Al Hanzal of Local Search Marketing-St. Paul pinged me with Do Incentives Hurt or Help in Getting Online Customer Reviews, a response to some of my posts on the subject.

“If the customer or the public online sees your incentive as a direct payoff for completing a customer review, negative consequences can follow. Break the link so that it is not seen as a  “quid pro quo” transaction between you and the customer.” 

Among his suggestions for breaking the link:

1. Discounts on future purchases

2. “Appreciation” gift cards

3. Monthly drawing-type contests

4. Donating to a cause

The quid-pro-quo still seems pretty obvious to me, but given the interest by my readers in the whole customer reviews thing I thought it would be worth airing some other thoughts on the subject.  Head over to Al’s blog to read the whole thing.

And speaking of quid-pro-quo, here’s what Yelp has to say on the subject:

“It’s a slippery slope between the customer who is so delighted by her experience that she takes it upon herself to write a glowing review and the customer who is “encouraged” to write a favorable review in exchange for a special discount. And let’s be candid: most business owners are only going to solicit reviews from their happy customers, not the unhappy ones. Over time, these self-selected reviews create intrinsic bias in the business listing — a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away. Don’t be surprised, then, if your solicited reviews get filtered by Yelp’s automated review filter.”

“Let’s be candid” always sounds dickish, right?



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10 Response Comments

  • Brandon Dudley  November 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    At The BusBank, we send out thank you’s personally to any customer that provides feedback negative or positive. We also attempt to have them place it online. The feedback is helpful and we think that letting honest feedback go up is only way to really help yourself in the Zero Moment of Truth. Customers do recognize false reviews.

  • Al  November 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks Andrew for your comments. I especially appreciate your Yelp reference. Customers are not stupid. As marketing people become more sophisticated. Customers become more sophisticated. Appreciate your insights. Thanks.

  • Kris  November 18, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I don’t think customers have a sixth sense when it comes to review smell. I think marketing people do, like old English professors! Sorry, I was having a flash-back. But, most people have not idea of the type of tactics that are used to manipulate them. Propaganda, by Edward Bernays opened my eyes on that one.
    Lot’s of good ideas in the article. I like the idea of rewarding already good customers if they add a review. People on your mailing list, have your credit card, etc.

  • Jo Shaer  November 19, 2011 at 6:48 am

    I think Kris is right about most customers not having a sixth sense about fake reviews – because they don’t have all the facts. They think if someone took the time to go online and say something bad, it’s because the service was so dreadful. They don’t know that there are some people out there who will diss a rival business or promote their own business with a fake review just to gain an edge. Local customers seem to be incredibly naive about what can go on – but then I was myself until I started to investigate for my own clients.

    And I’m remembering that there was that piece about the new algo which has been designed to tell which reviews are fake. Well the reviews that I leave when I’ve had good service will probably be pulled every time. I try not to review in text speak.

    I tend to explain to my customers the importance of good reviews and give them the link to my Places page in the hope that they will say something nice. I don’t think it’s a good idea to offer a physical incentive in the form of a discount – it just makes them feel as if they’ve been bought.

    I like the idea of a referral incentive but it can backfire if the referrer’s friends start to think that they’re only referring because they get something out of it so it needs to be used with care.

  • juliemarg  November 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I still believe that the biggest problem is unwarranted or unreasonable bad reviews not businesses soliciting reviews from their good customers.

    A client of mine just got a 6 paragraph slam for his wedding catering service on yelp. He can’t write a rebuttal and say that she changed her colors scheme at the last moment or kept eliminating items from the original menu because she was cheap.

  • Marty  November 20, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Customer feedback is critical for business success. The challenge is if you buy feedback with incentives you often don’t get the real information you need to make educated business decisions.

    We make it easy and that increases response rates. People don’t want to waste their time filling out forms that ask for dates and times when technology can take care of all of that.

    Check out how we do it…

  • Al  November 21, 2011 at 4:54 am

    Hi Marty, I did not know a service like yours existing. 50% of this seasons shoppers will be using mobile and you have positioned yourself with a wonderful service. I especially like the statistic– Research done by American Express found 70% of Americans are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. Your are on the edge of where customer reviews are going. Thanks for your insights.

  • Jrsturges  November 21, 2011 at 8:17 am

    What Yelp and many others don’t realize is that some folks, no matter how happy, won’t make a point to run to their computer and do a review! If a small local business is to have a robust ecosystem of reviews online, they may need to encourage it.

    Some businesses like a popular restaurant or other destination will inherently get reviews. But an awesome dry cleaner or acupuncturist, for example, may have to encourage the process a little. What a drag that Yelp may come down on them in these cases.

    Also I have seen great companies that get dozens of good reviews, then they get one long ridiculous bad review on Yelp. Yelp will sometimes post that review on top effectively making you have to look for the good reviews.

    Also their are much worse things that a business can do than a requested review, like fake reviews which are fairly rampant. I see those all the time.

    I think that at the end of the day, as long as the business doesn’t require a positive review to get the offered incentive, then the world is no worse for the wear.

  • Hitch  November 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Customers are an essential part of any business and so does their comments or responses greatly affects your business as well. Thanks for sharing this article.