In the age of the Internet, reviews of your business are easier than ever for customers to write, and for potential customers to access. Before checking out a new store or the latest restaurant, potential customers frequently whip out Yelp or the company’s Facebook page. Positive reviews boost your visibility, give you a good reputation, downplay the occasional negative comment, and encourage business growth. So, how do you secure them?

Foster relationships. The key to good reviews isn’t just hoping you wowed your customers enough that they’ll take the time to review you—it’s developing a relationship with them that leaves them excited to support you.

Asking for reviews by being pushy will get you nowhere. Make sure customers know that their input matters to you, both online and off. Positive or negative, enlightening or blah—tell them that whatever they think about your business is helpful. Asking them to provide honest feedback instead of just a 4-star ranking, as well as ensuring them you’ll take it seriously, will make customers more motivated to let the world wide web know their thoughts.

Turn negative into positive. If you’ve received a negative review from someone, don’t just close your eyes and wish it would disappear. Confront the customer in a straightforward and kind way by asking what you could have done to provide better service. It’s a fact of life that the more reviews you get, one or two negative ones will start popping up. You can’t satisfy every customer 100 percent, but a review’s author may be surprised and probably impressed that you cared enough to reach out to them and are trying to improve your business as best you can. If it’s feasible–and you think you can improve upon a person’s experience–invite him or her back to try your product or service when you’re at your best.

 

But even if you can’t repair every single complaint a reviewer has uttered, you can take the time to read all your reviews, both good and bad, and learn from them. If there’s a consistent area where customers aren’t happy with you, fix the problem, and even go above and beyond. New visitors will notice the good service, and, if they’ve read your reviews before coming, they may be so happy they’ll be inspired to debate your negative reviewers on their own.

Think small. Look into some lesser-known review sites. Obviously, Yelp, Angie’s List and Foursquare are biggies. But the app Goodsnitch, for example, which has marketed itself as alternative to Yelp, can be extremely beneficial to businesses. It posts positive reviews live, and sends negative reviews directly to the business, further facilitating your connection with the customer and allowing you easier access to help repair a damaged relationship. Suggest the app to customers and encourage them to take the time to provide you with feedback.

Freebies and giveaways. When you’re desperate for more reviews as soon as possible, giveaways never hurt. Many popular chain retailers, like Best Buy, offer goodies such the chance to win a shopping sprees in exchange for leaving a review on their website. You might offer a gift card, a discount, or another promotion to someone for entering a review—positive or negative. This won’t just encourage them to leave their thoughts, it’ll encourage them to continue frequenting your business. It’s another way to develop a relationship with your customer, and a devoted customer, of course, is more likely to want to review you well.

Remember, no incentives will ever inspire people to leave a review as much as a great experience. Making sure your customer service is top-notch is the surest way to create loyal customers who are passionate about your company and will, in turn, feel compelled to tell others.

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