When your potential customers go looking for the types of products and services that you offer, they want to know more than how much you charge.
They also want to know what kind of service you offer, and they want to get an idea for what kind of experience they will have with your business.
They don’t want to find out the hard way that a company offers terrible service and a terrible product. Therefore, they go looking for information about what others have had to say.
The two most common sources of this information online are testimonials and reviews.
However, when it comes to the battle of testimonials vs. reviews, there is clearly one winner for 2016: Reviews.
How Customers Feel about Testimonials
Testimonials may be favored by companies, but they are not received the same way by customers.
Companies like testimonials because they show off the best of what their customers have had to say about them. The testimonials are easy to host on the site, and companies can control what information appears there.
Yet that is the very reason why testimonials are not received as well by customers. They know that the companies control that information, and they know that companies won’t put negative comments on that page — even if a large number of customers have had negative experiences.
Some may even suspect companies of editing the testimonials or making them up completely.
Even if you are totally honest and include every good and bad comment without edit, your customers may still suspect that there is more that you’re not including. So if you have a negative or neutral comment or two on the page, your customers may think you are hiding much worse.
Why You Should Switch to Reviews
Reviews, on the other hand, are completely unbiased.
Customers have complete control over what goes into the reviews, and they are hosted on third-part sites who have no incentive to change that content. Potential customers know this, and they trust reviews more than they trust testimonials.
Reviews are also among the only information that appears in Google Plus listings of your business. Your customers will see your business name, contact information, and your reviews.
If you have a lot of negative reviews, they will appear instantly and make a big influence on your potential customers. Likewise for positive reviews.
It is incredibly important that you provide the best product and service you can to get as many positive reviews as you can.
How to Handle Reviews
The best thing you can do is replace your testimonials page with a page that points to your off-site reviews.
Introduce the page with a short paragraph or two asking customers to read what your previous customers have had to say about your products and services. Make sure that you code everything to open in a new tab when it is clicked so that you don’t lose customers from your site. (If they have to navigate their way back, they may just not bother.)
Organize your reviews page so that the most important sites appear first. For example, Google reviews should go right at the top. The organization of other sites, like Yelp or Angie’s List, will depend on the type of industry you are in. Some industries have their own review sites — like Angie’s List for contractors — and those sites should have priority.
Actively encourage your current and former customers to leave reviews on these sites. At the end of each transaction, include a link to the review site with a note asking customers to write a few words about their experience. You could even offer some sort of incentive for doing so, such as a code for a discount on their next purchase. (Just make sure the incentive is given without knowing the content of the review or you could be accused of impropriety.)
Send postcards or emails to previous customers asking them to review your business, as well. Again, some gesture of goodwill like a discount code might be enough to get them to act. You don’t have to make the discount contingent on leaving the review. Some may just appreciate the gesture and be more inclined to respond to request as a result.
You can get better reviews by offering exceptional products and services, of course, but you can also get better reviews by ensuring that you are reaching the right traffic. Otherwise, you run the risk of trying to sell to customers who do not really need your products or services. For ultimate customer satisfaction, you need to reach the people for whom your product or service is providing a solution or a benefit.
Let 2016 be the year that your website gets phenomenal results for you. Start by getting rid of your testimonial page and replacing it with a reviews page. Then look for other ways you can improve it.