Customer Reviews: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

Customer Reviews

If you find yourself seeking out and considering customer reviews before making a purchase, you're in good company.

97% of customers say reviews impact their buying decisions.

As well as being key sales metrics, reviews are also an integral source of customer feedback, capable of keeping businesses up to date with the quality of the customer experience they provide.

Taking this into account, it's essential that businesses understand their customer reviews strategy and its impact on their overall sales and customer satisfaction.

Plain and simple. If you want to grow your business, you can't ignore your reviews.

By the end of this article, you'll understand what a customer review is, why they matter, and what to do with them.

Let's get started - feel free to hop to the section most relevant to your business.

  1. What Is a Customer Review?
  2. What Makes Consumers Suspicious of Customer Reviews?
  3. Why Are Authentic Customer Reviews Important?
  4. Examples of Customer Reviews
  5. How to Ask for, Analyze & Reply to Customer Reviews
  6. Takeaways

What Is a Customer Review?

What are customer reviews

A customer review is a negative, positive, or neutral opinion that a customer leaves about a product or service that they have purchased and have experience with. Customer reviews are a type of customer feedback and should be monitored as part of a holistic customer experience management (CXM) approach in order to improve satisfaction.

Customer reviews can be found on: 

  • A company's landing page
  • Third-party purchasing sites 
  • Online forums 
  • Social media

Customer reviews often include four elements: 

  • Star rating
  • Title
  • Date
  • Paragraph of text.

Here's an example how customer reviews are commonly formatted:

Customer review format.

Not only do customer reviews tell you whether your customer likes or dislikes your products, they also tell you why.

However, not all customer reviews are equal. Onto that next.

What Makes Consumers Suspicious of Customer Reviews?

While it's obvious that a positive review is a good sign, said positive review also needs to be detailed and specific in order to come across as authentic - reviews that lack depth come off to customers as fake.

Lack of detail is one of the top five reasons why consumers might think a review is fake, with 31% saying that they would be suspicious of a review if it contained just a star rating and hardly any words.

Building off of that, let's go through the top three reasons consumers suspect a review to be fraudulent:

  1. The review is over-the-top. Reviews that are overly effusive or unrealistic in their praise trigger alarm bells for other customers. Especially if your business is solution oriented (i.e. not a luxury good),  reviews that are overly enthusiastic may read as disingenuous. 
  2. The review is almost identical to others. If the consumer browsing the page sees a number of reviews robotically saying the exact same thing, they will doubt the validity of all of them - genuine, human reviews tend to vary in format and sentence structure.
  3. The review is posted under a pseudonym or 'bot-name'. Savvy internet users can easily spot a review that they think a bot may have written by its username. A review written by, say, 'User278721' may instantly ring as fraudulent, whereas a review by 'Susan B.' will not.

Now let's further underline the importance of having customers stumble upon authentic reviews. 

Why Are Authentic Customer Reviews Important?

Customer reviews can mean the difference between someone buying your product and/or service or not. That's because they often use reviews as part of their pre-purchasing research process. 

One particular study showed that 4 out of 5 consumers changed their mind regarding a purchase after reading bad reviews.

These customers were ready to buy, then decided not to based on the information they found online. This speaks volumes about the persuasive power of online reviews.

Here are 3 benefits of positive and, yes, even negative customer reviews:

1. Improve Your Company's Reputation

The more positive customer reviews you have, the more potential customers will believe in the product and/or service you are selling, and the more inclined they will be to make a purchase.

Reviews, when positive and realistic, increase customer loyalty to your company, and loyal customers can become advocates, bringing yet more new customers to your brand.

2. Understand Your Customers Better

Reviews can tell you a lot about your customers and how they interact with your products/services. Most importantly, the content of their reviews reveal consumer insights regarding what they expect from your company, what they like, and what they don't like.

3. Improve Customer Satisfaction

When you take into account what customers are saying in their reviews and make changes accordingly, you'll gain their approval and trust. This in turn will lead to improved customer satisfaction levels.

It's worth noting again that high levels of customer satisfaction are closely connected to increased customer loyalty. This is important because loyal customers are most likely to repurchase and have proven to have far greater lifetime value.

Examples of Customer Reviews

Examples of customer reviews

Customer reviews can be long-form or short-form. It really depends where they appear. Here, we've listed our top 4 types of customer reviews and where to find them:

1. Case Studies

Gympass

Source: case study on Slack's website, showing how their product helped Gympass improve their communication as they scaled their business.

