A business’s guide to customer reviews

95 percent of customers read reviews before making a purchase. Here's how to get good reviews.

By Hannah Wren, Content Marketing Associate

Published September 16, 2020
Last updated September 17, 2020

Customer reviews have become a key step in the customer journey, with a whopping 95 percent of customers reading reviews before making a purchase decision.

Customers always had the power to recommend (or discredit) a brand to their friends or family. But being constantly connected has given them greater ability to influence many other customers' buying decisions as well, whether they’re posting a Tweet or writing a Yelp review.

Here, we’ll cover how reviews impact a business’s bottom line, the best review sites, strategies for inspiring customers to write good reviews, and how to respond to negative ones.

Table of contents

  1. The importance of customer reviews
  2. Customer review sites
  3. How to ask customers for reviews
  4. How to get good reviews from customers
  5. Responding to negative reviews

What are customer reviews?

Customer reviews are feedback about a business’s product, service, or overall customer experience. Customers write reviews on a business’s website, third-party review websites such as Yelp, or social media.

The importance of customer reviews

From retail to B2B SaaS, reviews impact how customers perceive your business, which ultimately affects profits.

  • Customer reviews build trust
  • Customer reviews show social proof and boost a brand’s online reputation. They’re powerful because they come from real people as opposed to a business, which makes them feel more authentic than traditional marketing.

    In fact, research shows that people trust word-of-mouth more than brand advertising.

    83 percent of customers say they trust friends and family, which isn’t surprising. But 66 percent say they trust opinions strangers post online, with 91 percent of millennials trusting online reviews as much as friends and family.

    “Customer reviews are essentially word-of-mouth online,” said Emily Washcovick, Senior Field Marketing Manager at Yelp. “In our digital age, customers can get feedback from both people they care about and know in real life and other consumers who had real experiences via online reviews.”

  • They provide valuable feedback
  • From the quality of your product to the ease of your sales cycle and effectiveness of your customer support, reviews provide valuable insight into what’s working well for your customer-audience and where there’s room for improvement.

    “Reviews enable businesses to keep an open eye to their brand at all times,” said Washcovick. “You can’t be everywhere, doing everything, and touching every end-user of your product or service, and reviews give you an opportunity to get an abundance of feedback.”

  • And increase conversions
  • More than half of consumers won’t use a business if it has less than a four-star rating. On the flip side, just a one-star increase in rating on Yelp can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.

    Just a 1-star increase in rating on Yelp can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.

  • They also empower customers with information
  • Customer reviews are user-generated content about your business. Like a community forum within a knowledge base, reviews can answer customers’ questions before they reach out to your support team by providing customers with insightful information.

    “Customer reviews are a powerful tool for businesses to connect directly to people who want to know more about them. A customer can go to a restaurant’s Yelp page to get ideas of what to wear or what options are on the menu,” said Washcovick. “Customers want to search for more things online because they have access to so much information.”

Customer review sites

Review website Reviews best for
Yelp Any business
Google My Business Any business
Facebook Any business
Twitter Any business
Amazon E-commerce
Angie’s List Service-related
Trustpilot Any business
Glassdoor Employee experience
Capterra B2B SaaS
Manta Small businesses
Tripadvisor Travel
Foursquare Local businesses
OpenTable Restaurants


How to tell if a review platform is legitimate or trustworthy

Not every customer review site is created equal. Here are three key things to consider.

Does the review website go beyond ratings with quality content?

73 percent of consumers think written reviews are more important than ratings.

Quality review sites follow-up ratings with written explanations for context. “On Yelp, we want to know information, we aren’t just a star rating site,” said Washcovick.

Does it use a truth metric?

Context is key, but some review sites just want a lot of content whether it’s legitimate or not. That’s why it’s important to be aware if a review site measures content with a truth metric.

Yelp's recommendation software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and activity on Yelp.

Does it balance the power of technology with the power of human intelligence?

Technology creates a good user experience, but people keep a review site human.

In addition to automated software, Yelp allows businesses and consumers to report harmful or spammy reviews and has a team dedicated to reviewing all inbound flags.

