They hate it when you ask.
You know it. They know it. But experts are encouraging you to do it.
“Ask your customers for reviews,” they say. “You’ll regret it if you don’t,” they imply.
Over and over, you’re bombarded with advice that tells you to get out there, go grovel and beg for that review. Your business needs it. So, suck it up and swallow your pride.
If you’re like most people you hate it. And you know what? That’s a healthy response. You should hate grovelling because it’s the wrong way to ask for a review from a customer.
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Begging ruins relationships with customers
What happens when someone begs us to do something we don’t want to do? It hurts the relationship.
It creates negative feelings – bitterness, resentment, loss of respect – feelings that weren’t there before. Maybe we do what they want us to do, maybe we don’t.
The relationship is permanently changed.
Beggars put themselves in a one-down position, a place that leaves them at a serious disadvantage. Okay, what does that disadvantage look like?
- Condescension becomes more obvious
- Customer distrust, regarding your motives, grows
- The customer/provider relationship becomes a little bit more inflexible
- Customers become more resistant to suggestions, requests and expectations
The damage is far-reaching, continuing to get worse until the state of the relationship is openly addressed and discussed.
Which almost never happens.
Most businesses do their best to avoid conflict with customers, while customers discuss their feelings with anyone and everyone, except those they’re doing business with.
Notice I didn’t say they don’t talk about their problems. I said they don’t talk about their feelings.
This sounds like touchy-feely nonsense
The kind of “emotional claptrap” many people do their very best to avoid. But is that really the case here?
Because the behaviour, begging for reviews, is the problem. Most of us would avoid begging if customers called us on that behaviour.
If they told us our begging made them angry or uncomfortable, most of us would stop doing it. We’d find a different way to go about getting the reviews we need. Here’s the problem.
They don’t like it.
What’s worse, it permanently changes our status, in our customers’ eyes, as peers. Most of the time it’s pretty subtle but the results are still the same. Begging hurts relationships.
We still need to request reviews though, so…
What do we do?
Do we simply abandon our efforts to get quality reviews? Do we avoid reviews altogether because we’re embarrassed or afraid?
No, we stop asking for reviews.
We start asking for specifics, the things inside our reviews. We ask for details, specifics on the objections they had as new customers coming in.
Asking for a favour actually tends to boost customer response, significantly increasing the odds we’ll get more favours in the future. Asking isn’t begging and it’s actually an important relationship-building step to take.
So what kind of specifics are we asking for?
We ask about their fears, frustrations and doubts.
Their objections, risks and consequences.
Did they take a huge risk on your business or your product?
Were they burned by a competitor?
It’s important that you find out. Making a face-to-face request is ideal, but it’s important to get feedback (reviews) whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone or digital.
When customers share their story they give you a gift. Independent, third-party validation of you. Your character, the service you provide and the results they received.
A powerful review has four distinct ingredients
- Presentation. A powerful review is presented well. Their story follows a sequence (linear or chronological) and grammar isn’t a distraction. Presentation criteria grow when the medium changes (e.g. audio or video).
- Consistency. Do reviewers contradict themselves? Inconsistency undermines a reviewer’s credibility. Which means prospects distrust both the business and their reviewers.
- Negativity. As John Cacioppo’s research shows, humans have a negative bias. We’re more drawn to the negative. Reviews with negative elements – fears, problems, frustrations, objections, risks – attract attention and are considered to be more believable.
- Positivity. Our negative bias creates stress and anxiety. A good solution relieves our stress and anxiety. This is the result most people look for in a review. But reviews that focus on positivity alone are seen as unconvincing and untrustworthy. Don’t believe me? What do you think about most LinkedIn recommendations?
This is kind of the worst.
We shouldn’t ask for reviews, now on top of that, we need four specific ingredients?
Then, to make matters worse, these ingredients are things customers have to choose to provide on their own. So, what are you supposed to do?
You follow a system.
A good system relies on templates
Templates give you a rough framework to follow, showing you the who, what, why and how. Ideally, templates are easy to apply and quick to use. They’re helpful training aids your entire team can follow.
So with that in mind, here are 7 templates you can use to get amazing reviews from all-star customers.
Template #1: Feedback interview
Most of the time customers come to us with a problem. It could be a complex marketing problem (SEO) or something as simple as boredom (YouTube). Whatever their motivation they come to you looking for a solution.
Customers are happy when you fix their problem. But they forget to share their experience with others.
The feedback interview solves this problem.
How does it work? You simply ask customers for their feedback on one particular problem like this.
Some of our clients were burned by [competitor]. Most of them paid lots of money for a phone system that didn’t work well. We’re trying to learn from their experience.
Have you run into any frustrating problems while using our phone system? Would you be willing to share your story on a quick 5 min. call?
We’re looking for brutal honesty.
