The following is adapted from the book Come Back to Bed.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said your brand is what people say about your business when you’re not in the room.
The best way to know what people truly think about your business is your reviews.
Today, internet reviews are one of the most powerful forces shaping consumer behavior. People want to see third party sources that praise your company for its service or product. Reviews can often make the difference between someone choosing to give you their business or not.
Customer reviews should reinforce your brand position. Your store reviews had better substantiate the claims you’ve made. If you position your business around convenience, a significant number of customer reviews should back up this claim.
When your reviews support what you’re trying to say about your business, that’s when you are on your way to building a successful brand. Consider the following to get the reviews you want and leverage them for marketing your business.
How to Get Reviews
The two best ways to get reviews are: to ask and to make it easy.
If you’re a successful local business, chances are high that your average customer is a happy customer. Unfortunately, though, happy customers are far less likely to leave reviews than unhappy customers.
You can overcome negative skewing by getting more people to write reviews. Don’t just try to get happy customers; encourage everyone to leave a review. While you may be hesitant to ask for reviews, fearing negative feedback, by not asking everyone to leave a review you actually give your few unhappy customers an outsized voice in your online reputation. The reality is that unless there’s a fundamental issue with your product or business, you’ll be fine. You will attract positive reviews that would have never surfaced otherwise. Ask everyone and make it easy.
How do you make it easy for customers to leave a review? Find a channel that can’t be ignored. Text messages, for example, or providing customers the ability to submit reviews from within emails through a service like Podium. Eliminate log-ins. Digital requests work better than analog ones. Conduct user testing. Map the review journey. Reduce friction. Test and see what produces the highest yield.
Store and Product Reviews
Don’t ask for people to leave a review while they’re in your store. That feels wrong. But do contact the customer immediately after they leave your store.
By contacting a customer while the experience is fresh in their mind, you’re more likely to generate a response and get rich and colorful information about that person’s experience.
On the contrary, gathering product reviews immediately after the purchase is virtually worthless because the customer hasn’t experienced the product. Target thirty to ninety days, which gives people time to try the product. Timing your review request to arrive shortly after the trial period ends (based on your return policy) may help you get feedback mostly from customers happy with their purchases.
Also, your customer service team can follow up with a call. That sends a message that you stand behind your products. Your service person can tell the customer, “We care about our customers’ long-term satisfaction with the products we sell, so we’ve partnered with the leading independent mattress review platform, GoodBed.com, to collect feedback that will really help other consumers looking for a good mattress.”
When you do get negative feedback, it’s an opportunity to wow that customer with amazing service and turn a hiccup into word-of-mouth marketing. Invest in preparing your customer service people with empathetic responses and plans for making things right.
Where to Collect Reviews
Even retailers who have done some of these things often make this common mistake: they focus their reviews on only one or two websites. This would be fine if every single one of your prospective customers only went to those sites when deciding where to shop—but this is not how consumers shop. You need to have a positive online reputation everywhere your prospective customers are looking.
It’s not enough to only have reviews on your website or Google. Spread them around. Once you’ve earned a sizable number of reviews on one platform, the next review on that platform is less valuable to you than the first review on another platform.
For example, once you have one hundred reviews on Google, ask customers to post reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and any industry-specific review sites such as GoodBed.com. Consumers become aware of your business through a variety of channels. That’s why it’s important to pepper each path with plenty of reviews to prevent any channel from looking like a ghost town.
How to Use Reviews
Reviews are assets. You can deploy them in your marketing. They can be used to encourage your team. They should be used to make your business more credible and trustworthy.
Reviews are also third-party validation for any claim you make. Anytime you make a claim, follow it up with, “Don’t take our word for it…” and then fill in the blank with a review that substantiates the claim.
If you say, “Our mattress store is the most convenient place to shop,” then you’d better have customer reviews that say things like “I picked up the phone at 11 a.m. and by 3 p.m. I was lying down in my bedroom on my new mattress. I can’t believe how easy it was.”
Consumers are fairly cynical and guarded. They don’t believe what companies say and often doubt claims as soon as they hear them. Reviews give them a reason to believe.
Another crucial step is reading all reviews about your products or those that you carry. Product reviews are a huge part of the customer journey. Before you can guide the customer to new information, you need to start by meeting them where they are. If your team doesn’t know at least what your customer knows, how can they credibly position themselves as experts?
Leveraging Reviews for Your Brand
What people say about your business matters. While you should strive to give every customer the best experience possible, negative reviews are somewhat inevitable. The best way to maximize positive reviews is to proactively encourage customers to review your product or store.
By making reviews part of your marketing strategy, you will be more likely to gain positive reviews that help you increase business. Remember, the ultimate goal is that your reviews backup your brand pillars. When you achieve this, you can feel confident that your brand is resonating with consumers and contributing to a positive customer experience.
For more advice on building a brand, you can find Come Back to Bed on Amazon.
Mark Kinsley is President and CEO of Englander, a top-15 US mattress company founded in 1894. Furniture Today called him one of its “20 People to Watch,” and Home Furnishings Business recognized him as one of its “Forty Under 40.” Mark Quinn is the Co-Founder of Spink & Co, Farm-Grown Beds, and the VP of Key Accounts and Marketing for Sherwood Bedding. He’s a top industry blogger at Q’s Views and holds pioneering patents in biometric sleep-space technology. Together, they co-host Dos Marcos,The Galaxy’s Greatest Mattress Podcast (dosmarcos.co), with more than 185 episodes and hundreds of thousands of listens.