A case study is a great, in-depth way to show your customers examples of positive customer experiences your company can provide. They are also an excellent marketing tool as they are created and controlled by you, and function essentially as a review.

An example of a case study would be showing a customer story where they had an issue or a problem that was then solved by your product/service. Case studies are particularly powerful if your prospective customer can identify with the issues existing customers solved using your product.

Case studies are stories, and humans like stories because they often elicit a strong emotional response. This also helps your customer understand your product better by demonstrating how it could fit into their lives.

You can share case studies via social media, email, or simply embed them on your website in an easy to find place.

2. Review Sites

Shift

Source: Shift's reviews page on Trustpilot, showing positive reviews

There are a number of different review sites where customers can leave their opinions in an open forum.

Trustpilot, a consumer review site, is a good example. It's an independent platform where customers can leave a review about pretty much any company.

The App Store, Amazon, Tripadvisor, G2, Yelp, and Google are more examples of sites that customers frequently visit to leave and read reviews.

Volume is important. These particular sites tend to generate a high volume of traffic. This is important because the more people that see your reviews, the greater the number that may be influenced to do business with you.

Well known sites, like those above, also tend to be trustworthy sites both from the point of view of the customer and your business. Customers tend to leave genuine reviews on these types of sites, therefore potential customers are more likely to believe the reviews and be influenced by them.

Furthermore, the amount of reviews on popular sights makes them appear fairly balanced. 

This authenticity is also good for you as a company as you can collect these reviews and analyze them for insights. You'll also be able to detect genuine issues that need to be addressed in your customer experience journey.

3. Social Media

A Sephora facebook post with comments

Source: Sephora's Facebook page. Showing one particular comment that reveals that the store's tactic of displaying product within sight of the customers as they line up to pay, is working.

Leaving a review on a brands' social media is common nowadays. This review could be a long paragraph or video, or even just a short comment on a post or a video from the brand. 

Reviews on social media can get a lot of traction. News can travel fast and customers expect to be heard - and they can make a lot of noise if they're not.

Because of all this, it's important that you practice social media monitoring. This lets you keep track of what your customers are saying about you - not just on your platforms but across social media in general.

If you are keeping tabs on complaints made on social media, you can fix issues that your customers are experiencing, quickly. When you do this, you can improve your overall customer experience (CX) and hopefully prevent bad reviews in the future.

Social media also provides an easy and direct way for you to respond to your customers and steer the conversation in a direction that suits you.

4. Interviews

3 interviews with different skill share teachers.

Source: Teachers' Skillshare page, displaying sample videos to draw in new students and teachers.

When you interview your customers, you can use the responses you get from them for your website. For example, these can be displayed as testimonials or as part of a demonstrative case study. By publishing these interviews (with permission, of course) you also put your customers' experiences at the center of your brand.

Also, by using these interviews as marketing material you can show potential customers what your happy customers look like, and therefore how they could look too. As with case studies, the idea is that something from these interviews will resonate with a potential customer and make them see that they need your product and services too. 

Interviews aren't just a marketing gimmick, though. They are a form of feedback, from which you can draw insights as to what your customers want. These can be used for R&D of the kinds of products and services you offer them going forward.

How to Ask for, Analyze & Reply to Customer Reviews

Customer reviews Analysis

Savvy companies employ cohesive approaches to drawing out and analyzing customer reviews. Even-savvier companies also have an approach for replying to customer reviews.

So, let's walk through the three steps of the customer review process:

  1. Asking for/listening to reviews
  2. Analyzing said reviews
  3. Replying to customer reviews

1. How to Ask for a Customer Review

Listening to existing reviews is just as important as campaigning for new reviews. So, take a look at what you already have and skip down to the 'Analyzing Reviews' section, then jump back here when you are ready to explore methods for drawing out responses again.

Reaching out and coming back with an unworkable number of responses is just as unhelpful as getting fraudulent responses - it doesn't serve your teams, or your analysis engines well.

The first thing to remember is that if you want to get a good response rate, how you ask customers for reviews is just as important as the content of what you ask.

When it comes to asking for reviews, there are a few popular methods, but one shared mantra:

The easier it is for customers to leave a review, the better.

Asking customers to leave a review for free is actually quite the ask (and there are ways to incentivize to combat this). Time is money, so if you want a response it's best to be clear about how much time the review will take, and if at all possible, make it simple and easy to fill out.

That said, here are the 3 most popular customer review methods:

1. Email link / Website Link

This is by far the most popular way to ask customers for reviews.

Companies send emails to ask for feedback after a purchase or other customer interaction (for instance a customer service chat), following up with either a direct link in the website purchase page, or with a link in the email receipt is a classic review hook.

