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A complete guide on the importance of customer reviews and how to leverage them to build brand reputation.
When customers use your product or service, many choose to post a review, to let other customers know whether they had a positive or negative experience.
The content of individual reviews can vary, but typically include similar elements. Customers often comment on the friendliness of staff members, the amount of information provided to help them make a decision, and any assistance needed to answer questions or sort out problems along the way. Customers most frequently use third-party platforms such as Yelp or G2crowd to post their review, but many opt to use social media channels as well.
Some businesses treat customer reviews as an afterthought in their general marketing strategy. Companies may feel that customer reviews are mostly a nuisance or problem, since they are posted on sites that are out of the companies direct control, offering a platform for customers who are primarily looking for an outlet to vent frustrations about their personal experiences. But even those businesses that choose to take reviews seriously and incorporate them into promotional strategies may also be missing out on just how important they are to brand reputation and customer loyalty. Particularly when customers are quick to share feedback about their customer support experience, it’s key that you leverage reviews to build your brand’s reputation for exceptional customer service.
Although businesses have often dedicated significant resources to advertising and marketing campaigns as a primary method for building brand awareness and reputation, the truth is that customers increasingly discover brands and build trust through reviews first. As many as 40% of consumers report making their decision to engage only after reading 1 to 3 reviews. By the time a customer visits your site to engage with your business directly or decides to take action and commit to a purchase, they have combed through multiple reviews on one or more channels to decide if your company has a reputation for delivering your brand promise.
With reviews taking on such a prominent role in the brand discovery and reputation-building process, it’s important to build awareness campaigns and marketing programs with reviews in mind. Reviews provide a powerful way to amplify existing feedback about your brand, leveraging multiple channels to loop conversations together into digital word-of-mouth endorsements. Customers also take notice when a brand leverages reviews for promotional purposes, uses reviews as a platform for direct conversation with customers, or takes positive action based on a customer review. When your brand is actively engaged with review sites, you can become your own influencer, helping to shape the conversation by promoting stories that showcase your brand as trustworthy and committed to building a positive community.
Customer reviews and customer testimonials are easy to confuse, until you gain a deeper understanding of the structure and purpose of each one. While customer reviews are gathered and published on third-party platforms or channels, testimonials are solicited directly by your company for use in specific promotional efforts. As an example, a customer may post a review of their favorite app on the App Store or Google Play, offering a rating and a general description of their experience. That same customer may also post an endorsement on social media, directing comments to the app developer about how much they enjoy the app and how they have used it for personal success. Both can be very useful in building trust with customers, but only if you understand the reasons why customers place trust in them.
Testimonials are published by your company and afford an opportunity to highlight real-world customers using your brand for growth and success. This helps customers easily visualize how they might also use your company to achieve their desired outcomes, and motivates customers to engage with you on a deeper level. Testimonials can also be very powerful when you want to offer an in-depth case study, ideally showcasing prominent and deeply engaged customers who have achieved significant success through your product or service. While customer support experiences play a strong role in creating testimonials, you’ll also want to monitor important touchpoints on your customer’s journey to success, which will surface stories with potential for building a testimonial.
However, some customers may be skeptical of testimonials, because they perceive that testimonials will only promote experiences that went exceptionally well. In order to fully trust your brand, they will want to learn how you handle problems, and that means they want to see a broad range of customer experiences. In fact, 84% of customers indicate that they trust online reviews just as much as a direct recommendation from a personal friend.Since reviews are hosted and moderated by third-party platforms, such as Yelp or Google Reviews, prospective customers look to reviews for a wide variety of opinions about different experiences shared by actual customers over time. Most review sites assure customers that even if they have negative feedback to share about a brand, they can be confident that it will be protected from censorship by the site’s moderation guidelines. Similarly, because these sites also offer some level of guarantee that false or deliberately misleading reviews can be flagged and removed, customers expect any negative comments to represent actual encounters with your product or services. Customers want to know if you will deliver successfully on your brand promise, and they look to reviews to confirm they can expect a trustworthy experience.
The simplest way to build a positive brand reputation through customer reviews is right in front of you - your current customers. Given that many customers made their decision to do business with you by first comparing other reviews, it’s likely that they will be glad to provide their own review too. With the right approach, you’ll find that many of your customers respond favorably when asked to complete a review. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind as you build a strategy for soliciting reviews:
There are a multitude of review platforms available to your customers, and it’s likely that they already rely on specific sites that they consider to be the most trustworthy. For the best results in building brand reputation and loyalty, start by identifying platforms where customers are already posting reviews. For example, if you own a retail shop, you’ll want to claim your Google My Business page and keep track of reviews on Yelp. But if your product is an app, then you’ll want to focus on the App Store or Google Play. Next, identify which platforms offer easy tools for engaging with customers, as well as clear policies and procedures for mediating any issues with a particular review. This reduces the number of external channels for your support and marketing teams to track, and tells customers where you are looking for their review to appear.
