The other day I was on the phone with a customer who told me the reason she called me rather than any of my competitors is that I had 13 5-star reviews on Google. This particular customer did not question my pricing (which is higher than most of my competitors’) or feel the need to shop around. The call ended with a booking for the upcoming weekend.
In this post, I’m going to give you the exact email template we used to prompt those reviews over a very short period of time this summer.
No One Reviews Us - Why We Need To Ask
If we were in the restaurant business we would not need to ask our customers for reviews. Everyone fancies themselves a food critic and writing restaurant reviews appears to be a hobby for a lot of people based on the popularity of Yelp!. If you look at restaurant reviews, they seem to be pretty fair overall, and there are usually enough of them for any given restaurant to get a decent idea of what to expect if you visit. The reviews tend to cover the full range of 1 to 5 stars with the average being on target.
But a party rental business is different. I’ve owned a rental company since 2002 and have only received a handful of reviews (across multiple review platforms) that I didn’t prompt.
If you look at reviews for non-food service businesses (like party rental) you will notice that there are usually very few reviews. People just don’t think to review non-food service businesses. And the reviews that exist are typically 1-star or 5-stars. Not really much in between. Yes, the average star rating may be 3 or 4 stars, but the reviews that make up that average are usually 1-star or 5-stars. The company either did the job that was expected (5-stars) or didn’t (1-star).
What Happens When You Don’t Ask
Here is my experience with unsolicited reviews over 13 years. I’ve received 4 1-star reviews and about the same number of 5-star reviews. That would give me an average of 2.5, assuming they were all on the same review platform, which they weren’t. I don’t think any of us would be happy with a 2.5 rating.
The thing is, none of the 1-star reviews were from people who actually rented from me (aka customers). Two reviews were driving related and two were because we didn’t service the reviewers' towns.
Some of these negative reviews I’ve had removed, others I made owner comments to. Most legitimate review sites will remove a review if it is obvious that the person writing it was not a customer of your business. But you have to ask. The review below is from 2008. Still floating around the internet, but now buried by a bunch of good reviews, thankfully.
Bring Out The Positive - A Template That Works
I probably don’t have to tell you that there is a lot of negativity and trolling on the internet. Unfortunately, it seems to be the default state. To bring out the positive, and show your company in the positive light it deserves, you need to ask your customers for reviews and make it easy for them to do.
This past summer we decided to put some effort into getting our customers to write reviews. At the time I had an employee who was tasked with this, so each Monday he would send out this email (which he composed) to the customers from the past weekend:
Subject: Please review Boing! on Google Plus! It Truly Helps :)
Hope the event you just had went very well and we are glad to have been a part of it!
If you have a minute, could you please give us a review on our Google Plus Page?
(link to our Google Plus page went here)
We are trying very hard to build our online presence organically and every positive review helps.
Thank you so much!
This email lead to most of those 13 5-star reviews on Google. We only sent it out four or five times.
Unfortunately, halfway through the summer I lost that employee and I did not pick up where he left off, so the reviews stopped.
I just re-started it when that customer reminded me of how important those reviews are in giving your business social proof. With our new party rental software application, the process of creating the email template and sending out these emails is much easier. So I plan to do it each week again.
Note: Google has merged Google+ for business and Google Places into Google My Business.
What Review Sites To Target
There are a number of sites on which you can request your customers write your reviews. You need to focus on the most important first. I can’t think of any site more important than Google, so that is where we focused on getting reviews with this email.
But, you do want to spread it around. If you have 100 reviews on your Google My Business page, and none anywhere else, it looks unnatural. I would suggest starting with Google Places, but once you have a handful there, change the link in the email to your page on another review site.
We put some effort into getting Facebook reviews and now have 108 of them with a 4.9 rating. I have yet to put effort into it, but Yahoo Local Listings would be another site to target.
I’ve tried to solicit reviews for Yelp!, and have gotten them, but unless that reviewer has a history of doing reviews on Yelp!, their review will be hidden. Hidden reviews on Yelp! are a waste of good customer reviews, so I don’t bother with Yelp! anymore. Yelp! doesn’t want you to solicit reviews. I get it. They feel it will lead to biased reviews. Yelp’s methodology works for restaurants, but it doesn’t work for us.
Yelp! does encourage you to add a Yelp! badge to your email signature to nudge your customers into giving you a review. So I did this for six months and got 1 review (5-stars), which Yelp! promptly hid.
Is There a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Benefit?
Google is very secretive about exactly what factors into the algorithm for search results. Logic will tell you that customers are more likely to click on the company listed with a 4.9 average rating versus the one with the 2.9 average rating. It is known that Google tries to present the best possible results for a given search phrase. If your company, because of it’s good reviews, gets clicked more for a given search phrase, Google views your site as a good result. And this improves your ranking.
So whether directly or not, good reviews will improve your SEO and are extremely important in providing social proof.
How to Apply This to Your Business
Party Rental businesses cannot just sit back and wait for the positve online reviews to roll in. It just does not work that way. You need to be proactive and solicit good reviews from your happy customers. Do this and when the rare negative review does come in, it will be drowned out by the good ones. If you create the habit of sending out a review request email each Monday to the customers from the past week you will find your 5-star reviews start to stack up, creating a positive online presence.
Of course, none of this works if you aren’t providing the customer with a good experience. If you’re not doing a good job, don’t solicit reviews. But assuming you are kicking butt, this simple email asking for a review will really make you stand out among your competitors online.
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