“As a business owner, sometimes it’s appropriate to flag a review. We’re not going to let a customer go after an employee with demeaning language or an ex-employee bash a business in an aggressive way. Reviews are about helpful—not hurtful—content,” said Washcovick.

How to ask customers for reviews

The key to asking for reviews is to make it feel genuine. You don’t want to come across as spammy. Here are some tips:

1. Meet customers where they are, on the channels of their choice

The first step to increasing customer reviews is to make the experience as easy as possible. If a customer has to work hard to leave a review, they’ll likely give up.

Enabling customers to write reviews on the channels they prefer, and are already using, makes the review process more seamless. For instance:

  • Include links to your Yelp page in your social media bio or newsletter footer.
  • If a customer reaches out on a messaging channel, they should be able to leave a review in the messaging thread so they don’t have to navigate outside of the experience. Likewise, if you're communicating with a customer via email, they should be able to leave you a review in the body of the email.
  • If you have a mobile app, give customers the option to leave a review there as well as your website.

2. Follow-up on recent purchases or customer service interactions

Automatically sending customers an email following-up on a recent purchase or customer service interaction is one of the most common ways businesses ask for reviews.

I recently bought a pair of flats from Birdies, and received a review request with 7 brief questions I could answer in the body of the email a week or so after my purchase.

Similarly, businesses can use customer service software to send customers a satisfaction survey after a recent interaction, with an option to leave a customer service review.

3. Leverage customer loyalty moments

66 percent of loyal customers are likely to write a positive online review.

When customers demonstrate their loyalty, asking for a review feels more natural. You might ask a happy customer to write a review after:

  • They refer a friend
  • They’ve been a customer for x amount of time or spent x amount of money with your business
  • They praise you publicly on social media

But remember: it’s not authentic to only show flattering reviews, so a brand will want to make sure it’s not only asking for reviews from loyal customers.

4. Train customer advocate or service teams to ask for reviews

Tain customer advocate or service teams to ask customers for reviews during the right moments, such as:

  • When a customer expresses appreciation for your brand
  • If a customer wants to provide feedback

5. Offer incentives

A study by PowerReviews found that more than half of consumers who aren’t writing reviews need more motivation to do so. This is where incentives like discounts or free company swag can help.

The frozen yogurt shop down the street from my apartment offered me a free yogurt to write a review—and I left one seconds later.

The key is to not ask customers to write a “good review” when offering an incentive so you don’t influence their response.

Strategies for getting positive customer reviews

Asking customers for reviews only goes so far. Companies with great customer reviews don’t necessarily have to ask for them—they do things regularly to create a review-worthy experience.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money or do something elaborate. More often than not, it’s little, everyday things, that stick with customers, like solving their issues quickly or proactively reaching out before a problem escalates.

Here are 8 strategies for how to get good reviews from customers:

1. Listen to customers

Getting positive reviews begins by listening to your customers’ needs and expectations.

Whether it’s a comment in a satisfaction survey, a common pain point mentioned in your community forum, or something customers continuously tell agents directly, use the feedback to create a better experience.

For instance, Postmates’ CX team partners with their product team and analytics team to ensure customer feedback informs key product decisions.

2. Actively engage customers

If customers are engaged with your brand, they’ll be more motivated to write you a review. A few tried-and-true ways of engaging customers include:

  • Building an online community where customers can engage with one another
  • Providing personalized service
  • Leveraging AI to create interactive experiences, such as through chatbots

Learn more customer engagement strategies in our blog.

3. Show customers you appreciate them

Feeling unappreciated is the number one reason customers stop purchasing a product or service. But when customers do feel valued, they're more likely to share their experience with others.

Here are a few ways to show customers you appreciate them:

  • Create customer loyalty programs
  • Support social justice causes your customers care about
  • Surprise and delight customers with gifts

Read our customer appreciation guide for more tips.

4. Share positive reviews

Customers write reviews because they want to feel heard. When a business shares reviews in an email newsletter or on social media, they show customers that it cares about what they have to say.

“When companies share reviews, they show that this ecosystem of what customers say about their business matters, and that they’re proud of it,” said Washcovick. “This will naturally make other customers more included to share their experiences, too.”