The feedback interview works because it’s a two-pronged attack. First, you’re learning about potential problems before they become disasters. Second, your identifying customer candidates who are willing to give you a review.
This template works best as a follow-up strategy. After a customer has opted-in, purchased or used your product.
Template #2: Survey interview
Most businesses have a list. An audience of people who are interested in what they have to say. An email list, social media following or group membership.
The survey interview is, as the name suggests, a survey. It’s a one-question survey that leads with something fascinating – a question or hook that’s guaranteed to grab their attention.
Here’s how it works.
1. What do you want to know? Choose the most important question you’d like to ask e.g. what’s the biggest problem you’re trying to solve?
2. Why should they care? Make your question attention-grabbing, avoiding explicit controversy and self-deprecation.
3. Segment your responses. Who provided the best/worst answers? Which answers are most valuable? Sort the respondents into groups.
4. Follow up with the engaged. Reach out to the people you’d like to hear more from. Send them a message thanking them for their response and asking if they’d be willing to elaborate.
If you’re running a marketing firm, your one question survey could be anything along the lines of:
- What do you hate most about marketing firms?
- What’s your biggest struggle with creating content?
- What’s your biggest risk factor when it comes to paying for SEO?
- What would make an unknown marketing firm unique from your perspective?
And the most important part? You target existing customers with your one question survey.
Template #3: Unhappy customer
If you’re running a business you’re bound to have a few unhappy customers. Customers won’t always be happy with the work we do. Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we don’t meet their expectations.
Sometimes these customers leave.
It’s common for businesses to treat these customers like a lost cause. “I made a mistake, they’re really angry with me and they’re gone forever.”
What if you could get them back?
What if there was a chance you could win them back and win new customers over in the process? As it turns out you can.
1. Assess your customer. You’re looking for unhappy customers who are emotionally stable. The strategy won’t work with unhappy customers if they’re toxic or malicious. You’re looking for unhappy people who are honourable even though you screwed up.
2. Ask for details. These customers may already be on their way out the door. If they’re willing, give them a chance to clear the air. Ask questions if you need clarification, but listen. Get their permission to record and transcribe the interview.
3. Ask them to share their feedback. Send them a copy of their unedited feedback. Then ask if they’d be willing to share it publicly as a review. That’s right, you’re asking them to share a negative review.
4. Fix the problems they’ve mentioned. Go above and beyond, fixing all of the issues your unhappy customer mentioned. Next, create an irresistible offer that’s designed to woo them back to you e.g. if you’re running a ski resort you could reach out to unhappy customers with a free 10 day pass good for 10 people.
5. Make your approach. The approach is key. Come on too strong and look needy. Allow your ego to get in the way and they may update their review, making your situation worse. The whole strategy falls apart. Your approach needs to be gentle, nuanced and respectful.
Your initial approach could look a little bit like this:
We’ve really messed things up. I’m so sorry. I know where we went wrong but I think I’m missing something. I’d like to learn as much as I can from this.
Would you be willing to share where you think we went wrong?
This isn’t a ploy to try to keep you with us. I want to prevent this from happening again.
Who in their right mind would do this?
All-stars businesses who are looking to set the standard in their field. But why? Why go out of your way to request a negative review?
Because customers know the truth about reviews. How do I know?
Here’s their policy on requesting reviews:
“Don’t ask anyone to review your business on Yelp. It’s that simple.
Most businesses would ask their happiest customers to write reviews, not the unhappy ones. Self-selected reviews tell only part of the story, and we don’t think that’s fair to consumers.”
They have a point.
And believe it or not, this is something customers recognize intuitively. When they look at your site and they see nothing but glowing reviews, they wonder.
What about unhappy customers?
This strategy shows everyone your business is different. But it depends on an incredible amount of nuance. This is something only the most sophisticated businesses will try.
Most won’t do it.
Those who do, the ones who do it well, can benefit from this tremendously. You get an insider’s view of what went wrong, the information customers typically withhold, and you get direction. You also get a chance to show you’re objective and honest, even when it hurts.
Word spreads fast.
At some point, people will begin talking about what you did. They’ll share your story with others. And the natural outcome? Customer trust skyrockets. But only if you’re patient and you allow this strategy to grow organically. Talk yourself up, brag about what you did, let your ego get in the way at any point, and this may blow up in your face.
Template #4: Post-transaction request
The best time to ask for a review is right after a customer has given you money. After a visit to a doctor’s office, at the end of a landscaping project or after the first marketing campaign. The best time to ask customers for a review is at the end of the transaction. Why? Because the details are still fresh.
Here’s how you can ask:
Thanks for choosing [your business]. I wanted to reach out personally and ask about your experience.
What was your experience like? (e.g. amazing, terrible, etc.)
We want to be better. Your feedback helps us accomplish that. If you’re willing, it only takes a minute or two.