Reviews carry the most weight when customers are able to reflect on a fresh experience. However, it’s also important that the experience be impactful, which means the customer has to have taken an action or completed a transaction in order to have feedback that others will find helpful in making their own decisions. For example, if the customer has purchased an item that will take a few days to ship, you want to make sure that you reach out to ask for a review after the item has arrived and they have had a chance to interact with it. Similarly, if your company provided a service for the customer, you’ll want to send a request for a review after service has been completed.
The easier you make it for customers to respond, the more likely they are to provide a review. It’s important that you keep the process as simple and lightweight as possible, because customers will be quick to abandon the effort if it becomes too complicated. Start with an open-ended question that acts as a prompt for their experience and include guidelines for a brief response. This gives customers a starting point for their review and provides a framework for completing it. Make sure that instructions for completing the review are clear, concise, and don’t overwhelm the customer with unnecessary details.
Customers prefer having their conversations with you through channels that are the most convenient for them to use, whether that be email, phone, chat, or social media. That means they are also more inclined to complete a review process when you ask them through that same channel. In some cases, you may need to ask them to switch channels to complete the final review process. For example, if your customer has called you for support you might want your agents to direct them to a website to leave a review. But even in this scenario, the customer is more likely to complete a positive review when asked about it through the original channel, rather than receiving the request through other means. Similarly, if the customer has reached out on Twitter, they are more likely to follow a link sent via twitter to a different review site instead of switching to email to find your request.
Offering customers an incentive to complete a positive review can be a very effective technique with a strong boost to customer loyalty, as long as the incentive adds value to the customer experience and does not undercut the trustworthiness of the review itself. Some popular strategies include sending a discount code, entry into a prize drawing, or even a gift card. Charitable contributions are another option that many companies have begun using successfully, even expanding the strategy to cover feedback and product testing surveys. When you show that your brand is serious about supporting causes that are also important to your customers, they will perceive that your values align with theirs and be more inclined to share that with others. Be careful about offering cash rewards - some customers may interpret this as an attempt to purchase positive reviews instead of earning them, and may be turned off by the technique.
With customers increasingly relying on reviews as their primary method for vetting companies and developing beliefs about brand reputation, companies need to capitalize on positive reviews with a strong marketing campaign in order to increase brand awareness and build trust. While you should adjust your strategy to suit the channels your customers use and the review platforms you direct them to, there are a few points to consider as you plan your approach:
If your social media channels see high traffic, you’ll want to make sure to promote your customer’s positive reviews through each social media channel you use. This is a very effective way to reach many potential customers while also enhancing a sense of community around your existing customer base. Wherever possible, try to use the same channel the review was posted through to maximize potential for amplification. Cross-channel posting is also a powerful way to leverage reviews and amplify positive signals about your brand, building on positive experiences to expand your audience. However, your first goal should be to show the customer who left the review that you appreciate their business and are happy they enjoyed their experience. By responding directly to their comments, you show other customers that you truly appreciate their feedback and are serious about building relationships with your customers. For example, responding back to an enthusiastic customer endorsement on Twitter with a “thank you” will add a personal touch to your efforts while spreading the positive exchange to many people simultaneously on the same channel.
When customers are deciding on whether to proceed with a transaction, they often look for specific reviews about the options they are considering. If your customer reviews focus on a specific product or service, you may want to add specific reviews directly on pages promoting those options. This can also separate general reviews of a customer’s overall experience with your business from specific components of that experience, which is useful for highlighting areas where product or process improvements could be useful in generating more positive responses from customers. It may be tempting to remove low-ranked reviews on your own page, but don’t give in - these are great opportunities. Responding to customers with negative product feedback shows other customers that you are serious about helping everyone use the product successfully.
When your customers are leaving positive reviews and engaging with your company, they are providing you with an excellent foundation to build your brand’s reputation through digital word-of-mouth endorsements that increase customer confidence. With 76% of consumers reporting that they trust peer reviews more than paid brand content, it’s critical that you develop a robust strategy to leverage those positive reviews. The best approach is to develop a strategy that relies on multiple channels for promoting the positive reviews you have received on each channel. You can even promote the same review across channels to maximize exposure and draw interest from a wider range of customers. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
When a great review is posted, it's time to celebrate and share the good news with as many current and potential customers as you can. One of the simplest methods for this is to harness the power of your social media channels. Let's say a particularly great review is posted to your company's page on Google Reviews. This is an excellent opportunity to repost or link to the review from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any other targeted social media platform that you're using. If you don't have access to easy methods for linking across social media channels, one simple method is to take a screenshot of the review and then post that image to the other channels manually. With this approach, you can draw customers across channels and reach a wider audience.
