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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Reviews: Sometimes You Miss the Forrest for the Trees

dumbAmerican business is very focused on goals and measurements. This in particularly true is the sales world. Unfortunately when you treat reviews as the goal it can lead to bad outcomes. A review ask is one step in developing a long term relationship with a customer; it is not an end point. Making it a goal in and of itself can lead to bad outcomes.

Here is a question I received on Google Plus about review processes for a car dealer and my response (Full disclosure I am a principal in an online review process management product which I think is pretty good but may bias my answers. )

Hi I represent a large auto dealership. This quarter we made it a priority to setup Google+ Local pages and start generating reviews. But unfortunately, Even though I have received over 100+ reviews I am seeing only 6 – 8 reviews on any page. This is causing the management to revert to other sites. Can you guys recommend if this issue is resolvable? As we have the quarter ending, we do not have enough reviews to show for all our work. Any recommendations from you will also be useful… 

My answer:
Well my first suggestion is to change
1)your expectations
2)your goals
3)and your methodology

My second suggestion…
is to understand that Google, like Yelp, is going to filter reviews in order to insure quality.  They particularly target car dealers as a source for spammy/forced reviews and have very stringent filters for that industry.

My third suggestion is to understand that reviews are a “long game”. The issue isn’t getting reviews every hour, every day, every week but to get them at a slow and steady pace in a way that reflects your excellent service not your excellent review process. If you were to get 6 reviews a quarter at Google for the next four years you would have 96 reviews. That’s plenty and it not only shows your current quality but that you have been delivering consistent quality over time.

My fourth suggestion is to respect both the user and the review sites with a process that is natural and non “close” oriented. Closing is for sales not for relationship building. Google for example does not think that users should be asked while on premise for a review. They should be asked after the sale in a way that allows them to easily ignore the request. Yelp doesn’t think they should be asked at all (although that is a discussion for another day).

My fifth suggestion is to focus on reviews around the Internet and not just at Google. This respects a user’s habits and preferences more appropriately than forcing them through the Google gauntlet. It’s not a question of pushing for reviews at just Google or not just at Google. Let the user decide from a list of choices that includes Google but doesn’t insist on Google. You and the clients will be a lot happier.

My sixth suggestion: Avoiding bad reviews is significantly more important than achieving good reviews. Giving customers a chance to provide you with honest feedback, criticism and suggestions will create a better outcome by allowing you to fix those customers issues while minimizing the likelihood of that customer hitting the review sites.

My last suggestion is to change your metrics for evaluating success. By only measuring review count over time you are missing the rich opportunity of engaging your customer in a mutually satisfying process. Measure satisfaction, measure requests for feedback, measure client engagement…. those all will provide nuance to your review count.

The issue is happy customers NOT review count. If you have measurably happy customers and you ask them to leave you a review someplace, sometime then ultimately you will find that it is a lot less of a struggle at Google and every place else and the reviews that you do get will be of better quality.

And most importantly? You will not have annoyed those very people you are trying to make happy, your customer.