potential customer sees that others endorse your product or service, it can boost their confidence in your company. In a recent survey, 79% of people said they trusted online reviews as much as the recommendations of family and friends.
Give them a voice. When you give your customer the opportunity to write a review, it shows you’re listening and open to feedback. Follow up with a positive comment and the customer may feel that their thoughts and opinions are appreciated.
Provide insights. While no business owner wants to receive a negative review, sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. Don’t let it stress you out. Even a less-than-stellar review can work in your favor. A negative review may give you a different perspective on how you operate. The more you listen to your customers, the more you can learn about your business.
Improve your rankings. Reviews can do more than provide your customers with a forum. When used effectively, reviews can help boost your local rankings on Google. Businesses that consistently get a large number of high star ratings and reviews are likely to get more consideration from the popular search engine.
Free marketing. A customer review is essentially word-of-mouth advertising for your business. When customers spread the word about your product or service, it may carry more weight than your marketing. That’s because some customers trust each other more than they trust your advertising. So, think of customer reviews as an ongoing marketing campaign that you likely don’t have to fund.
At this point, you probably see the benefits of a good review. But maybe you’re still wondering how to get customer reviews.
We know that asking for praise can be intimidating, but don’t be shy. Many customers are willing to share their feedback and experiences. In fact, 74% of consumers wrote reviews for local businesses in 2021.
There are many ways to ask for a customer review. Bear in mind that every business is unique, so what works for one business may not work well for another. You may want to consider trying a few methods of asking this question to see what works best for you and your business.
Still not sure how to approach your customer? No worries. We have examples to help you get started.
Here are a few ways you can ask your customer to leave a review:
Here’s a scenario. A regular customer comes to your bookstore looking for a hard-to-find travel guide for her vacation. You offer to order it, and it arrives in time for your customer’s trip. She thanks you for your excellent customer service.
You might say, “I’m always happy to help. Personalized attention is an important part of my business. I would love it if you shared your experience in an online review.”
Your small catering company delivers meals to busy families that don’t have time to cook. A new client calls to say that every meal has been a hit with her family, and she looks forward to next week’s menu.
You might say, “I’m so happy you’re enjoying our meals! I’d like to text you a link where you can write a customer review. I’m sure others would like to hear your feedback.”
Let’s say you own a plumbing company and want to optimize your website for customer reviews. You can create a dedicated testimonials page, then send an email to satisfied customers inviting them to write a review on your site.
One of the most common ways to ask for a customer review is email. Customers are typically willing to share their email address when they purchase a product or sign up for a service. Follow up within a few days and ask them to write a review about their experience on your website.
For example, you can send them an email that says:
Thank you for your recent purchase! We love making our customers happy, and we hope you had a great experience. If so, we’d be elated if you would share a review on our website or one of our social media pages. Thanks for supporting our business.
Let’s say you run a food truck. If your customers are following you on social media, chances are they like your tacos. Why not turn those likes into customer reviews?
Social media pages are an effective way to attract attention. Two out of three Facebook users visit a local business page at least once a week. You may want to leverage your social channels for reviews with that much traffic.
You can start by forming a Facebook Group which can help build a community around your business. When you create a Group, it’s easier for you to reach out to your customers because you can connect to them via Messenger instead of email.
Here’s an example of how to ask for a review.
Are you crazy about our tacos? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a review on our Facebook page. Hope to taco with you soon.
When it comes to asking for customer reviews, your best bet is to try multiple strategies. Eventually, you’ll find out which ones work best for your business.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
Why are customer reviews so important? It’s written in the stars.
Reviews can matter to customers. And when it comes to choosing a business, the difference between a 3-star rating and a 5-star rating may be the deciding factor.
As a small business owner, you may wonder, “How do I get more reviews?” and “How do I get more stars?”
These are great questions, and we’re here to give you all the tips.
Here are 8 ways to increase and improve your customer reviews.
Write a positive review for someone who might want to return the favor.
For example, if you’re a contractor with a great working relationship with a subcontractor, you could ask them to write a review for your service; in exchange, you could leave a review on their website. That’s what we call a win-win.
Writing reviews may not come naturally to your customers, so set them up for success. Give them a prompt, so they know where to begin.
For example, you might ask them, “What’s your favorite item on our menu?” Offer multiple ways to leave a review so they can choose the platform they are most comfortable with, and include links that lead them directly to your page.
Here’s an example of bad timing: Your customer orders a bench from your woodworking shop. One month after placing his custom order, he receives an email inviting him to write a review. The problem is he hasn’t received his product yet.
Asking for a review before your customer enjoys their purchase is not only awkward; it leaves you open to negative feedback. Make sure you’re leveraging the right moments in the customer journey.
Here’s an example of perfect timing: A customer posts a picture of her wedding cake on Instagram. She tags your bakery, thanking you for making the “dreamiest wedding cake ever.” Her excitement may be the result of a sugar high, but don’t let that stop you from seizing the moment.
Reply to her post with an exuberant thank you — then send her a private message asking if she would share her experience in a customer review. Don’t forget to include a link to make it easy for her to follow through.
In addition to asking for customer reviews, make sure you’re highlighting the positive reviews you already have. Many review sites such as Google, Yelp, and Glassdoor allow business owners to mark a review as helpful. This moves the customer review further up on the site, so more people are likely to see it.
Another way to maximize your positive reviews is to feature them on your website or social media channels. You could reshare positive Facebook reviews in a post on your business page or highlight customer quotes on your Instagram page.
If customers see one glowing review after another, they may be more inclined to share their own. Be sure to update the customer reviews you post on your website every few months to keep them current.