Share your review here [link]
Thanks for your trust,
Template #5: Applause inquiry
Sometimes you get things right. You were amazing, you under promised and over delivered. Your customers are happy, overjoyed even. This is the part where businesses ruin it. They beg for reviews or they neglect to ask for feedback.
When your customer is happy it’s a great time to ask for feedback. What specifically made them so happy? Did they dodge a bullet or avoid some painful outcome?
There’s an art to it. When you’re getting applause, asking for feedback is risky if it’s mishandled. If customers feel you’re being greedy – the relationship can sour quickly.
“Which is the perfect time to use touch and go.”
With touch and go, you ask one question then you move on. You make one request then it’s back to celebrating. If customers are happy our questions need to be neutral or pleasant, this isn’t the time for controversy and alarm.
We’re happy that you’re happy! 🙂
It was a lot of hard work but we did it together! Thanks for trusting us!
Any thoughts on what we can do to make this even better for you?
We love working with you!
We’ve sandwiched our request between two very genuine compliments, doing our best to keep the mood positive and upbeat.
Here’s the thing. Our customer may not have a very good answer.
That’s okay because it’s all about planting a seed.
When things are back to normal, reach out with a reminder. “Is there anything we can do to make these results even better for you?” If they’ve already given you an answer simply ask the next question on your list and go from there.
Template #6: Reasoned invite
Inviting a customer to review your business isn’t the same as asking for a review. When you ask it’s a favour when you invite its prestigious.
But only if you do it right.
I’m reaching out to the top 3% of our customers (you’re one of them :)). I had six questions I wanted to ask, should only take 4 or 5 minutes.
Would it be alright if we talked on the phone? I’m free tomorrow at noon.
Can you see what’s happening? You’re not a beggar trolling random customers for reviews. You’re a discerning business owner choosing sophisticated customers.
With positioning, you change the game.
What if you can’t target the top 3% of customers in your business? Can you still use positioning to your advantage?
Just find a way to segment your customers. It’s completely up to you but here are a few examples you can use to get started.
- Most engaged/loyal/profitable customers
- Your most vocal customers
- Customers in a specific industry or niche
- Customers with a certain amount of revenue
When you set the terms, it shifts a customer’s focus, getting them to compete for the label you’re using in your positioning. Here’s the catch: this strategy works best in a prestigious conscious environment. A prestigious industry, customers who are prestigious conscious or desire prestigious distinction.
The most important part goes without saying. Identify prestige, don’t manufacture it.
Template #7: Free trial follow-up
If free trials are a big part of your business, this strategy is a great way to convert trial users. Here’s how it works.
You’re looking for engaged users, people who’ve signed up for a free trial and are actually trying things out. They’re uploading their information, creating reports, working with your API.
They’re taking things seriously.
These customers deserve more of your attention. Your onboarding user flow should guide these customers along, giving them the support they need to make a yay or nay decision.
Reach out for feedback near the end of their free trial.
You’ve got three days left on your free trial. What was the most frustrating thing about [our product]? Any thoughts on how you’d make it better?
You’re number one!
When it comes to free trials, customers are sensitive. They don’t want to be sold. They also don’t want to be harassed, bullied or coerced into buying a product. They want to choose the product that’s right for them.
They’re still going to be suspicious though.
Which is why we’ve kept the tone positive, light and encouraging. We want them to know we appreciate them either way. Let’s say they get past that and they decide to talk to us. How do we handle that?
One question at a time.
When they answer our first question, we ask the next/follow-up question limiting things to five questions or less.
These templates won’t cover everything
They’re not intended to and that’s okay. These templates are really about changing your mode of thinking. The situations and circumstances you experience are opportunities. Use them well and you attract more customers.
Ignore them and you’ll get more of the same, nothing.
That’s the point though, isn’t it? Once you’ve trained yourself to look for opportunities you’ll see them everywhere.
What if these templates don’t work?
What if these templates aren’t a good fit for your business? Change them, modify them, find what works for you. These templates aren’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. The opportunity is there if you’re willing to do the work.
As long as you’re willing to try.
Customers hate it when you beg
You know it. They know it. But experts encourage you to do just that. “Ask your customers for reviews,” they say. “You’ll regret it if you don’t”
The opposite is true.
Begging ruins relationships with customers. If you’re like most people you hate it. And you know what? That’s okay. Because there’s a better way.
Stop asking for reviews, start asking for specifics. Important details inside the review.
Look for customer fears, frustrations and doubts. Their objections, risks and consequences. Find the details that matter to them and you’ll find they’re happy to share.
Len is the owner and Creative Director of Quiet City Design, a full-stack media marketing company based in Toronto, Canada. He is passionate about helping his clients leverage the internet to improve business online and offline. Those methods include website development and digital marketing as well as online review reputation management and online scheduling and appointment booking platforms for local business owners.