These days, reviews are a big deal, and it’s no longer enough to sit back and hope they come in.
Instead, you need an action plan for soliciting those reviews.
In this article, I’ll walk you through a few tried and true ways to ask for (and get) customer reviews.
Why Reviews Matter
You may have been hearing a lot about reviews lately.
That’s because reviews mean business.
As in, more business for you.
Mainly due to the social proof principle.
This basically states that people will be more likely to do/buy/take action if other people have and reported a good experience.
Look at it this way: 82% of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase.
In lieu of friends and family, people will take the word of online strangers (and 84% trust online reviews as much as friends).
Because we live in the age of the internet, 92% of consumers now read online reviews. That’s a growing number – it’s up from 88% in 2014.
But not just any ol’ review will do.
People want good reviews. Forty-two percent won’t purchase from a business with less than 3 stars, and only 5% will use a business with a 1-star rating.
Intense, isn’t it?
So why all the emphasis on reviews? Because it builds trust.
If you can prove you have a line of satisfied customers, you’ll look that much more legitimate and trustworthy in a customer’s eyes.
And hey, did I mention it will help your SEO?
Google sees fresh reviews as fresh content, and the more positive reviews you can collect, the more positive you’ll look in Google eyes.
This is especially true of local businesses looking for a little local SEO boost.
But to get as many as possible, you have to know how to ask for them.
How to Ask For Reviews: Email or SMS?
One of the biggest factors in deciding how to ask for reviews is determining which channel you’ll use.
Email is the old standby, but you may have noticed more and more companies relying on SMS messages.
Both have their advantages, but personally, I recommend email for most businesses.
That’s because generally speaking, email has the highest response rates and proves easier to use.
While SMS will have an incredibly high open rate, it doesn’t necessarily mean recipients are responding.
And if they choose to, leaving a review on Google is much more difficult on a mobile device.
Now, there will be some scenarios where SMS is a better fit. For example, in a submission form some may indicate that they prefer to be contacted via SMS.
And some service industries may benefit from SMS review requests as well. Any home service – think landscaping, internet installation, etc. – could send a prompt follow-up message asking if the service was satisfactory, and if so, would they mind leaving a review?
Even better – combine that SMS with an email message to pack a one-two punch. But for best results, don’t skip the email.
How to Ask For Reviews: Crafting the Email
When all is said and done, email is still one of the more popular ways of collecting reviews.
And it’s really no wonder; after all, 72% of consumers prefer email as their source of business communication.
But email isn’t without its disadvantages, the biggest meaning that you usually have little to no real contact with the customers.
And to get good reviews, it really helps to get your customers to like you.
Beyond that, it’s a good idea to segment your broader email list into those most likely to return reviews.
The people on the list should be, if possible, repeat customers, or ones that have shown interest in interacting with your brand.
For example, try sending out an overall customer satisfaction survey after purchases. The users that complete and submit (positive) surveys are the ones that will be more likely to leave reviews.
When you do get to crafting the actual, keep a few things in mind.
First, remember, you’re going for likability. For many customers, you can gain that by making your interactions as personal as possible.
Always send an email from a personalized ‘from’ name, and write the email as if it were coming from that person – and only that person – not the brand as a whole.
If it can be a person they’ve worked with, met, or interacted with before, all the better. For example, if they used a chatbot to connect with a customer service rep, send an email from them.
And in the case of review requests, it’s often best to stick with plain text emails.
Plain text emails tend to have higher open rates and click-through rates, and that’s attributed to the fact that they appear more personal and less sales-y.
Another bonus of plain text? There are no distractions.
No flashy pictures, no social buttons popping out, just a single CTA.
And with review emails, you want the CTA to speak loud and clear.
Pro tip: always let the reader know that the process will only require a few minutes. A quick review process is critical.
How to Ask For Reviews: Email Examples
How you approach your email will have everything to do with how you’ve interacted with customers in the past.
If you’re a B2B or run a service that requires little direct communication with your customers, the more professional route is best.
Take a look at this example:
It checks off a lot of the boxes we listed above, and it’s a perfect example of how to connect with customers in a professional manner.
And notice, in this case, the company President’s name is attached to the email. This is a great route to take when there’s no direct contact person.
On the other hand, if you’ve interacted with customers previously via email or other means, you can afford to take a more casual approach.
Often, your review request will take place in response to one of the latest emails they’ve sent you in return.
In this case, you want the person sending the email to be the person who’s had the most contact with a given customer.
But this all brings me to an important point: make sure you have a documented system in place for asking for reviews.
If you want your sales or customer service team to handle it, as in the second example, make sure they know it’s part of their process.
Or, if it will be an automated process like the first example, make sure everyone on your team is aware. The last thing you want to do is inundate your customers with too many requests from too many people.
How to Ask For Reviews: Review Software
Here’s the really good news: once you’ve decided on a plan of action for getting reviews, there are ways to automate the process.
That means you don’t have to send out individual emails or hire someone to make phone calls to every customer; instead, invest in review generation software to do it for you.
