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Ways to encourage customers to leave reviews

Key take-aways

Many businesses rely on word-of-mouth recommendations, but now that experiences can be shared from anywhere and with anyone on the Internet, encouraging customers to leave online reviews for your business is a crucial aspect of any marketing strategy.

A Business Profile on Google is free to set up and easy to maintain. You can display your business name, web address, a written description, images and contact details, providing potential customers with a streamlined look at your key business information. It provides you with a free business listing that shows up in search results and on Google Maps.

Through reviews, these profiles also allow people who visit your business to share details of their experience in the form of star ratings, reviews, and photos. Here are four ways to encourage customers to leave online reviews—and how you can make the most of their feedback.

1. Start a conversation about online reviews

2. Make it easy for visitors to leave you a review

3. Be responsive and engage with feedback

4. Don't keep the good reviews to yourself

Business Profile on Google

A product from Google My Business that lets you create and manage your Business Profile on Google so that people can see your business when carrying out search and Google Maps. Business Profile on Google is a free business listing that appears in search results.

Once you've built a small bank of reviews on your profile, it's a good idea to start showcasing the best ones as part of your strategy to keep the momentum going.

1. Start a conversation about online reviews

Research by Google/Oxera shows that a majority of consumers—71 percent of those surveyed—feel more comfortable using a business that has positive reviews. Your Business Profile on Google is a highly visible platform for showcasing reviews and engaging directly with previous and prospective customers.

One of the most effective ways to attract online reviews is simply to start talking about them. Think about your digital and physical interactions with customers and look for opportunities to start a conversation. If you have a mailing list, you could include the words "Leave us a review" at the bottom of each email newsletter and provide a direct link to your Business Profile on Google. If you have a shopfront, you could display a sign in the window or include a call-to-action on your printed receipts.

Let's say a cattery in Guildford wants to showcase its excellent reputation and many repeat customers. By increasing the number of reviews on its Google profile, the cattery could achieve both of these goals. When customers come to drop off or pick up their pets, if they see a sign in the window or in the reception area, it may spark them to leave a review while they are there or when they get home.

2. Make it easy for visitors to leave you a review

The easier you make it for visitors to leave a review on your profile, the more likely they are to do so. The best place to start is to make sure you fill out as much information as possible about your business, which will help people locate and identify your page efficiently. Some of the most important details to include are your business name, cover photo, logo, a written description, your web address, contact details, and your Business Profile short name.

Next, think about opportunities to engage with customers at a time that's convenient for them. A bed-and-breakfast in Colchester that already sends out messages thanking recent customers for staying with them could start including a request for feedback and their short Business Profile URL at the bottom of their emails. This indicates to visitors that their feedback is welcome and valuable—and people like being helpful, especially when they've had a good experience.

It's important to note that offering incentives for customers to leave reviews, such as a discount or gift, is strictly against Google policy and can result in the business losing all of their reviews.

3. Be responsive and engage with feedback

Responsiveness and engagement are part of building loyalty and a community around your business. Once you've claimed your business listing, you'll receive a notification each time a new review is posted to your profile. When you reply, the user who left the review is notified too. Even a simple "thank you" posted in reply to a review shows a customer you appreciate their support.

The more activity there is on your profile, the more likely others are to add their voice to the mix too. Aim to respond to all reviews within 24 hours — reviewers are notified when a business leaves a reply — and never be tempted to ignore or dismiss negative feedback. Instead, think carefully about what you can do to resolve the problems mentioned or how you can indicate that you'll take action in response to the critical comments.

Remember that potential customers could be reading both the review and your reply—via a Google Search or on Google Maps—and some may decide whether to visit or use your business based on how you engage with unhappy customers.

4. Showcase existing reviews to attract more

Once you've built a small bank of reviews on your profile, it's a good idea to start showcasing the best ones as part of your strategy to keep the momentum going.

Sharing online feedback in a physical format is one way you can connect your digital and real-life shopfronts. If you have a physical location, consider putting up a notice board and using Google My Business marketing kit to print out some of your best Google reviews to display there. New potential customers will be able to view other people's feedback while they browse and repeat customers will become aware of your profile and might feel more inclined to leave a review of their own on your page.

There are ways to amplify Google reviews digitally too. You could use great reviews as the basis of new posts by downloading an image of them using Small Thanks. This showcases the experiences of happy customers in their own words and encourages others to leave feedback and comments on your page too. Some websites have plugins for Google My Business too so that you can showcase the latest reviews on a page of your business website directly.

Business Profile reviews are the modern day equivalent of a guestbook, and every piece of feedback—good or bad—is a gift that you can learn from. In today's world, many people actively seek out reviews from previous customers before using a business for the first time. Start talking to your customers about leaving reviews and improving your business's online reputation today.

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