Networking, industry, and community events can increase the visibility of your small business. They’re also great ways to get customer reviews. Not sure how to create a positive presence at an event? Here are a few ideas:
When you offer something of value to your potential customers, they may be more likely to share positive feedback. Asking for a review may be as easy as handing them a branded postcard that says, “How did we do? Let us know by leaving a review!”
If your business is receiving lower start ratings than expected, find out why. Maybe your service is slow, or parking is challenging. When you address the things that cause friction with your customers, you may notice that your ratings improve.
We get it. Responding to every customer review may sound like a tedious task. But not responding can leave your customers feeling slighted.
According to a survey conducted by Review Trackers, 53% of consumers expect a response to a negative review within seven days. (We’ll cover how to respond to negative reviews later.)
But first, let’s talk about why you should respond to every positive review.
When you interact with your most satisfied customers, it reinforces your commitment to them. Plus, you’re not only engaging with the customer who wrote the review. You’re also making an impression on everyone else who reads it.
And there’s another reason to respond to every online review. According to Google, it can improve your local SEO which means your business has a better chance of capturing a top spot in a local search.
The reviews are in! And it’s time to start responding to your customers. First, take a deep breath. Before you jump in, think about how you want to be viewed as a business owner.
No doubt, your customer will be interested to see how you will respond to their review — especially if they had a bad experience with your business. This is a chance for you to potentially exceed expectations and increase customer satisfaction.
Whether your reviews are good or bad, having a solid response strategy will ensure that you’re prepared for anything.
It feels good to be loved. Achieving a four- or five-star rating is an impressive accomplishment that adds credibility to your business reputation.
When a customer writes a positive review, they are rooting for your business. It's important to acknowledge their review and express your appreciation.
Here are some tips on how to reply:
It goes without saying that kind words deserve a thank you. When someone goes out of their way to leave a favorable review, it’s a sign that they are invested in your business. Thank your customer for taking the time to write a thoughtful review.
When responding to positive reviews, there’s no need to ramble on. A simple, appreciative reply will help show that you’re paying attention and value your customer’s perspective.
In other words, don’t sound like a chatbot. This is a chance to give your business a voice, so make sure you reply like a human being. To make your response more personal, address your customer by name and use a friendly, conversational tone.
The best time to ask your customer for something is when they are gushing about a great experience with your business. Make the most of this moment. You could invite them to join your Facebook Group or share their positive experience on another platform.
Ed, thank you for the great review! We’re so happy you loved the edging and mulching. We look forward to your next service appointment. Happy Spring!
Thanks for the kind words, Emma! We think that dress was made for you. We’d love for you to follow us on Instagram and share a photo from the party. Thanks again!
Jordan, we really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us — and we agree that Kelly is an amazing chef. We’re lucky to have customers like you, and we hope to see you for dinner again soon.
A one- or two-star review can be a blow to your business. No matter how hard you try, there are always customers who are never happy. One of the best ways to approach a bad review is to view it as an opportunity.
Following these tips may help turn a bad review into something good:
When it comes to replying to a negative review, time is of the essence. You don’t want your customer to feel ignored, so it’s important to follow up with a reply as soon as you can. Bear in mind that some issues may require time to investigate, but that shouldn’t stop you from sending a sincere apology with a commitment to resolve their issue promptly.
Believe it or not, most customers who write negative reviews aren’t out to get you. Many customers write reviews simply because they are disappointed and want you to know. Reply with a sincere thank you. You could say, “Thank you for your honest feedback.” or “Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.”
Remember, the customer is always right. If a customer writes a negative review, your business did not meet their expectations. Apologize — even if you believe the review is unreasonable or the problem is not your fault. Here’s an opportunity to establish a fresh start with your customer.
Your customer’s experience may be an isolated incident, but it doesn’t matter. If you try to explain all the reasons why a situation turned sour, it might sound like you’re making excuses. Instead, take responsibility for whatever happened and acknowledge that you will do better next time.
Your customer’s issue will probably not be resolved in the comments thread — especially if others begin to chime in. A phone call is usually the best way to address a customer complaint. Take the conversation offline as soon as possible to diffuse the situation and prevent a public exchange that has the opportunity to embarrass your business.
Actions speak louder than words, so do whatever you can to address the issue the customer highlighted. Be clear about the steps you will take. Sometimes there’s not much you can do to fix the problem. If that’s the case, take ownership, and let your customer know that you will do what you can to make things right in the future.
Barry, thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. I set high standards for my business, and I’m very sorry I did not meet your expectations. I will contact you today to see how I can resolve your issue.
Astrid, thank you for posting this review. We’re sorry that you received a broken item. We aim to deliver high-quality products and we missed the mark with your order. We are sending another item. Please contact us by phone if you have questions.
Your feedback is important to us, Jeff. We’re sorry to hear that your experience was not up to standards. We would like the opportunity to investigate this further. A customer service representative will be calling you shortly.
The bottom line? Learning how to respond to reviews is just as important as knowing how to ask for them. With practice, you’ll be prepared to handle these types of situations.
Now you know why customer reviews are an essential part of your business. They can help you build credibility, increase your online visibility, and provide insights about your business and customers.
Once your business starts accumulating online reviews, the benefits will likely be clear. Positivereviews can help your small business shine. And even bad reviews can provide you with an opportunity to learn and grow.
I've always loved to write and have been lucky enough to make a career out of it. After many years in the corporate advertising world, I'm now a freelance writer—running my own show and contributing to Simply Business. Fun fact: I have three desks in my house, but I still do my best thinking walking in the woods.
Susan writes on a number of topics such as workplace safety, customer sales, and workers' compensation insurance.
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