There’s plenty to choose from, and you can choose based on which best fits with your strategy.
Generally, they work something like this:
You upload a list of contacts, and they automate the process through drip emails, SMS messages, and even videos.
Most offer real-time reporting and monitoring of all incoming reviews and allow you to respond ASAP to any negative reviews or sentiment.
Take Shopper Approved, for example.
The software lets you choose if you want to ask reviews right after checkout, through automated emails, or phone orders.
Other software like Birdeye allows businesses to monitor all incoming reviews across platforms – both review sites and social channels – and respond to them in real time.
It also goes a step forward by allowing you to monitor your competitor’s incoming reviews.
I don’t have to tell you how valuable that information is, right?
By getting a handle on what’s unsatisfactory about your competitors, you’ll find valuable opportunities to step up and meet customer pain points those competitors are missing.
And other software like Yotpo, geared towards e-commerce businesses, works to not only collect reviews but encourages customers to submit photos and other types of user-generated content for further use in your marketing.
There are plenty more platforms to choose from, and I wrote an article highlighting the ones above and more here.
How to Ask For Reviews: Additional Tips
So now that you know the right way to go about reviews, here are a few more quick tips to get you started.
Don’t Offer Incentives for Online Reviews
Let’s start with a don’t.
It may seem tempting to solicit reviews by offering something in return, but doing so can land you in some hot water.
Instead, provide the best service you can and ask in the way stated above. That’s how you’ll get your quality reviews.
Automate the process
Whether you’re going email or SMS, having a way to automate the process will save you tons of time (and headaches).
We’ve been talking about this all along, and it basically means that a specific event will trigger the review request to be sent.
Here are a couple examples of how that works:
- Auto service provider Ziebart synced their CRM to software ReviewTrackers’ API to automatically send a review request to every new customer after they had their car services. The result: a 262 percent increase in reviews.
- Concourse Sports sent email blasts to all customers in their database, and increased reviews by 2,800 in two months.
Look For Existing Reviews
Here’s a cool scenario: you could potentially already have reviews out there, you just aren’t aware of them.
The internet is full of review sites you’ve likely never heard of, and a quick Google search may point you in the direction of some existing positive feedback.
Most of the review software above will help you track any incoming throughout the web, but make sure you’ve performed thorough searches to make sure you’re uncovering any past reviews.
Use a Review Form With a Custom URL
Don’t ask your customers to leave a blind review.
Instead, always include a review from for them to simply fill out.
You can ask them to rate their experience with your company and outline any specific pro’s or con’s, but make sure you give them guidelines to follow – it will have a positive impact on the return rate, I promise.
Also, as with any form submissions, keep them short and sweet. Ask only for the essentials to increase the likelihood that customers will fill them out.
And last, make sure that form lives on a custom URL. That way, you can send the URL via email, through your social networks, etc., without anyone having to hunt through your site for it.
If Possible, Ask in Person
Realistically, this isn’t always possible.
But if you can manage it, the in-person ask is always your best bet.
It’s more personal and can be slid into the conversation more naturally.
Make it a Company Initiative
Things go better when everyone’s on board.
That requires management to make it known that reviews are a priority and inform all employees of the impact positive reviews can have.
And while you can’t incentivize your customers to leave reviews, you can give your employees incentives.
For example, offer a reward to the department that collects the most reviews. Or, if you’re in the hospitality or service industry, offer some kind of bonus to employees mentioned by name in reviews.
Remember, a little incentive can go a long way.
It’s Quality That Counts
Sure, you want to collect as many reviews as possible.
But research shows that 90% of consumers read 10 reviews or less before they feel that they can trust a business.
Sixty-eight percent form an opinion by reading just 1-6, and 40% by reading jut 1-3.
The good news is that just a few really solid reviews can be enough to sway most consumers, but keep in mind that timing is also a consideration.
As in, you need to be consistently acquiring new reviews. In fact, 28% of consumers said reviews had to be written in the last month to be relevant.
The takeaway? Acquiring reviews is an ongoing process, and needs to be an ongoing, evolving part of your strategy.
Send Follow-Up Emails
One of the beauties of emails is that follow-ups can be easily sent without being too intrusive.
So follow up.
If you don’t get a response initially, send another email to remind them of the request.
Five Star Review System reports that email follow-ups are responsible for doubling the number of responses their customers receive, so don’t skip this step.
But remember, one follow up is enough.
Don’t Forget About Your Social Channels
Social media can be a goldmine for reviews.
To get started, check your Analytics to see which social sites send you the most traffic. Those are the sites you want to focus on collecting reviews for.
Facebook is a common place to start – especially now that star ratings are viewable in Google searches.
Ask for the reviews the same way you would any other, except this time, you’re directing customers to your Facebook page instead of a review form.
When you do start getting reviews, don’t forget to ask if you can use them on your website as well.
Asking for reviews isn’t as hard as you think.
The first step is making it a priority, and developing a strategy that works best for your brand.