Gathering customer feedback, reviews and testimonials is essential to the success of your business. Customer feedback published on your website adds credibility to who you are and what you do and is a key way of setting you apart from your competition.

How do you get started with gathering the sort of feedback that’s going to help you, and how do you use that feedback to your advantage?

Doing Great Work

Before you can even begin to think about gathering feedback from your customers you’ll need to make sure that the work you’re doing is worthy of positive feedback. You need to do everything in your power so that the service you provide to every one of your customers is outstanding, exceeding their expectations and gaining their loyalty. Once you’ve accomplished this you’ll find that many of your clients will be more than happy to provide you with positive feedback.

Where to Post Customer Feedback

Reviews from customers can be posted on your own website, or on other websites which are independent of you, or you can use both. Independent review sites are used by potential clients to compare service providers and from there you hope they will click through to your website and engage your services. These sites are above accusation in that any reviews posted there are out of your hands and you can’t be accused of fabricating them. Having said that, anyone can create an account on one of these sites and post false reviews, good or bad.

The other approach is to have a testimonials section or page on your own website. In this case the potential client will have already found your website and then use the reviews posted there to make a decision on whether to utilise your services.

It’s probably a good idea to use a mix of the two approaches and you can even have a link on your own website which takes potential customers to an independent review site. This can however be counterproductive. The potential client leaves your website and may not return after they compare reviews from different service providers on the third party site.

I’ve tended to focus on driving people to my website through various digital marketing strategies, and then relying on my testimonials posted there to capture their attention. I do have reviews on third party sites, but these are only of value if those sites appear on the results page when people search for the product or service you provide. If you’re a local business then having reviews on Google My Business is particularly valuable as these listings appear towards the top of the search engine results page.

Gathering Customer Reviews

Now that you’ve decided where you’re going to collate your customer reviews, how do you go about gathering those reviews? The easiest way to do this is to follow up each job with an email, preferably on the same day or the following day at the latest. Of course people tend to be bombarded with emails asking for feedback or a service rating, and many of these are simply ignored and deleted. You have an advantage in that you’ve hopefully done an excellent job for the client, exceeded their expectations, and established a personal relationship with them in doing so.

Your follow-up email should be courteous and personalised. You can begin by thanking the client for the opportunity to assist them. Then provide a link where they can go to provide you with feedback. Don’t just ask them to reply to your email with their thoughts as they’re much less likely to do this.

If your preference is that they provide a review on a third party site then you can provide a link directly to that site. If, on the other hand, you want to collate the feedback on your own site then you will use a different approach.

Personally I use a short survey on SurveyMonkey, asking the client a couple of questions about my business and for ratings around the service provided and the value for money. I conclude with an open-ended question about whether they have any comments they’d like to make. If they choose to provide a comment they have the option to give their name and to specify whether they’d be happy for their comment to appear on my company website.

I’ve had a very satisfactory response rate using this approach and about one in five of my first-time customers have provided a comment for use on my website. I add every comment received to my testimonials page, without any editing for spelling or grammar. This adds credibility as people read a wide range of comments provided by different people.

Customer feedback is crucial to the success of your business. We live in a competitive world and who better to publicise your business than those who have benefited from the service you’ve provided? Make the best use you can of customer feedback to get ahead of the competition.