Of course you want to know what you customers think of you! As a business, the number one priority is to give the customer what they want, and no one can give you that information except your customers. It’s not enough to simply study your audience’s behavior to decide your next marketing venture; sometimes the best way forward is to stick with the age-old method of asking directly. Just keep in mind that this invaluable data can only be collected with a gentle touch, so it’s important to ask and not demand. And that means letting the customer send their feedback without trying to nudge them toward the positive. It’s not as subtle as you think, and it comes across as extremely dishonest or even thuggish.
Ultimately any email you send to your customers regarding feedback comes down to this: you’re asking them to perform an action, and it’s important that they understand that it’s their choice. Once your initial transaction is completed, a customer owes nothing to the business with whom they dealt. While this next example from the New York Democratic Committee isn’t a business per se, the letter they sent recently urging members of the Democratic Party to vote was written in the worst possible way: “Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is public record,” which was later followed by “We will be reviewing voting records . . . to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.” This is most definitely not the way to convince any form of action, especially an action that is completely voluntary. Even worse, the letter ends with this gem: “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not.”
So what can businesses learn from this? First and foremost, your customers cannot be bullied into liking your company, and likewise they cannot be bullied into writing stellar reviews. If you want wonderful reviews, then you have to be a wonderful company that inspires its customers to speak up on your behalf. Tell them that their feedback and reviews will be greatly appreciated, but don’t attach a prize or incentive for them to do so. Any such action will come across as a bribe, which makes any positive review or comment they make look like a bribe…and you can be sure someone will mention your incentive in a public space. If customer reviews and comments cannot be trusted, then the company cannot be trusted. At this point you might be tempted to have comments regarding these incentives deleted, and that’s never where you want to end up.
A lesson to take home: Your actions and reputation as a company is at the mercy of your customers, especially in the online sphere. Do not attempt to manipulate your image by manipulating customer feedback. Honesty from them means honesty from you.