Testimonials – how to get them, what to do with them and how to react to online reviews
Feedback is one of the most valuable weapons on your business arsenal. In our digital age, word of mouth isn’t just limited to face-to-face interaction anymore, and a happy customer has the potential to spread the word about your business far and wide. However, for the same reason, receiving feedback can also be a bit of a scary prospect. What if nobody wants to give you a good testimonial? Or what if a disgruntle customer writes something unpleasant about you online? Read on for some valuable advice from Nicola, Director of Propose PR .
There’s a school of thought that, if people are passionate fans of what you do, there will always be vocal critics as well. With success comes mixed opinion, so how do you put your best face forward and take control of your brand image online using client feedback?
How to collect testimonials
Collecting testimonials is an ongoing process. You can never have too many, even if you don’t use them all on your website at one time.
If you’re nervous, start by approaching current and past clients that you know are happy with your work. Ask if they’d be willing to write a short testimonial about your products or services.
Once you have a few to start with, keep an eye out for future happy customers. If somebody sends you great feedback, reply and say how happy you are that they were pleased with your services, and ask them if you can quote them in the testimonials section of your website. Asking to use existing private feedback in public is a lot less intimidating than asking somebody out of the blue.
Finally, make life as easy as possible for people. If you know they’re very pressed for time, make it clear that even a short testimonial is very valuable to you, or that it can be delivered in any way that’s convenient to them, by phone or by email.
If somebody refuses your request for a testimonial, do the daunting thing and ask why. You may hear things you don’t like, but even bad feedback is better than no feedback. Then you can understand how to improve your offering in the future.
How to use testimonials
Personally, I think that there’s no such thing as too many testimonials. It’s easy to be cynical and think that companies only choose the very best feedback to put forward, so putting up higher volumes of shorter snippets is a good way to go.
If you have testimonials from prestigious companies or from press reviews, make those more prominent as they carry a lot of weight. If somebody’s written an article about you, include a quote from the article and then link to the rest of it so that people can read it in context.
Aside from adding testimonials to your website, it’s also nice to post the occasional bit of praise on social media. It may seem counter-intuitive to blow your own horn, but remember this is legitimate feedback from a happy customer, and that shouting about it is just part of a good PR strategy.
You can also use testimonials to win new business or, with permission, as a quote in a press release.
How to react to reviews online (good and bad)
Before you can react, you need to know where to find reviews of your products or services online. If you’re selling a product, this could be through your retailers. If you’re a physical business place, it could be on Yelp, Tripadvisor or social media. The important thing is to be aware of what’s being said about your brand so you can stay on top of the conversation.
On Twitter, check regularly to see if your business name is being mentioned. Set up a Google news alert for your business name and always check websites where you’re listed or likely to be talked about.
When somebody posts a positive review online, it’s nice for them to have a little interaction. Post a thank you note and let the reviewer know that they’re a valued customer.
Now for the tricky part – handling negative reviews online. It’s a horrible feeling when somebody posts something unflattering about your business on the Internet. You might even feel incensed or unfairly targeted, but this is when keeping a cool head can mean the difference between appeasing an angry customer and causing a much bigger PR crisis.
One thing to never, ever do is start a dispute. Unfortunately, in the public’s eyes, even the most unreasonable customer is king and you can’t afford to look petty or like you can’t handle criticism or deal with complaints professionally.
Unless there are outrageously damaging allegations to answer (in which case, I would suggest consulting a lawyer before responding) keep it short and sweet and don’t get drawn into an argument. Start by apologising that the client feels let down. Then let them know if the reason for their disappointment was a one off.
If it’s a more fundamental problem with your product or service, try to take the criticism offline and into a private conversation. Explain that you’re very sorry and that you’d like to resolve the issue. Provide a direct email address for them to contact you and move the conversation to a private context to provide a refund, voucher or some other form of compensation.
The most important thing to take from feedback is to understand what you do best and what you need to improve upon. Don’t be discouraged and use all your reviews, good and bad, as an opportunity for growth.