By this method, the customer will have the interaction fresh in their mind, and is more likely to have an opinion about it. Thus, they are more likely to respond and to respond honestly.

2. Social Media

When it comes to amount of interaction, social media is king with consumers. They use it just as much for pleasure as for business, which increases their time online and the chance that they stumble across your brand.

So, maintaining a good reputation online is key to attracting new customers. No one wants to look up a product and see its Facebook wall full of negative reviews, complaints, and angry customers.

Furthermore, including the option to leave a review on Facebook, Yelp, or other popular site as part of your email/web or SMS/call approach can help keep the tide of opinion flowing in a manner favorable to your brand.

3. SMS/Call 

Receiving a call from a live customer service team member can add that personal touch that will push customers to take time out of their day to give thoughtful, in depth responses, that can be mined for super helpful data.

On the flipside, an SMS review can be the easiest to fill out of all of the above. Take this kind of question for instance:

"Hey Customer X, how was your experience with Product Y on a scale of 1-5? Simply respond with your rating."

Right there you have an instant CSAT survey that only takes the tap of a single button.

This last example truly embodies our golden rule for reaching out for reviews - the easier the better. It's bound to draw large response rates and leave you with swathes of data. 

2. How to Analyze Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are a goldmine of customer insights. These insights are invaluable as they tell you exactly what your customers need from your products.

Equipped with these actionable insights it's easier to make the necessary changes and improvements to enhance and smoothe out the customer journey with your company, engendering customer loyalty, and keeping them returning for more. 

Reviews, however, often come to you in the form of a lot of unstructured information. This means you have to first process and analyze this information (aka 'data') to get to those juicy insights. If you don't do this, all of the useful information you collect goes to waste.

To help you analyze unstructured customer feedback quickly and effectively, you'll need a powerful tool like MonkeyLearn's text analysis AI which can analyze reams of text data in a matter of minutes.

MonkeyLearn uses machine learning-powered tools to automatically turn thousands of reviews into business improvements at scale and in real time.

Check out the app review template. It can break down reviews by topic, and further categorize by sentiment and intent. It also has the ability to discover feature requests, detect new bugs and issues, and learn what your users like and dislike about your app.

Once MonkeyLearn has analyzed your reviews, the information is centralized in an easy-to-view dashboard where you can view all of your insights:

Monkeylearn's all-in-one data visualization studio, which tracks and explores your data using text analysis to produce and display extensive insights.

To get a personalized dashboard with your own customer review insights, sign up to MonkeyLearn for your free demo.

3. How to Answer to Customer Reviews

So you've turned your reviews into insights - that's amazing! But, if customer satisfaction matters to you (which it should), there's still more to do.

How you follow up when a customer leaves a review can color how the customer views your brand just as much as your product, if not more, as they are getting a direct glimpse at the customer-facing personality of your company.

Now, there are two completely different approaches to responding to a negative review as opposed to a positive one.

To respond to positive reviews it's all about giving the customer space and showing your brand personality.

Your customer is already satisfied so no need to go over the top. Take a couple days, then follow up with something funny, quirky, or demonstrative of your brand values - but make it personalized. If it reads like a form letter the customer will feel like they aren't a priority.

The goal with positive reviews is ideally to:

a. incentivize future business with the customer and/or  b. showcase the review to attract others

For both you are going to have to go the extra mile. Throw the reviewer a discount code or other incentive, or just link them to some other products of yours you think they might like. Then, if all is going well, feel free to politely ask if you can showcase their review either on your website or social media.

Again, the name of the game here is space and personality.

To respond to negative reviews, time is of the essence.

It is imperative that your support team contact the customer - privately if at all possible - and try to remedy the issue as soon as possible.

Failing to do so can lead to that review staying up online for good. However, if you get to the customer on time, move the chat offline, and provide a solution, you can change an unhappy customer into a happy one due to your care and skill.

Fixing negative reviews is crucial to maintain good press for your brand online. That's why employing intelligent data analysis software that can stay on top of and detect issues the instant they occur is absolutely critical.

Takeaways: Get The Most Out of Your Customer Reviews with MonkeyLearn

Whether it's wrangling all of your reviews in the first place, or displaying them on a beautiful, customizable dashboard, Monkeylearn has the power and toolset to meet your needs.

The software also boasts an open-code library and a plethora of API integrations to ensure it works with your existing business apps.

Get the most out of your customer reviews and have one of our data experts custom-build a software model for your business today with a free demo, or jump right in and plug away with your free trial.

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