Customers want to see reviews of the latest and greatest experiences that customers have with your company. Even if there are a few specific reviews that you’re particularly proud of, you’ll want to emphasize promoting the most recent positive comments available. Showing customers that your brand is committed to continuous improvement and always aims for the highest level of service possible tells them that they can be confident you’ll provide a great experience for them as well.
Just because a review is a few months old doesn’t mean it no longer has value. If a particular review provides a specific, in-depth, and well-written explanation of a customer’s experience, you my want to showcase it through a dedicated customer reviews page on your own site. This strategy allows you to identify reviews that may highlight products or features that you are looking to promote, and curate them in one location that you can manage directly. If possible, include the customers first name and a photograph (with permission) name and the date of the review. When customers see that others are so thrilled with your company that they’re happy to tie their own reputation to it, they’ll understand your brand has truly earned its reputation for being trustworthy.
It can be frustrating to learn that a customer has left a negative review of your brand. However, there’s a positive side to such situations - prospective customers are often more interested in how you handle negative reviews than the review itself. Following up with a prompt response that is courteous and professional, yet empathetic and informal, tells customers that you work hard to provide a thoughtful, human response to any situation, good or bad. Be sure to address specific points where appropriate, and offer access to a secure channel, such as phone or email, where the customer can follow up for a more in-depth discussion of their experience. Taking these steps tells potential customers that you’re going to go the extra mile to help them if an issue arises, and they’ll value your brand’s commitment to supporting customers through every level of experience.
Your support team has a pivotal role in both customer reviews and testimonials. When customers have exceptional experiences and are delighted with your service, they are on their way to becoming brand evangelists who post reviews that endorse your company and generate interest from prospective customers. But when your support team are not able to deliver a successful resolution or fail to show customers that your brand truly cares about their success, it’s no secret that customers are quick to post negative reviews and disengage. It's more important than ever to have a robust quality assurance program for your support team, as well as dashboard metrics to help you ensure SLAs are being met and customer satisfaction scores stay high.
Because support agents are often your customer’s first and only direct interaction with an employee, they represent the first step in building your brand’s reputation for taking a personal interest in customer success stories. Your support team should also be trained to look for opportunities to turn around negative experiences and create brand evangelists by fast-tracking resolution, exceeding expectations, and build positive rapport with the customer, giving them incentive to promote your team’s reputation for saving the day.
Your support team can also capitalize on positive customer interactions to recognize when highly engaged customers may be open to writing a positive review. Be sure to give agents clear guidelines on how to ask appropriately, and provide them with handy scripts that include updated links and instructions for completing the review process. Use this moment as an opportunity to guide customers in writing a review that emphasizes your support team’s commitment to prioritizing customer outcomes and satisfaction. If an agent has a particularly positive engagement with a customer, that may be a good time to ask if the customer would like to share that specific experience through a review platform.
Customer support has an important role to play in generating customer testimonials as well. Because your support team will be familiar with customers who have frequent or unusual support needs, they can identify potential case studies based on the unique ways some customers are interacting with your brand. If they have developed a particularly close relationship with the customer, you may ask your support agents to be the first to reach out to see if the customer is interested in taking part in a testimonial.
The key to building a high-impact testimonial is to tell a story that clearly describes how your brand has played an important role in a particular customer’s success. This is a chance to cover the entire journey of this customer’s brand engagement, with specific examples along the way. Ask how the customer learned about your brand, taking care to emphasize the factors behind their decision to make a purchase or commit to a subscription. Next, gather details about the specific features or services that the customer has come to rely upon, and how it has contributed to their success. You’ll want to showcase your support team’s role in learning the customer’s needs, developing a relationship, and smoothing out roadblocks by anticipating their needs along the way. When potential customers see precise details about your support team’s commitment to helping every customer succeed, they’ll place a higher value on the testimonial and your brand’s reputation for excellent service.
10 Overlooked Facts About Customer Reviews
Handling negative reviews on social media
Putting customer feedback at the heart of your business
Handling positive reviews on social media
It’s difficult to overstate the pivotal role that reviews play in building brand reputation and building trust with customers. The good news is that launching and developing a sound customer review engagement strategy is not as complicated as it may seem to be. Once you understand how your customers are already interacting with reviews and how you can encourage them towards review channels that you can leverage for increased brand awareness and customer engagement, it’s easy to see how you can build on that foundation to strengthen customer loyalty to your brand. And that first opportunity often starts with your customer support team, who have the ability to create momentum for customers to generate positive reviews before setting them on the path to completing the review process.
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