Customer reviews are vital to the success of your small business. The more you have, the better you’ll look, both in terms of the quality of service you provide and the loyalty of your customer base.

Not only that, but they will lead to new customers and, hopefully, increased reviews. Consider that 90 percent of online consumers will read a review of a product or a shop before they buy or shop. Even more telling, about 80 percent of consumers trust those online reviews.

It can be difficult, however, to coerce those reviews from your customers. It may be tempting to do the obvious: to offer an incentive to them, like a discount or small token, if they provide a review for your business. Bribing someone—which is essentially what that is—is never the way to go, however. It’s simply unethical.

There are ways you can get your customers to say nice things about you, and there are ways to make a negative review work in your favor. Here are a few:

  • Claim your business page on the various review sites. It’s fairly simple. For many review sites, like Yelp, all you have to do is prove you own the business. From there, you can respond to review, add information to your listing, photos, etc. The bonus for all that activity is that it will also help your SEO rating.
  • Respond to reviews as quickly and consistently as you can. Once your customer know you’re out there, they’ll expect you to pay attention. Be sure to thank them for positive reviews and handle any negative ones quickly, fairly—and openly. Good or bad, a review will help you build a relationship with customers old and new.
  • Give them plenty of options. Don’t rely on Yelp or any of the other review sites. Ask for reviews on your Facebook page, web page, and other social media sites. Don’t limit your customers.
  • Lean on your staff. Make sure they know how important reviews are to your business, and get them to ask customers at points of contact, too. Sometimes, a request for a review will be received better from a smiling employee than it would a business owner.
  • Just ask. When in doubt, just ask. You’d be surprised at how willing many customers are to provide a positive word about a place they frequent. You can do it bluntly, by asking in the shop, or passively, by telling them about your social media channels, describing what they will find there and throwing in a “you can leave a review there, too.”
  • Always provide exceptional service. That’s a no-brainer, right?
  • Use a survey. A quick survey will help you gather all sorts of data. You can include an open ended section at the end with a simple question like: Do you have any other feedback? Those comments can be used as quotes in online reviews and marketing materials, which brings us to our final point…
  • Use the reviews you have. By showcasing the positive comments, you allow customers to engage with your business. When new customers see how important the opinions of loyal customers are, they’ll be more inclined to join the chorus.

How do you gather customer reviews? Let us know in the comments!