December 28, 2016

Expert Q & A: How to Get Online Customer Reviews That Benefit Your Business

Written byBriana Songer

The five-star rating is the number one customer review system used in eCommerce today. The psychology of collective thinking to make decisions dates back to Greek times where democracy ruled. Today those decisions are not part of a small, private group, but made by millions of people and shared in plain sight on the internet. More importantly, online customer reviews give consumers the power to compare products and services from those they trust the most – their peers. Read this Expert Q & A: How to Get Online Customer Reviews That Benefit Your Business to learn more:

Q: Our products sell fine, so what is the importance of online customer reviews?

In our technological age, most people, regardless of generation, use online reviews as a safety net to determine if they will do business with you. Of course, the typical industries – restaurant, retail, etc. – are more infamous for user reviews. But if you think your bank or insurance agency is immune to the review frenzy, you may be losing potential customers.

Online Reviews Determine Business Reputation

Take it from Miles Anderson, CEO of

Our survey shows nearly 9 in 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39% do so on a regular basis. The “trend line” over the last four years clearly shows how much more regularly people are reading reviews, clearly highlighting the need for local businesses to attract more reviews and actively manage their online reputation.” 

Anderson also explains that having at least ten reviews will satisfy 85% of potential customers. You may already have this amount of reviews on sites like Yelp or Google and be completely unaware, so be proactive. Do a Google search to determine your review status. Often those less proactive have the most negative reviews, a surefire way to lose business!

Search Engines Love Customer Reviews

Even if your customers don’t usually do business with you online, people will still find you there. According to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results.

For a small business owner, this means you need a good amount of reviews from a diverse population of users to rank higher. Most people don’t click beyond the first page results. As a result, online customer reviews can help you become searchable and get more business.

Customer Reviews Increase Customer Service

Another importance of online customer reviews is putting the customer first. A business owner who consistently monitors user reviews, both good and bad, usually provides better customer service and increases brand loyalty:

Customer reviews may help you refine, re-focus, and re-think your online business in positive ways. In the end, you want to create an online customer experience that hits it out of the park every time! So, listen to what your customers are saying. You’ll be happy you did.” -Kevin Hodes, Swypit CEO.

You can run. You can hide. Or you can tackle your weaknesses head on to give your customers what they need. Openly thank customers for reviewing your product or service. Candidly reply to negative reviews to show you want to find a solution for the client. The combination of your responses will likely promote a loyal customer following. Ultimately, people want to see that your business cares about them.

Q: We have excellent word-of-mouth, but how can I get online customer reviews? 

The way people find your business and evaluate you is highly dependent on your particular industry. One way how to get online customer reviews is to begin by understanding what online review platforms best benefit your business. There isn’t a one-size fit all (yet).

Lanny Baker, CEO and President of ZipRealty Inc., needed his customers to trust the process of finding a realtor online. Unfortunately, Yelp didn’t offer reviews for his industry. His solution? To craft one of the first unfiltered review systems:

After hearing this customer feedback, ZipRealty built a ratings and reviews system. Product development was led by what consumers wanted: transparency, authentic feedback, and real insight into agents’ service standards and work histories”… “in the end, it turns out that ratings and reviews may be far more about accountability than star scores”. -Lanny Baker, CEO of ZipRealty Inc

In other words, you need online reviews to earn the trust of potential new customers and keep current customers happy.

Choose a Review Platform

Another way to get customer reviews that benefit your business is to do a Google Search: “industry + reviews + location.” Let’s look at two completely different industries to see the results: real estate agents vs. clothing boutiques.

Real Estate Agent + Reviews + California

For real estate, Zillow, Redfin, Angie’s List, and Trulia pop up on the top of the list.


Clothing Boutiques + Reviews + California

For clothing boutiques, the sole review source on the first page is Yelp.

Notice the stark difference in review platforms – real estate relies on 4-5 different sources on the first page alone while a retail clothing store primarily needs Yelp. So before you begin a registering rampage, determine the most relevant platforms for your business first. Then set up accounts to make yourself visible to customers.

Ask Customers to Review Their Experiences

One of the best ways to get reviews is to be proactive! While choosing a review platform is a great start, it doesn’t mean your customers will automatically evaluate you. Ideally, you’ll need to create an outreach strategy to cultivate a review culture for your brand.

Luckily, many platforms will prompt customers to review your business transactions. Other times a client is required to “check-in” to receive the reminder.

Alternatively,  here are five other tactics on how to get online customer reviews:

  • Use customer emails – gather and keep an up-to-date database of user emails. Then build an email campaign to ask for reviews directly.
  • Don’t offer incentives – the majority of your customers will review their transaction for free. A simple, explicit request with a link to the platform or your website will suffice.
  • Act Quickly – the sooner you make the review request after the completion of the transaction, the more reviews you will get.
  • Display Positive Reviews – hand-pick some great reviews to cast on your website or highlight in an email campaign. Positive online reviews encourage more user engagement.
  • Enable in Social Media – Start a Google+ account and enable reviews on your Google+ page to display star ratings for brand searches. For Facebook, enable the “review tabs” feature.

