How can local businesses earn more customer reviews?

SME

Chalkboard is a Manchester-based mobile app startup that is levelling the playing field for local/indie businesses, giving them access to technology to help build even stronger relationships with customers.

Bottom line: It can help any local business to get more reviews on Facebook and Google.

Here's a list of practical steps any small or local business can take right now to earn more reviews. Everything idea is free and applicable to most local businesses.

Want to help Chalkboard to build best-of-class mobile apps for local businesses right here in Manchester? See our current vacancies.

Ask for reviews

All you need to do is ask a happy customer if they are willing to write a review (or even just a star rating).

This may feel a little awkward at first, but it's very effective at increasing the number of reviews your business has. A satisfied customer will usually be very willing to do this. It can be a great way for them to show their appreciation to you.

Use a product like the one we've built, Chalkboard, which will send the customer a one-time text message to guide them to writing a review.

The more reviews you have, the better your online reputation. Businesses with a better online reputation will attract more new customers through the door.

Here are some tips for asking for reviews:

  • Ask when they're most delighted with your product or service. The best time to ask is always when the customer is happiest. After a great haircut, or straight after a speedy vehicle service, or after an emergency plumbing job is done and dusted. The customer wants to repay your efforts, and will be willing to help.
  • Keep it simple. Practice how you'll ask the customer, but keep it short and to the point.
  • Tell the customer why you're asking. Be honest with the customer. As a local business, online reviews are really important to help spread the word. Let them know how grateful you'd be if they would write a review.
  • Let them know it's no-obligation. They don't need to commit to leaving a review, they can decide later. As long as they have the text message (if you’re using Chalkboard), they can choose whether or not to leave a review in their own time.
  • Avoid incentives. Be careful not to incentivise the customer. This is against the terms and conditions of sites like Facebook and Google, and may get your page, account, or listing suspended.

Just by asking for reviews, you skew the overall review score in your favour. Why? Because customers who have a complaint tend to be more vocal. So by encouraging more positive reviews, you drown out the occasional poor review.

Fill out your Google My Business profile

One of the best places for small or local businesses to grow their reviews presence is Google listings. When you see a business in the search results in Google Search or on Google Maps, it’s powered by a Google My Business listing.

At Chalkboard, we’ve written up an easy-to-use guide to getting your business set up with a Google My Business listing.

Once you have your Google listing, make sure to add as much useful information about your business as possible.

This makes your business easier to find in search results, and if your customers can’t find you, they can’t leave a review!

Keep your Google listing up-to-date

Now you have a Google My Business listing, do your best to keep it up-to-date.

For example, make sure the correct opening hours are always listed. If you need to make temporary changes to your opening hours, change them on Google. Make sure the map position is correct. You can also add photos and videos occasionally to keep your listing up-to-date and relevant.

The more relevant and interesting your listing, the better the chances of new customers being able to find you online.

Get a Facebook Page too

Every local or independent business should also have a well-managed Facebook page.

They’re free, and any Facebook user can create a page for a business in just a few minutes.

Once you have a page, your customers will be able to leave a thumbs up/down rating and write a review of your business. The great thing about Facebook ratings is that you can reply to them just like any other Facebook post.

If you’ve got the Chalkboard mobile app, it will notify you every time someone writes a review on your Facebook page and you can reply immediately.

Don’t yet have a page? No problem, we’ve written a guide to creating a Facebook page for your business that you’re sure to find useful and easy-to-follow.

Respond to all reviews

Assuming you’re getting a handful of reviews through a day, and even if you’re getting inundated with brilliant reviews, it’s always a good idea to thank every customer for their review.

This does several things:

  • Customers that are thinking about leaving a review know 100% that you’ll read their review.
  • Prospective customers can see that there is a real, genuine business owner behind the company name.
  • The last thing the customer goes away remembering is how polite you are for responding to the review. They won’t go anywhere else the next time they need the product/service you sell. They’ll tell their friends and family too.

Chalkboard is a free mobile app that will ping you every time you receive a review, and allow you to respond right there and then.

You don’t have to write a lengthy response every time, just a simple “Thanks for taking the time” or, “So happy to serve you, can’t wait to see you again” is all it takes.

How about bad reviews? They sometimes happen, even the best businesses have hiccups. But it’s important you respond without getting into the weeds. Express how sad you are to read the poor review, and say that you’ll do all you can to put things right for next time. Try to leave it there. This same advice applies even if the reviewer is being unreasonable. The focus for you should be showing that you are pragmatic, reasonable, and look after every customer.

Link to your Google listing in all emails

Think about wherever you send an email. Appointment confirmations, order confirmations, receipts. It’s often possible to customise those email templates and add a link directly to your Google My Business listing.

To get the link:

  1. Type your business name into Google Maps.
  2. When you find the red pin symbol on the map with your business name next to it, click the pin.
  3. Then click Share, and then the Copy Link button.

This is also a convenient way for you to share your location with new customers too, they can click straight from that page to get directions.

Share reviews on social

Whenever you get a longer review, think about sharing it on social media.

The short “Good service” and “Very happy” reviews are always nice to receive, but you need to pick out the longer and more thoughtful reviews for this.

Take a screenshot of the review, and post the review to social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

The person leaving the review will be happy for you to share the goodwill, your customers will be reassured that you’re still the best, and it will encourage new customers to consider you.

With Facebook ratings, reviews will automatically be shared on your page of course.

Never buy reviews

Don’t be tempted to buy reviews or try and game the system.

Remember, it’s okay to ask customers to leave you a review (at least on most sites including Google), but never offer an incentive such as money off or free things.

On almost all review sites, it’s against the terms of service to incentivise reviews. The penalty for breach of this on Google is the possible removal of your Google My Business listing, which is not something you want to risk.

Anyway, there are plenty of good customers who will be more than happy to write you a glowing (and genuine) review.

Don’t forget other review platforms

Google and Facebook reviews are very important, especially for local or small businesses.

But there are other review platforms too. Here are some other popular sites:

There are also sometimes more niche review sites that just apply to your type of business. For example, a wellness and beauty providers site, or a directory of car rental firms.

Use point of sale to encourage reviews

Getting real physical signs and stickers made up is now easier than ever thanks to the internet and modern, easy-to-use design tools.

Make up a sign that tells your customers how important reviews are to you, and ask customers to ask you about it.

Then, if you have the Chalkboard mobile app, you can send them a text message that makes it super easy for them to find your Google or Facebook review page and write a review.

If you don’t have the app, you can still explain how important and useful it is to you, and explain how they can go about it.

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