Why you shouldn’t incentivize customer reviews

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, you know the importance of reviews for your business. In fact, customer reviews are one of the most important sources of information for potential customers. A study by BrightLocal showed that 77% of consumers always read online reviews before purchasing from a business.

It’s no surprise that business owners are always looking for ways to get additional 5-star reviews and testimonials. While this is a great business strategy, you should be careful about how you go about it. Incentivizing customer reviews can seem like a good idea, but it can actually do more harm than good.

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This piece will share why it is not a good idea to incentivize customer reviews, even though this practice has become increasingly common. We will explore the risks to businesses who choose to do so and provide some tips on how to encourage customers to leave reviews without resorting to incentives.

Is it legal to incentivize customer reviews?

The short answer is: it depends.

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken action against companies that have offered incentives for reviews in the past. The idea is to stop companies from manipulating feedback that can influence other customers. However, the FTC does not put an explicit ban on providing incentives for receiving reviews.

The FTC’s position is that if a company provides an incentive for a review, the review must clearly disclose as such. The critical question is whether the incentive is something of value that could influence someone’s opinion.

For example, offering a valuable gift card to customers who leave a positive review for your business will directly influence the customers. Such an incentive will be illegal as per FTC’s directives. 

What are the risks of incentivizing customer reviews?

There are a few risks to consider before incentivizing reviews:

  • Damage your brand: If customers feel like they’re being tricked into leaving a 5-star review, it could damage your relationship with them – and your brand.
  • Lead to fake reviews: If you offer an incentive for a positive review, you run the risk of getting fake reviews from people who are just in it for the freebie. This could hurt your business in the long run, as customers may start to mistrust your reviews.
  • Violate platform policies: If you’re offering incentives for reviews on a review platform like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon, you could violate their service terms. This could lead them to remove reviews from your page, account suspension or even shut down.

Are all incentives for reviews bad?

No, not necessarily. If you’re careful about how you structure your incentives, you can avoid the risks listed above. 

For example, you could offer a discount for customers who leave a review, but make it clear that the discount is only valid for those who write an honest review – good or bad. This way, customers know that you value their honest feedback and aren’t just looking for positive reviews.

Another option is incentivizing reviews and testimonials through a giveaway or random drawing, regardless of whether they actually leave a review. This way, there’s no pressure for customers to write a review, and you’re not offering an incentive specifically for a star rating.

What you can (and should) do instead

Here are some of the best ways to get more reviews:

Ask for reviews

Asking your customers for reviews is the simplest way to get more reviews. As per a study conducted by BrightLocal, 78% of the customers who are asked to leave reviews do so.

There are different ways in which you can ask for reviews. You can do it in person, over the phone, through social media or email templates. Utilize automation tools to send out review requests. You could even add a “call to action” on your receipt or thank-you note. 

Make it easy to leave a review

Make it as easy as possible for customers to leave a review. Include links to your review pages on your website, in your email signature, and in any post-purchase communications. The easier you make it, the more likely customers will be to take the time to write a review.

You can also include links to your profile on third-party platforms and review sites and make sure your own website is review-friendly.

Create a Google review link

A Google review link makes it easy for customers to leave a review on your Google My Business listing. All you need is your business’s name and location, and you can create a Google review link that will take customers straight to your business profile. 

Upon clicking the link, the customers will be able to leave a review directly. This will help you get more Google reviews that show up on the search engine results page.

Provide review prompts

You can add review prompts to remind customers to leave a review after they’ve interacted with your business. These can be pop-ups on your website or automatic emails that are sent after a purchase is made.

You can send a review prompt email a few days after the purchase is made so they have some time to use your product or service. In the email, thank the customer for their purchase and ask for feedback about the product or service.

Don’t bombard customers with too many reviews prompts, as this could come across as pushy and turn them off from leaving reviews.

Engage with reviews

When customers leave reviews, make sure you respond – especially to bad reviews. Responding to reviews and review management shows that you’re paying attention to customer feedback and care about improving customer experience.

For positive reviews, just write a simple “thank you” to acknowledge them. For negative reviews, take the time to apologize for the customer’s bad experience and see if there’s anything you can do to make it right. If possible, investigate the situation and reference your findings in the response.

In some cases, you may want to follow up on the conversation to avoid back-and-forth arguing in the review section. You can do this by asking the customer to contact you directly so that you can resolve the issue.

Get more customer reviews with Broadly

Getting a constant stream of good reviews is challenging. It can be tempting to simply provide incentives to your happy customers and ask for your reviews. Trust us, you are not the only one struggling with this. The good news is that there are other ways to increase your star ratings.

At Broadly, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses get more reviews and build strong reputations. Our software makes it easy for you to ask customers for reviews, track review progress, and engage with customers – all in one place.

We also provide customized review generation strategies for each business, so you can get the most out of our platform. Get started with us today to see how we can help you get more customer reviews.

Watch your online reputation transform with Broadly