Start a Google+ Page to get more reviews

Make sure your Facebook category is “Local Business” to enable reviews

There are a variety of review systems out there, so it’s important to do your research.

Q: I’m afraid bad reviews will hurt my business. How do I handle negative customer reviews?  

Probably the most feared aspect of online reviews is the possibility of getting a bad one. What causes this review phobia? Instead of viewing negative reviews as a barrier to your business, consider it as a learning opportunity to improve. Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos, explains:

When we pioneered customer reviews, it was incredibly controversial. I got letters from publishers saying, ‘You don’t understand your business. You make money when you sell things. Take down those negative customer reviews.’ We’ve never done anything of real value that wasn’t at least a little bit controversial when we did it.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder and CEO

Aligning your customers’ interests with your business is by far the most useful tool you have to increase customer satisfaction. By utilizing some of the following strategies, you can quickly turn unhappy customers into happy ones:

Delegate an Employee to Handle Online Customer Reviews

First, you’ll want to be prepared with a process to handle reviews, especially negative ones. Depending on the size of your website activity, plan to dedicate at least one staff member to become an expert in managing online customer reviews. Every review platform has different rules and tips for handling reviews, so this process can prove to be quite time consuming.

Furthermore, you want the person you choose to be tech-savvy, efficient, and solution-oriented with responses. The worst way to handle negative reviews is to ignore them or respond with a hot-headed comment.

Learn the Review Platform Culture

All platforms have a process for filtering out suspicious reviews. Often this will protect you from competitors who are using fake accounts to sabotage your business. Sometimes, though, it can block positive reviews if someone is a first time user. Therefore it’s important to learn the rules and culture of how reviews work for whatever platform your business is using.

One way around this is to build your own review website. By using SEO strategies for how people search your industry reviews, it’s possible to create landing pages that will direct searchers to your site. So if a third-party source’s filter hid some of your five-star reviews, you could still show them off.

Join the Conversation

While most businesses read reviews as soon as they come in, not many respond frequently enough. Most review platforms will allow you post a public comment to any review. While replying in the form of a private message is good, posting it publicly is better. Why? 84% of users say it makes them feel good about a property when they see a management response to reviews.

Since the reviews are instantly public, it’s better to respond to them publicly. Expressing the following in one single message is the most efficient way to handle it:

4-Step Process for Handling Negative Online Reviews (with Examples)

  1. Investigate: Immediately find out what happened before apologizing. You don’t have the luxury of acknowledging the complaint first and saying, “Let me see what happened” online.
  2. Acknowledge: Apologize publicly by showing you understand the customer’s problem. Even if you don’t think your company did anything wrong, NEVER attack the reviewer or act defensively. Users will see this as unprofessional and untrustworthy.
  3. Resolve: Provide a solution to make the customer happy and show everyone your business cares. The specifics of the solution aren’t necessary.
  4. Follow-Up: After executing the solution, follow-up with a private message or phone call to make sure he/she is satisfied. Often, the user may post a follow-up praising the business for resolving the issue or even remove the negative review.

Bad Example of Handling a Negative Online Review

What went wrong here? Just about everything:

  1. Investigation: The owner doesn’t show any signs of investigation into the server’s behavior
  2. Acknowledgment: There is absolutely no reply to the customer’s most significant complaint: poor service and ambiance. Instead, the owner is defensive. The narrow-minded response only exasperates the problem and encourages the customer to follow up with more negative reviewing.
  3. Resolve: No solutions are provided, not even attempted.
  4. Follow-Up: Sending a private message to the customer doesn’t show the other viewers how you took care of the complaint.

In the case that you don’t have time to give a thoughtful response, it would be better not to give one at all. Alternatively:

Good Example of Handling a Negative Online Review

Notice the difference? The manager personalizes the greeting, acknowledges the problem, offers a solution, and follows up with a private message and phone call. The manager is smart to mention that the user’s view of the hotel changed after speaking with him.

Since following up on every review requires time and resources, use this rule of thumb instead: Respond to all 1 and 2-star reviews and every other 3-star review. Depending on the subject, use your judgment for 4 and 5-star reviews.

It’s shocking to see how many businesses don’t respond to bad customer reviews. Would you ignore customer complaining face-to-face? Of course not. And doing so online is even worse since people may perceive your business as apathetic to complaints. Following the 4-step process for handling negative online reviews will show customers they are valued, bringing you more business.


Online ratings will continue to grow in mostly positive ways that can help, not hurt your business. We’ve provided you with several reliable methods on how to get online customer reviews. By following some of these suggestions, you’ll be prepared to craft an excellent strategy to get more online customer reviews that benefit your business.