Want Positive Ratings? Don’t Incentivize Reviewers — Empower Them

December 20, 2016


Incentivizing people to write positive reviews about your company, products or services isn’t only unethical, it’s illegal. But it’s tempting, especially given recent findings.

According to Cone Communications, 87 percent of consumers surveyed say a favorable review influenced their purchasing decisions, and four out of five changed their minds about purchasing a product after reading a negative review.

Still, the legal implications are real, and so are the effects on your reputation, which can be tarnished if the public discovers you’re paying for good reviews — regardless of the type of payment.

Recently, the FTC cracked down on auto shipment broker AmeriFreight for failing to disclose it was giving $50 discounts to customers who posted reviews. This practice violates FTC guidelines regarding using endorsements and testimonials in advertising.

Even if you tell consumers their reviews don’t have to be positive, it’s still illegal to offer incentives for reviews. In 2013, regulators in New York penalized 19 companies for doing so, including a dental service offering $10 coupons in exchange for reviews.

Any incentive — whether a discount, coupon, event invite or cash — distorts the review process, putting the accuracy of ratings, as well as a company’s ethics, into question.

Empower Consumers with a Fair Review Process

How do you generate more positive reviews the ethical way? Increase review volume by empowering your customers to give you feedback. You can do so by sending review requests and surveys systematically following customer visits or significant customer interactions.

Think of innovative ways to ask for feedback, and make it really easy for consumers to provide it. Keep surveys and requests short and simple — just a few questions will suffice. Depending on your product or service, requests can be delivered via digital on mobile devices or a website, or printed, such as on a postage-paid comment card. Make sure you write them in a way that solicits honest feedback — good or bad.

The easier you make it for people to review you, the more reviews you’ll get, without having to provide any incentive. As volume goes up, the number of positive reviews you receive will increase, as well. When you receive a positive review, get the word out through social media posts and on your website, and use customer feedback to train staff and improve customer service, so your reviewers see their opinions matter.

Bad Reviews Aren’t All Bad

Despite the effects of negative reviews on consumers’ buying behavior, in the long run, they can actually help you fine-tune offerings, optimize the customer experience and improve your reputation. Here’s how:

  • Negative reviews alongside positive ones add credibility. Let’s get real: Not everyone is going to love you. There will always be things you can do better. Occasional bad reviews make the good ones seem much more believable.

  • They help you improve. If you receive multiple unfavorable reviews about the same issue, you’ll have critical information you need to address it. In the end, it may help you improve your services or tailor your product roadmap to meet changing customer needs.

  • Bad ratings give you a chance to shine. If you take prompt action when you receive a negative review, it can boost your reputation, because it demonstrates your commitment to the customer.

Effective Online Reputation Management solutions can help you monitor all your feedback closely, enabling you to identify potential issues and address them rapidly. And when a positive review comes in, you can share it right away.

Read our Online Reputation Management Success Kit, which highlights different ways you can leverage Online Reputation Management best practices to generate positive reviews.

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