5. Deliver an excellent customer experience

After having a positive experience with a company, 77 percent of customers would recommend it to a friend.

The key to inspiring customers to leave a positive review is to deliver an excellent customer experience, according to Washcovick. While it’s not a business’s job to turn every customer into a Yelp reviewer, it is their job to create a good experience.

“If a business leaves a great taste in customers’ mouths, they’ll be more likely to leave positive reviews,” Washcovick said. “As a customer, when you love something, you want to tell everyone so they can have that awesome experience, too.”

6. Provide great customer service

Customer service is a key piece in the customer experience puzzle.

Getting good reviews is about building relationships, which is a sweet spot where customer service can help.

“Customer service makes a huge difference in a customer’s experience and willingness to talk about it because it adds a personal touch.”Emily Washcovick, Senior Field Marketing Manager, Yelp

5 examples of businesses with good customer service reviews:

  • Zappos allows its Customer Loyalty Team to stay on customer calls for as long as they need to build relationships. It even allows customers to call or text the business about anything, whether they’re lonely on a Saturday night or are looking for Netflix recommendations
  • Nordstrom offers seamless returns—no questions asked. There's an old story that it even let a customer return a tire.
  • Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts provides personalized customer service via text message.
  • Warby Parker lets customers get help over the channels of their choice, including the phone, email, chat, or its knowledge base.
  • Birchbox uses service recovery to flag customer complaints and then turn the experience around to repair the relationship.

7. Build a business around authenticity

A review-worthy experience is an authentic one, according to Washcovick.

“The businesses we see get the most support on Yelp are the ones that are open and honest,” Washcovick said.

Authentic companies lead with transparency, use truth and emotion to tell their brand story, and operate with a conscience. This includes:

  • Sales being transparent about pricing
  • Marketing setting realistic expectations about the product or service
  • Customer service acknowledging when the business made a mistake

8. Respond to reviews—even the negative ones

Among consumers that read reviews, 97 percent read businesses’ responses to reviews.

“In addition to sharing reviews, businesses should also publicly respond to reviews. A potential customer will be more inclined to share their experience before they even have it when they know that business cares about their feedback,” said Washcovick.

How to respond to negative reviews

Negative reviews are inevitable. The key isn’t to lose sleep over them or try to take them down, but to use them to find some resolve.

“No one is perfect. Consumers even prefer to see some negative reviews,” said Washcovick.

In fact, when reviews appear to be too good to be true, consumers lose trust.

Customers want real feedback, and perfect reviews are a sign that they were written by bots—the Spiegel Research Center found that reviews in the 4.2 - 4.5 range are more likely to positively impact purchase decisions than five-star ratings.

Reviews in the 4.2 - 4.5 range are more likely to positively impact purchase decisions than five-star ratings.

Here are a few of Yelp’s tips for responding to a negative review:

  1. Acknowledge the customer and thank them for sharing their experience

    “We recommend initially responding publicly to negative reviews, and in that public response to thank the customer for taking time to share their experience,” said Washcovick. “This demonstrates your customer service practices to potential customers.”

  2. Offer to have a private conversation

    After you acknowledge the complaint, your customer service team should send that customer a direct message to talk about how to resolve it in more detail.

    Or, some businesses leave the ball in the customer’s court and provide a support email or phone number in their public response.

  3. Respond promptly

    Responses are strongest within 24 hours.

  4. Be empathetic

    “You have to be the professional one,” said Washcovick. “Take a deep breath and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Get help from a teammate if you’re feeling emotional about it.”

  5. Try your best to resolve the issue

    Harvard Business Review found that people who complained or wrote negative comments about a brand on social media and received a response were more loyal afterward than those who never complained at all.

    “Not every reviewer is going to get back to you and give you the chance to resolve the issue. But if you can resolve it, it will go a long way,” said Washcovick. “That’s how you keep a customer.”

  6. Better reviews, better bottom-line

    How your customers think and feel about your business impacts your bottom-line. And when you create a great experience for your customer, they’ll want to share it with the world.

Guide to world-class customer service

Good customer service leads to good customer reviews