How to make online reviews work for you

Online reviews of your business
Rosie Ward
Marketing at Timely
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Good online reviews are a must for any business advertising online. 81% of customers do online research before spending their money. If they can’t find reviews of you, you might be knocking yourself out of the running.

Opening yourself and your business up for online reviews might sound nerve-wracking. Giving people a forum to express themselves means that everyone gets to have a say. No business can please every single customer; so yes, you will end up seeing some negative reviews along with the positive.

But even negative reviews come with a silver lining – a chance to handle them in a way that reflects well on your business and customer service. No need to shy away from any potential ‘bad’ press.

However, to get the most out of reviews, you have to actually have some! Here are some tips on raking in the reviews.

Set up your profiles

People can’t review your business if it’s not listed. Claim your business on any and all of the relevant sites for your area and industry. Your details (phone number, address, opening hours, areas of expertise, pricing) should be consistent and up-to-date on each profile. This has the added bonus of making your business more likely to pop up in Google searches as it improves your SEO. Some of the sites you might want to think about creating (or claiming) a profile on:

But there are a bunch more. You’ll have to do some research to find the review sites that are most used in your industry and region.

Pop the question

You’ve already done the hard work of providing awesome customer service and building your client base, so you know who your best reviewers will be. Your return clients, the ones who refer their friends, and the ones that are following you on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are going to be your first port of call. And even though it might feel a little bit embarrassing, you just have to ask.

Most clients will be happy to take a few minutes out of their day to review you, especially if you make it easy for them. Don’t wait weeks or months after their visit. That forces them to try to remember what happened at their appointment. If they say something complimentary while they’re in your salon chair, just ask them if they wouldn’t mind saying the same thing on a review site when they get home.

If you have an email connection with your clients, you can set up an automated email to go out after each appointment (or just select ones) with a thank you and a link to your profile on various review sites for them to share their thoughts. Or, if you have an invoicing business model, ask for the review when you send an invoice.

Don’t use any loaded phrasing like asking for ‘good’ reviews or requesting that they ‘share the love’. This will almost certainly make people feel they’re being manipulated.

Just ask them to share their experience and leave it in their hands.

Get engaged

It’s inevitable that you’ll have some bad reviews come out of this process, but it’s nothing to worry about. (Unless they’re uniformly bad reviews, but that’s an entirely different problem!) In fact, a certain number of bad online reviews can inspire more trust in your business than entirely positive reviews for a three reasons:

  1. People tend to mistrust a wall of positivity. They assume a perfect score means you’ve either paid your reviewers to say nice things or you’ve removed the negative comments.
  2. Negative reviews with details can actually provide more information for potential clients than positive ones. Often, negative feedback reveals a lot about the reviewer, and readers can use their judgment to determine if they think the bad review is something that needs to concern them. For example, if a review of a cafe says that their pancakes were thin and not sweet enough and the reviewer hated them – well, that’s exactly how I like my pancakes! So even though the review was negative, I still learned something valuable and positive.
  3. You now have a chance to shine! Reading and responding to negative reviews in a thoughtful, balanced, professional and caring manner tells readers what kind of person you are, and by extension, what kind of treatment they can expect to receive. Thank the bad reviewers for their time just as you would the positive reviewers and address their concerns if you can. If you can’t, tell them you’re sorry they weren’t satisfied. Acknowledging and respecting their feelings will go a long way in cementing an overall positive image.

Some review sites also offer information on your reply time. Responding within 24-48 hours is ideal, if at all possible. Consider building 10 minutes into your schedule to check your online reviews each day.

Make it a family affair

If you’re running a salon or spa, it’s probable that some of the reviews will be of specific staff members. Why not make them a part of the process? Remind your staff to ask for reviews when their clients say nice things. Or, ask your receptionist to mention the review sites you’re on when clients are paying. If you feel they’re up to it, empower your staff to respond to reviews themselves to build on the existing relationship.

Alternatively, make it into a feature of your weekly or monthly meeting with staff members to go over the comments and identify areas for improvement, or just have a good rant about the inevitable unwinnable client.

Let them know you care

There are ways to incentivize reviews, for your clients or your staff members, but it’s a fine line to walk.

  • Clients: award a freebie to a random reviewer
  • Staff: offer a small reward for the highest percentage of positive reviews each month

These can be really effective tools! They can also be easily misused, so make sure you make the parameters clear. Don’t reward only good reviews from clients – the winner has to be randomly chosen, otherwise you’re straying into bribery territory.

And for staff, it can unfair to reward the entire number of reviews a staff member gets, since it probably means a junior stylist will never have a chance of beating your senior hairdresser just in terms of sheer numbers. Percentage of positive reviews out of the total number of reviews per staff member is usually a fairer way of incentivizing it for most businesses.

A solid profile full of reviews, both positive and negative, can have a huge impact on your business. It’s a way of improving your online presence, earning your customers’ trust before they even arrive, and taking the pulse of your service. It’s a great marketing source, too! Use the best reviews in your advertising and on your website. Kind of like our Wall of Love that we’re so proud of, for example.

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