As anyone running their own company knows, getting great online reviews these days is super important for attracting new customers and growing your business. But we’ve all been there — you give a customer great service and then cross your fingers, hoping they’ll take a minute to leave you some love on Google, Facebook, or Trustpilot.
You may have seen more and more businesses straight up asking customers to give them 5 stars before they leave. You likely get the temptation – those extra stars could really help boost your visibility and sales.
But is directly asking for 5-star reviews crossing a line? Are there rules against it, or could you get in trouble?
Those are some of the questions I’m hoping to explore in this article. We’ll look at what the major review sites like Google allow when it comes to soliciting consumer feedback.
I’ll also talk about some of the ethical issues around asking customers to rate you, plus how to do it the right way if you decide to give it a shot. By the end, my goal is for you to have a better idea of whether asking for reviews directly could help your business or land you in hot water.
1. Potential for Coercion If Customers Feel Obligated to Leave Good Reviews
One of the big ethical issues with directly asking customers for reviews is the potential for coercion. Like, imagine you’re a customer and you just got some service from a business. Then as you’re leaving, they’re all like “Hey, before you go, can you leave us a 5-star review on Google?”
Putting a customer on the spot like that could make them feel obligated to give a glowing review, even if the experience wasn’t that great. And that’s not fair to the customer or authentic for other people reading the reviews.
Reviews are supposed to be willingly given feedback that helps future customers make informed decisions. But if businesses are pressuring people into only posting positives, then reviews stop being a useful tool.
At the end of the day, customers should feel comfortable leaving any kind of review, whether it’s a rave or needs some work, without worrying about upsetting the business owner.
2. Reviews Not Reflecting Genuine Customer Experience
Another thing to consider is that reviews should truly reflect what the customer thought about their experience, not just exist to pump up the business’s numbers.
A positive review that doesn’t portray someone’s true experience could be one from:
- An incentivized user, either one who has or hasn’t bought your product or service
- Your staff or business partners
- People close to you, like family and friends
- Someone who doesn’t exist (a totally made-up reviewer)
Reviews exist to help future customers decide if they want to purchase from a business. And they’re only useful for that purpose if they’re a genuine representation of how people really felt after interacting with that company.
If reviews only exist to help the business gather as much dishonest feedback as possible, then they stop serving their actual purpose. It becomes more about marketing than providing an honest assessment.
And that’s not fair to other customers who are taking the time to read reviews, wanting to get a real sense of whether a business is worth buying from. They deserve to see an accurate portrayal so they can feel confident in their purchasing decisions.
3. Selective Solitication
One other thing businesses have to be careful of is only asking their most satisfied customers to leave reviews. Because that can skew the overall picture that people get.
Like, let’s say you run a restaurant. Of course, you’re gonna focus on getting glowing reviews from the tables that had a great meal and awesome service. But if the only reviews out there are from those super happy customers, it doesn’t show people what the full experience could be like.
There might be lots of customers who had a just okay time, or even a not-so-great visit. But if you don’t get their chance for feedback too, then reviews just end up being one big love fest and that’s not realistic.
Potential customers deserve to see the full range of experiences, whether the reviewer had an amazing five-star time or thought it was just average. This feedback also helps your business know where to improve.
Is It Legal to Ask for 5-Star Reviews?
When it comes to getting reviews for your business, you need to be careful about following the law. There are some serious legal issues you could run into if you’re not paying attention.
For one thing, if reviews are misleading or flat-out false, that can be seen as false advertising. And nobody wants to get in trouble for that. The FTC also has some guidelines about endorsements and testimonials — a recent proposal is that you can’t pay someone to say something they don’t believe or suppress honest negative reviews.
Exchanging compensation for reviews could also be considered deceptive, especially if you don’t disclose it. Like if you give someone a big discount or gift card just to post a five-star review, that kind of undermines the credibility. It’s one thing to reward loyalty, but paying for reviews directly opens up a can of legal worms.
In other words, it’s not against the law to encourage users to leave a 5-star review of your business as long as they’re free to do it willingly. Be sure not to forcefully ask anyone to do so or engage in deceptive review-gathering practices like incentivizing users (mostly paying them but also in some cases, giving discounts or offering free products).
Best Practices for Getting 5-Star Reviews
1. Focus on Excellent Customer Service over Review Numbers
You know, one of the best things businesses can do is focus more on actually providing excellent customer service, rather than just worrying about their review numbers all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, good reviews are great for attracting new customers. But if a company’s main priority is chasing after five-star ratings, it can take away from the real customer experience. Customers see right through that.
Instead of hounding people for feedback after every transaction, businesses should just concentrate on genuinely taking good care of customers when they come in. Go above and beyond to make people happy and satisfied. That’s how you’ll naturally get more positive word-of-mouth over time.
If a business has a reputation for treating customers right every single time, good reviews will follow. And it’s a lot more authentic than just begging people online afterward. People notice when customer service feels forced or inauthentic.
Plus, customers will keep coming back because they know they’ll get a great experience. Loyal repeat customers who feel valued – that’s real, long-term success that isn’t so superficial or dependent on review metrics.
2. Read the Review Platform’s Guidelines
When you’re trying to get reviews for your business, one really important thing is to make sure you read all the guidelines and rules for the specific review sites and platforms you’re using.
Whether it’s Google Business, Facebook, Trustpilot, Yelp, TrustRadius, BBB, or whatever – they all have different policies about how reviews should be solicited and handled. And you don’t want to do something that could get your business in trouble or even banned from that site.
Some places have really strict rules about not offering any compensation for reviews. Others say you can give incentives, but have to disclose it. And the way you can respond to reviews is usually limited too.
So, before asking customers to leave feedback anywhere, do your homework and read through the fine print. Make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t allowed. Better to do it the right way from the beginning than get on the wrong side of their policies along the way.
3. Utilize Review Cards
Review cards or stickers can be a pretty smart way to encourage customers to leave feedback for your business. Especially in this digital age where everyone has their phone out all the time.
Things like NFC-enabled business cards and tags make it super easy for people to just tap and go straight to writing a review, right there and then. No extra steps are needed.
You can put up NFC or QR-based Google or Facebook review stickers in your store or office to give customers a visual reminder to review you while it’s fresh on their minds. Another idea is to hand out cards or stickers as little thank-you gifts while customers leave.
It’s a nice way to get that review request across to customers without directly asking them, which can sometimes put pressure on people. Making it simple and convenient helps boost the likelihood someone will take a minute to share their thoughts about your brand.
Read about the top Google review cards that I recommend.
In the end, the consensus seems to be that while you can ask customers to leave a review of their experience, insisting, compensating, or forcefully asking for a 5-star rating crosses an ethical line.
You should also avoid asking for reviews from people who haven’t bought your product or service. Reviews are meant to be honest feedback, not guaranteed positive propaganda.
Businesses that pressure or incentivize perfect scores risk damaging their credibility with readers. A single negative review also won’t sink your business as customers understand that not every experience can be perfect.
The best approach is to focus on delivering excellent service and leaving the review part up to the customer. Thank them for their business and time, and encourage them to share their honest thoughts if they feel inclined.
With genuine happy customers as your foundation, positive reviews will come naturally over time as a result of real satisfaction, not forced compliance.