Last week I covered the best ways to respond to customer feedback. This week I want to touch the reviews again to discuss astroturfing. Astroturfing occurs when a business owner and / or his family or staff writes false positive reviews for the business. While this may seem like a quick way to build a great reputation out of thin air, I’m going to explain why it’s a bad idea.
No one has a perfect record
It is practically impossible for any company to please all its customers 100% of the time. There will always be cases where you made a mistake, or the customer just had a bad day and takes it out on their review. This happens, is fine, and may be beneficial to you. Firstly, a business with 50 five-star reviews and nothing else seems incredibly suspicious. Your potential customers are not stupid and they recognize you. It is common knowledge that companies can “buy” fake reviews and nothing screams more “false” than a perfect score with lots of reviews.
Negative reviews are an opportunity
As I mentioned last week, negative reviews are actually an opportunity to show how excellent your service can really be. By demonstrating how you respond to a bad customer experience, you help eliminate the perceived risk a customer associates with any new business they encounter. If a company does not have negative reviews, it is impossible to know what could happen if something goes wrong. For this reason, as long as you answer correctly, it’s not a bad thing to have a couple of not-so-perfect reviews on your business profile.
Most companies don’t know how to do astroturf
The worst form of astroturfing is when it is evident to the viewer that it is taking place. Has your business been open for a year, but 90% of your positive reviews came within a week? That screams astroturfing. Did you and / or your family members post a review of your business using your real name? Expect this to be hugely counterproductive when customers discover that your GM was the one who posted all those enthusiastic reviews. Are reviews read as a press release? Again, very obvious to the casual reader. Most real customer reviews will contain a fair review of both the good and the not-so-good. While it is true that it is possible to have totally brilliant reviews, if everyone reads that way, people will be with you.
So how do you astroturf correctly? You are never worth the risk. Especially when some review sites like Yelp monitor IP addresses and use patterns to determine if business owners are doing astroturfing. Businesses can be suspended from Yelp, or worse, have a scarlet letter message included in their profile that they astroturized in the past.
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Become a pattern!
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How do I get reviews the right way?
There are several recommended methods to accumulate good reviews. The first and most obvious thing is to impress your customers. Do what I call “Expectation +1”. This means doing everything you said you would do, plus something extra that you weren’t expecting. In a restaurant, this could be a complementary drink of Limoncello at the end of your meal, as did the old local favorite Mediterraneo, or perhaps a good cold spoon of sorbet between dishes as many restaurants in New York City offer. Customers who experience superior service love to talk about it, and participating in Expectation +1 will certainly lead to good things for your business.
The next best way to get good reviews is … … ask. If your business is conducted in person, post a sign at the point of sale, include a message on your receipt, and / or simply ask the customer to leave a comment if they liked the service you received. If your business is online and has a good process, create an automated message asking each customer to leave a review. For many of my web clients, we created a mechanism that asks each client how everything was after the service was delivered or a product was received. If the experience is calculated as positive, ask them to leave a review in [applicable sites(s)]. If the reviews seem negative, ask for their contact information so a manager can reach out to discuss. This has been remarkably effective in both increasing the volume of positive reviews and helping to troubleshoot service issues when they do occur.
Quick tip of the week
We all know that the car effect is real. People tend to accept what people like them have done or are doing. “People like them” can mean anything from people who live in the same city to people who stayed in the same hotel room. While we assume this is true, a scientific study backs it up: A hotel chain wanted to save on laundry costs and help the environment, so a study was conducted to measure guest compliance for towel reuse. When the hotel left a note in each room indicating that the majority of guests who stayed in that room reused their towels, towel reuse increased by 33% overnight. You can use this to great effect in persuading customers (and employees) to take action. Here are some quick examples:
Suppose you sell appointment scheduling software. You walk into Jane Doe’s hair salon trying to sell them this software. A version of his speech explains the benefits of the service and ends with a slide from several great known companies that use it. The argument is “Hey, [corporation] use our software if they use it and they’re a big company, it should be good. “The other presentation explains the benefits and ends with a slide of several local salons that use the software. Which is more persuasive? Wouldn’t you rather use something they use Other companies like yours? If everyone’s using it and they’re in the same business as you, it should be pretty good, right? The popular POSiTouch restaurant software, created here in Rhode Island, is a prime example of using social proof Locals to sell a product this way What started as point of sale software that grew organically through social testing here in Rhode Island has grown into a massive organization with 50,000 locations on board.
Here’s one more. Does your company sell a popular product with an optional accessory that is not necessary but would enhance your experience? Include a note or post a sign saying “90% of customers who bought the [product] also buy [accessory]. “Amazon and many other retailers use this exact method to great effect.