What Is Review Gating?
Did you know that customers are willing to spend 31% more on a business with positive reviews? While this stat is encouraging, many businesses let it lead them down the wrong path to review gating.
Review gating is the practice of creating filters between a customer and their ability to write a review for your product or service. It’s a method of controlling your online reviews to ensure that only ‘positive’ feedback makes it through to your profile, and it can be a very dangerous problem from a reputation management angle.
Review gating impacts businesses in several ways:
It skews ratings and reviews towards the more positive side, making them less accurate overall.
It misleads potential customers by providing an inaccurate representation of what kind of experience they might have with you.
It can lead to mistrust from customers who find out about your practices and may not want to do business with you because of them.
It hinders your business’s ability to get constructive feedback and find out where to improve your services.
In this article, we’ll cover the risks related to review gating, why it’s considered unethical and what you can to do to get better and more authentic reviews overall.
Signpost is used by thousands of small service businesses to build a trusted online reputation. Let us show you how our review software works.
Risks Related to Review Gating
Review sites have begun to crack down on review gating, removing all reviews from a business that has been caught gating reviews. These platforms want to make sure that the reviews being written are genuine, and not manipulated by a business requesting them.
While this practice of review gating is often done with good intentions, it can lead to ratings that don’t accurately reflect the customer experience and can even lead to account restrictions on review platforms.
Cherry-picking your customer reviews by soliciting private feedback so only the positive ones are posted online is considered against the review guidelines of Google My Business (renamed to Google Business Profile) and other review platforms. For this reason, Google might remove all reviews from your profile if they suspect you are review gating, attracting fake reviews or going against their policies.
Review gating also affects other review platforms that are working hard to maintain the integrity of their reviews. Yelp, for example, uses automated software that looks for patterns in reviews, and businesses that ask for reviews only after exceptional or positive experiences will be flagged as soliciting reviews, which is against their terms of service.
You also risk losing the trust of your customers when they realize that you are only publishing positive reviews.
Finally, you could miss out on important feedback from your customers that would help improve your business operations and customer service.
A much better approach is to respond to both positive and negative reviews in a timely fashion and try to solve any problems that may arise from the latter.
Why Google Reviews Prohibits Review Gating
Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. A part of achieving this goal is presenting customers with real experiences from real people when they’re searching for your business on Google.
Source: Google My Business
Because of that, Google doesn’t allow businesses to collect reviews for a product or service that wasn’t provided or ones that are also overly positive and paint the wrong picture.
Google is aware that businesses often use review gating in an attempt to get more positive reviews, but it’s important to note that this practice leads to a biased set of reviews that aren’t actually representative of customers’ real experiences at a business.
If you receive a review from a customer with a negative experience on your profile page, you should follow Google’s policy for responding to reviews instead of removing or ‘burying’ the review through review gating.
Instead, Google My Business encourages its users to collect authentic customer reviews for their local businesses so their consumers can make well-guided buying decisions.
How to Properly Attain Customer Reviews
Today, consumers are savvier than ever. They know when a business is being less than genuine about their products or services. This is especially true of customer reviews. Buyers will see through staged reviews, which can lead to a decline in sales and cause reputational harm.
Including good reviews helps to increase customer confidence in your brand or business. It shows that you have a track record of delivering high-quality service or products.
Including the bad experiences from unhappy customers also helps increase customer confidence. Customers want to see that you are an honest business that is willing to take feedback on board and improve. It also indicates that you are not hiding any negative feedback from potential customers.
Here are a couple of ways you can get started.
Ask ALL of your customers for feedback.
Great service does not always mean a profitable company. As a business owner, you need to learn from your customers and make changes based on the feedback you get from them. It shouldn’t all be about the 5-star ratings your small business gets.
The first step is to find out what your customers are telling you about your products and services through customer reviews. Include both positive and negative reviews in this process. You can use this information to make changes that help increase sales and profits.
The second step is to collect feedback from all of your customers, not just the ones whom you send review requests to. For example, you can ask customers for their email addresses or phone numbers after providing a service. Then, send them an email or SMS as part of your post-sales process, asking them to tell you what they think about your business. This will help you gauge how well your service meets their needs.
In addition to collecting feedback, it is also important to keep track of it so that you can see if there is any improvement over time in customer satisfaction levels or sales volume. If there are any problems with your product or service, this will help you identify those problems early on before they turn into major issues that could negatively impact your business’s bottom line.
Send emails to your customers asking them to rate their experience.
As mentioned in the previous tip, sending emails is a great way to get in touch with customers and leverage their inputs.
Emails can be used at various stages of the customer relationship:
After a consultation
After using a product or service
While using a product or service
Sending emails to customers gives you some advantages over other forms of customer feedback.
It doesn’t take as much time and effort. You can send out 10 or even 100 times more emails than you could have conversations with customers. By asking questions in your emails, you are able to cover more ground than if you just had a conversation.
It’s cheaper than other methods, such as surveys done by phone. If you’re on a limited budget this is an important consideration.
Here’s a sample template you can use:
“Hello [customer name]!
We hope you are happy with the [latest service provided]. We would like to hear from you about your experience with us. Please help us improve by responding to this email with any comments or suggestions for our team.
Thank you so much for your time and feedback,
The [Business Name] Team”
Use a review management software to automate parts of the process.
A review management software like Signpost automates part of the process by sending feedback forms to customers at different stages of the customer journey.
With review management software, you can automate processes such as:
Sending feedback forms and collecting reviews from happy customers (and unhappy ones too.)
Asking for reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other platforms.
Sending notifications to your team when you receive a negative review.
Responding to reviews written on different platforms.
With a review management tool, you can also analyze the collected data and use it for other purposes:
To understand the strengths and weaknesses of your business.
To understand what works well with your customers and what doesn’t work so well.
To make improvements in your products or services based on customer feedback.
Generate Authentic Online Reviews from Real Customers with Signpost
Signpost helps businesses with online reputation management. We provide a complete review management solution that includes tools for generating new reviews, and monitoring and responding to reviews on Google, Yelp and other platforms.
Signpost stands against review gating, as it is against Google’s policy and many other review platforms. Our goal is to help businesses generate authentic online reviews from real customers. You already have customers who love you—we just help you reach them at the right time to ask for a review.
In the long run, this can help your business rank higher through search engine optimization (SEO), grow your review volume and boost your average star rating.
If you need review management software for your business without the headache, Signpost is a cost-effective solution. Request a demo today.