Think twice before setting up a “review station” in your firm!

I talked to an attorney this week who wanted to get some more reviews posted online from happy clients following the completion of their legal services.

He was thinking about setting up a “Review Station” in the firm where clients could spend a few minutes at one of 5 dedicated computers he would set up in the office and leave feedback about their attorneys before leaving.  He felt this would get around the issue of clients forgetting to review the firm when they got home… and that the reviews would be mostly favorable because he was “striking while the iron was hot” when clients were pleased with their service.

While in theory the idea of having a review station or a few dedicated iPads in the office for reviews is a great plan, it’s just not doable.  Why? You run the risk of not getting your reviews published, or worse, your entire account shut down.

The idea of “Review Stations” is nothing new to Google.  One business owner recently wrote the following post in the “help” section online:

“We work really hard at doing the right things with our customers and in doing so we feel we earn the right to ask for them to review us on Google Places.  As of 2 weeks ago our reviews stopped showing up.  We offer the use of our computers to make it convenient for the customer to write a review.  Are we being penalized for having reviews come from the same IP address?  We do business with thousands of people every month, so it is not unreasonable to have a very small percentage actually leave us excellent reviews.”

The Google team had a swift response to why reviews may not be showing up anymore:

There have been a lot of questions about reviews lately in the forum, and we wanted to address some of the more common ones.

1. Where did my reviews go?

Edit, December 12: Please note that the Review content policy now states that business owners or employees should not review their own businesses. We also discourage review stations or kiosks set up at your business location that are solely for soliciting reviews.

The same information is also found on the Review Guidelines for Google Plus.  The “conflict of interest” subheading specifically mentions Review Stations again by name:

  • Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.

Sites like Yelp are even STRICTER about soliciting for online reviews.  They discourage the mere act of ASKING for reviews.  You can read more about that HERE.

Policies such as these have been put in place to stop folks from gaming the system.  A recent study shows that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation.  It is important for the Googles and Yelps of the world to put safeguards in place to help ensure people are only reading accurate and unbiased reviews of the companies they are investigating.

So, what’s a business owner to do?  How can you get more reviews without getting in trouble?

1.     Don’t think you can get around this.   It can be tempting to think you can “trick” the system and Google, Yelp, etc. would never know.  Reviews are tracked by IP addresses, so if multiple reviews are coming from one computer, there is a chance that all of your great reviews will suddenly disappear or your account will get shut down all together.  I have seen this happen!  Don’t take the chance, it’s not worth it!

2.     Make it easy as possible for people who ARE willing to leave you a review on their own time.   We make sure to put icons to review sites such as Google + and Yelp on one central page on our clients’ websites.  There is nothing wrong with telling people that you have a page where it’s really easy to leave their feedback with one click of a button.  When it’s easy to do and minimally time consuming, clients are more apt to take the time to help you.

3.     Keep an eye on your profiles.  While it may take you time to gather a bunch of great organic reviews, one bad review from a cranky client or prospect can really tarnish your online marketing efforts.  Take the time to watch out for such posts and respond whenever possible so that other people reading the review can see that you addressed the situation and that perhaps the reviewer was just a bad egg!

As long as you keep within the Terms of Service, online reviews are definitely something you WANT and need.  Again, it’s no secret that prospects often read such reviews before making a buying decision, so the more great ones you have, the better!  Just be sure to ask for them in an ethical way to protect your accounts and the integrity of your firm.


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