Why most of your customers don’t leave reviews of your business (and what to do about it)

In this post

  • How many customers actually leave reviews online?
  • What motivates your customers to leave a review?
  • How to get reviews from more customers
  • What about customers who don’t leave reviews no matter what?

In today’s always online world, it feels like everyone has an opinion to share and an online megaphone to share it with. But while it’s true that everyone does have an opinion, fewer people share them online than some might realize.

For anyone who owns their own business, of course, this should come as no surprise. Getting consistent reviews can feel like a monumental task for even the hottest spot in town. All too often it can feel like after spending your week helping hundreds of happy customers, you’ll still only end up with a handful of 1 star reviews.

Looking for ways to get chosen by more customers looking for businesses like yours? Womply’s reputation management software can help. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

The power and importance of online review sites isn’t up for debate. So what’s a small business owner to do? Let’s start by looking at how people behave online.

How many customers actually leave reviews on review sites?

Getting a review from a happy customer might sound easy on the surface. But the truth is, a customer has several hurdles to clear before posting a review.

First, you have to make the customer happy (the easy part). Next, you have to hope they already have an account set up for a review site. Don’t bank on even the happiest customer taking the time to set up a new account just for you.

Finally, even if the customer already has an account on a review site, it’s unlikely they write reviews for any business.

In a study about online user behavior, Jakob Nielsen named this phenomenon “the 90-9-1 rule.” Put simply, the rule states:

  • 90% of online users are lurkers (they read or observe, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute intermittently
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions

The 90-9-1 rule is familiar to anyone who works in social media marketing or related fields, but what does it really mean? Does it mean that only 1% of your customers are likely to leave a review of your business?

Not quite.

Which customers are likely to leave a review of your business?

To learn more about how the 90-9-1 rule and how it might impact local businesses, we decided to reach out to Bill Johnston, an online community expert and the founder of Structure3C, who gave us some valuable insight pulled from his over 20 years of experience.

Here’s what Bill had to say:

“The 90-9-1 rule is one of the most often quoted and misunderstood ‘rules of thumb’ for social.

Far too many people hear the rule and then assume, “Okay, so only 1% or 9% of my customers are the ones who will leave a review of my pizza place.” Which isn’t the case.

The 90-9-1 rule tells us 1% of users online generate a ton of the internet’s content, but to think that only 1% or 9% of your customers are willing to leave a review of your business misses the point of Nielsen’s findings and sets you up for failure.

The fact is, there are 2 sets of motivating factors for people to contribute online:

1) Intrinsic — When the customer is motivated by altruism. They had a good experience, or liked you personally, or simply want to help other “people like them” find something great.

2) Extrinsic — When the user is acknowledged, rewarded or compensated

Going even deeper, though, I believe one of the following experiences is what motivates a customer to leave a review:

  • They’re really frustrated
  • They’ve been delighted
  • They genuinely want to help others
  • They feel passionate about the topic or product, and see themselves as a tastemaker
  • They are compensated or rewarded

My advice to local businesses would be to think less about the 90-9-1 rule and more about how likely their customers are to have one of the types of experiences above.”

What to do if you’re having a hard time getting reviews from your customers

As Bill explained above, it’s important for business owners to be aware of the 90-9-1 rule. But it’s even more important to understand what it means.

Yes, the majority of your customers will be online ‘lurkers,’ and thus unlikely to leave a review of your business. Still, you should always start by thinking about why a customer would leave a review.

Take Bill’s motivators above and then ask yourself these questions about them:

  • When and why are my customers feeling frustrated, and can I head off that frustration turning into a bad review?
  • When and why are my customers feeling delighted, and are there things I can do to help them share their delight?
  • Why might a customer feel motivated to help me or my business?
  • Who would feel passionate about my business and why? Are there connoisseurs who want to be associated with your brand, or be seen as an insider for discovering or promoting your business?
  • It’s against the rules to buy or offer something in exchange for reviews, but how can I show customers how leaving a review could result in a better customer experience?

Starting with customer motivators is an extremely effective way to put your business in a position to get reviews. Use them as methods to identify areas for improvement or emphasis.

This will help you find even more success when following our tips on how to get more reviews for your business like: using signage, making verbal requests, creating direct links to your review sites, and replying to all your reviews.

Plus, recent research from Womply shows that businesses that regularly respond to their online business reviews earn up to 49% more revenue!

What about customers who still won’t leave a review of your business?

While the 90-9-1 rule is often misunderstood and misused, it does still contain helpful insights. For example, no matter how hard you try, there will always be a significant number of users who simply will not leave a review online.

But just because a customer doesn’t want to leave a review doesn’t mean they don’t want you to know about their experience. And, of course, few things are more valuable to a business owner than understanding their customers.

Another helpful takeaway from the 90-9-1 rule is that you can’t rely on online reviews to understand how your customers actually feel. It’s why big businesses spend millions to survey and analyze their customers to know what’s working and what’s not.

It’s also why every small, local business should have a system to get direct feedback from all of their customers. Whether they’re someone who will leave an online review or not.

Why direct feedback works

Direct feedback avoids many of the hurdles that prevent customers from posting on review sites. Signing up for an account, privacy issues, and not wanting to attach reviews to a personal profile — none of these prevent a customer from submitting direct feedback about their experience.

You’ll also find customers are more willing to provide “feedback” about their experience than a “review” of your business.

Direct feedback can help prevent potential negative reviews

Many business owners can testify—few things will motivate a customer to leave an online review like a negative experience. Providing an avenue for direct feedback can go a long way to prevent that.

Yes, some customers take to review sites simply to air grievances. But many others feel it’s their only option to resolve a bad experience. Instead, giving a direct feedback option gives an upset customer a much more effective method to share their frustrating experience with you.

Some customers will ultimately still take to review sites, but you’ll be surprised at how many more would much prefer to “take it offline.”

Direct feedback can lead to more good reviews

A good direct feedback program can also help bring in more positive reviews for your business.

First, it helps all your customers feel valued, listened to, and respected. Few things are more frustrating for customers than a business who takes them for granted. The simple act of asking “how was your experience today?” speaks volumes.

Second, gathering as much feedback as possible gives you a better idea about what is and is not working. This can help you focus on expanding the most popular parts of your business and improve areas causing frustration.

Finally, if you’re using a direct feedback program that involves two-way communication (via email, etc), you can respond to positive feedback with a direct link to your review sites. Which makes it easier than ever for your happiest customers to leave you a review.

Easily create a direct feedback program with reputation management software

Putting together a direct feedback program can feel overwhelming for a lot of business owners. It’s hard to know how to start, or to find the time to put it in action. That’s why more and more businesses have turned to solutions like Womply’s reputation management software to do the heavy lifting for them.

Womply allows business owners to easily send an email to customers with a link to submit direct feedback about their experience. And because this solution was built with small business owners in mind, you won’t need to worry about setting up confusing systems or signing up for expensive or complicated survey programs.

Womply can help your business turn your happiest customers into your biggest online champions. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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