Google a restaurant, plumber, or salon, find a 2-star rating and terrible customer reviews and you’re likely moving on to the next restaurant, plumber, or salon. Find a business online you’ve never heard of before with stellar customer comments, and you’re likely going to try it out.
If you recognize yourself in these scenarios, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 97% of consumers went online for information about local businesses in 2017. And 85% put as much trust in online reviews as personal recommendations.
For small business owners, online customer reviews are the keys to a sterling digital reputation and new customers or a tarnished reputation and lost prospects. So how can you know what customers are saying? Further, how can you use top-shelf customer comments to build your business?
Crafting a standout online reputation through customer testimonials is a journey made one step at a time. And these three steps can start you on your way.
1. Listen to your customers.
Knowing what’s being said about your business is half the battle. And you need to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of customer conversations to get a realistic picture of your online reputation. Fortunately, these tools make listening to customer conversations online easier than ever.
Search: Don’t underestimate the power of search. Google your business or search it with your favorite engine. Note what results display, where your business ranks in results and what sites provide ratings or reviews of your business. Don’t forget that Google Maps allows consumers to rate places they’ve visited—and that could include your business.
Social: Small businesses often set up profiles on social tools like Facebook, Twitter, or Yelp, but, in the frenzy of the everyday, forget to read or respond to customer comments. Try taking a little time to visit your Facebook page, peruse your Twitter or Instagram accounts, and check out the comments customers have left. Look for themes in the conversation and where the most chatter is happening.
2. Engage Your fans and your critics.
Reach out to fans and critics—you can learn from both. Two apps in the Clover App Market help you engage customers in conversation and stay on top of customer chatter.
Yelp for Business puts the power of Yelp at your fingertips. It gives you the ability to respond to customer messages and reviews with a private message or public comment right from your Clover dashboard and lets you track visitors, customer leads, and access important reports, like estimated revenues generated by customers who find your business on Yelp.
With little to no setup required, the Feedback app lets you hear directly from your customers, find out what they love most about your business, and helps keep harmful negative feedback off public review sites.
3. Weave your fans into your marketing.
Infusing positive customer testimonials into your marketing gives your customers a voice for positive experiences and offers you a way to market your business through a source customers trust—other customers. But how do you capture and effectively use customer testimonials? Start by asking.
Define your ideal type of feedback before you begin soliciting customer comments. Maybe a like, a share, or a comment on Yelp is a best-fit for your business. Or maybe a video or written testimonial would suit better. Effective testimonials are concise, specific and focus on what’s most important to your customers and your business. Plan to include concrete customer details like names, faces, places and dates where possible. But be sure to get your customers’ permission.
Ask your customers for feedback. Email recent customers. Or consider approaching your best customers personally to show appreciation for their business and comments. Get specific when soliciting comments: What exactly did customers like about the transaction? How much money, time, or hassle did your product or service save them? Remember to keep your request for comments clear and simple—plan to follow-up with a thank you.
Get permission before using customers’ reviews, comments, or testimonials in your public-facing marketing. Establish mutually-agreed-upon rules of engagement with a simple form that customers review and sign. Can you use full names, first names, or initials? Do they agree to your using their photos? What media channels are in- or out-of-bounds? Remember, customers who agree to testimonials are fans of your business, so do your best to respect their boundaries.
Weave testimonials into the fabric of your digital marketing content. Infuse testimonials into your website. Ask customers for shout outs on Twitter, to like you on Facebook and Instagram, and to follow you on Pinterest. Wherever you have a presence, consider including testimonials and recommendations. Keep in mind, you’re not obliged to use testimonials exactly as customers submit them: edit spelling and correct grammar or paraphrase, if needed. Just be sure to keep testimonials fresh by updating regularly.
However you decide to use them, customer testimonials can reinforce and communicate your strengths. Tap these resources often and wisely.
Clover is sold by leading U.S. banks including Bank of America, BBVA, Citi, PNC, SunTrust and Wells Fargo. You’ll also find Clover at our trusted partners including CardConnect, Restaurant Depot, and Sam’s Club. For more information, visit us at clover.com.