Commitments and online reviews

Micro-Commitment: The Key to Online Reviews

Problems When I Ask for Online Reviews

If you ask customers to post online reviews of your business or product on a review site, you’ll find that almost all of them won’t do it,  Which, from the business’s side of things, seems odd–if they’ve had great service or enjoyed a great product, why not do the purveyor a favor and post a review?

The answer to this question lies in the psychology of your request and the customer’s attitude as a customer.  Once this is understood, that understanding also leads to a method for overcoming the problem and obtaining lots of favorable reviews.

In this issue, the reason why people don’t do reviews when asked are discussed, and then the solution to the problem is shown.  That solution is known to work and is today producing solid results.

“Please Review Us”

Well-meaning businesses who are proud of their product or service will often ask, in one fashion or another, for a review.  There might be a pretty sign in the office asking for a review, or you might be given a card asking customers to post a review.  The business might even be so desperate for reviews that they offer some sort of incentive, perhaps a discount or entry into a drawing for a prize, for people who do reviews.  These incentives are risky–they can incur the wrath of the review sites, who state their rules that they do not want businesses to offer incentives for reviews.  If discovered, the penalty for such incentives can be serious, such as putting a notice on the review site that the company doesn’t follow the rules to obtain fair reviews.  More seriously, the review site might even remove all of the company’s reviews.

The businesses who take all the measures can get a review or two, now and then, as a result.  If they aren’t noticed by the review sites.  If they’re noticed, of course, the net of their efforts can be rather negative.

Why doesn’t this technique work?  If a business delivers great products or service, why don’t customers post reviews?

Why Requests for Reviews Fail

In today’s rich advertising environment, each of us is bombarded with exhortations all the time.  “Buy this!”  “Try that!”  “See this movie!” “Join this rewards program.”  And so on.  There’s a literally endless series of such requests.  Each of us comes to recognize what’s in our own interest and what’s in the company’s interest.  We become skeptical about requests that are perceived to be in the company’s interest.

Put yourself in the customer’s place.  What good will posting a review do for you?  What gain is there for you?  Yes, some people–mostly people you don’t know–will read it, and it may get the business more revenue.  But does it do anything for you personally?  No so much.  So why go to the trouble of finding the page on the review site and writing a review?

The customer is entitled to great service and great products, and the best companies strive to provide them all the time.  The customer is entitled to think that the appropriate benefit to the business has already been conveyed by choosing this business to deal with.  In other words, the customer has already done a favor for the business by doing business with them.  If the business now asks for another favor that has no reward, how likely is the customer to respond favorably?  Not very.  Which is why most such requests fail.

There is one class of customer who responds to this sort of request–the unhappy one.  We know that unhappy customers are somewhat more likely to post reviews than happy ones, which tends to skew online reviews to be somewhat more negative than the true customer experiences.  But if we ask for reviews, then we’re showing unhappy customers a way they can take out their unhappiness on us.  Of course, there are those few chronic unhappy people who will always take advantage of an opportunity to complain, whether or not anything is actually wrong, and these people, too, tend to respond to requests to post reviews.

So how can we get around this problem?  How can we get customers to post reviews, without offering incentives?

Doing a Favor Instead of Asking for One

What if, instead of asking for a review as a favor, we were able to pose this request so that it would be perceived by the customer as a favor?

There are two important trends that have been observed in business:

  1. Customers will do a lot of work previously done by employees and like it, in the name of self-service.  This includes pumping their own gas, checking themselves out at a supermarket, ordering their fast food from a kiosk.
  2. Customers like to be asked their opinion, and will happily provide it.  They won’t provide it all the time, but the response rates will be reasonable.

The first trend is something we can see everywhere, that has revolutionized many businesses.  But that’s not what we’re about here.  However, this second trend is something we can leverage to get reviews!  Customers like to be asked their opinions; it’s evidence that the business respects them.  We can use this affinity to get reviews and, at the same time, we can head off reviews from unhappy and congenitally disgruntled customers.

What if we asked customers how happy they were with the product or service that they received, and then if they were happy, thanked them for their feedback and asked if they would share their opinion with others in the form of a review?  Using this approach, we’ve done the customer a favor by asking for an opinion, and now we ask a favor in return.

We’ve also taken advantage of the psychology of micro-commitments.

The Science of Micro-Commitments

Whenever we are asked to do something, our instincts cause us to test it.  If it’s more than we’re ready to undertake, we can perceive it as a risk, and our “fight or flight” instincts take over, and we don’t honor the request.  The same principles hold when we ask a customer to do something.  If that first ask is too great, then there won’t be many responses.  On the other hand, if the first ask is tiny, or can even be seen as a consideration for the customer, then a bigger ask that comes later might have more success.

The way to apply the science of micro-commitments to asking for online reviews is to ask first for the customer’s opinion.  Most people like to be asked their opinion–it’s a sign that the provider respects the customer and wants to please them.  So asking for an opinion will have a hugely greater response rate than asking for a review!

Once that opinion is obtained, and it’s best to not exhaust the customer by going on and on with the opinion (one click is ideal!), now is the time to take that second step.  If the opinion is favorable, now is the time ask for a review!  After all, you’ve now done a favor for the customer, asking for an opinion, so you’re set to ask a favor in return.  And, once the customer is involved in the process, continuing to do a review is now the easy continuation of a process they’ve already begun.

Of course, if the customer isn’t happy, this isn’t the time to ask them to share that opinion with the world by doing a review!  Instead, this is the time to ask the customer to tell the business what went wrong, what could have been better to make them happy.  In this situation, there will be a high response rate from dissatisfied customers as well, and these responses can be very valuable to the business.

The Bottom Line

If you want to get favorable reviews from your customers, don’t ask them to post reviews!  Instead, use the science of micro-commitment and ask them for their opinion, and then ask the happy ones to post a review.  You can do this with a person calling customers, or through emails, or you can automate the whole process through Dave’s Certified Reviews.

 

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