The Ever-Growing Power of Online Customer Reviews

Let’s think about how customers make buying decisions about your product or service. Today’s savvy customers are seeking to make informed decisions before making a purchase. I don’t care whether it’s toothpaste or a new car. The process is the same. Online customer reviews are extremely important in the buying process.

We go online, and search for the product or service we are considering. If you’re like me, every dollar matters and there is nothing more disappointing than ordering or purchasing something with our hard earned money, and then getting something that does not live up to its description.

Let’s look at Costco. The return policy for Costco states that if you purchase something and you don’t like it for any reason, you can return it to any store for a full refund. I’ve passed by the return area in my local Costco and seen:

  • Beds that look like they have been slept in for several years and then returned
  • Barbecue grills that look like they were used for the summer and then returned
  • Half eaten bags of tortilla chips, etc.
  • Trashed out furniture

You get the picture, some people abuse the policy, but overall Costco is one of the safest places to shop. I will pay a premium price for something at Costco because I know if there’s a problem, I can return it – no questions asked.

That’s a robust policy for companies that can afford to do it, but consider the hassle factor for the customer. No one wants to have to go back to a store and return something because it takes time, and it’s inconvenient. So, an even more powerful influence is testimonials or reviews from people that have purchased the product and have taken the time to provide their experience to others. Companies can say anything about their products or services to get us to make a purchase. But users of those products or services can provide us with much more ‘real life’ information which can save us time and the inconvenience of having to return something.

But here’s the problem with reviews. Some are phony positive reviews. You can spot them a mile away. There are also those where the customer has left a terrible review and clearly has an ax to grind. That’s why I typically ignore the ones at the very top and the ones at the very bottom. Somewhere in-between, you’re usually going to get to the truth. Review sites like Yelp, have very sophisticated and complex algorithms to weed out phony reviews.

The best time to get a review or testimonial is within a few days after the delivery of the product or service. But most people don’t want to take the time to leave a review, (unless they’re really mad). So how do we solve this problem? There are a few ways:

Make the review process simple.

  • Send out a professionally designed email with a link to your review page.
  • Let them rate you on a scale of 1 to 10 with one click of a mouse.
  • Let them leave a comment as an option, but don’t require it.
  • Send a follow-up email with an appropriate response to the review, thanking them for their time.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask a customer is:

Based on your experience, how likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?

That’s a powerful question that can be answered from a gut level with one click of a mouse. It also provides the best insight regarding your customer’s experience.

The other benefit of a review system is the value in helping your website rank in search engines. We have all seen the Five Star Reviews that Google displays in search results. People are much more likely to click on your link in search engine results if there are reviews available about you. (See example below)

What if you could collect positive reviews about your company with little effort on a continuing basis that are properly formatted in Google’s preferred format so that they display in search engine results? For most companies, this would be an invaluable aid for

  • Sharpening customer service
  • Creating a very satisfying experience for your customers
  • Preventing dissatisfied customers
  • Encouraging repeat business
  • Helping you show up in search engine results

There are many systems out there for doing this. One of the very best is Get Five Stars developed by Don Campbell, a good friend and colleague of mine.

I have an agency account with Don, and can help you get your business setup to collect online reviews and prominently display them on your website. The system is completely automated. So with a couple of mouse clicks you can be sending out review requests to your customers and displaying them on your website. (You do have a website don’t you?)

Feel free to contact me today so I can help you get started collecting online customer reviews and take your business to the next level.

Dave is a developer for Yellow Frog Media where he works on websites for small to medium sized businesses. In the past he has served as a blogger, teacher, software developer and project manager. He resides in Arlington, Texas with his wife Charlotte and their four-legged child. (A Jack Russell Terrier mix named Eddie).