G2’s own Director of Product Management, Rachel Bentley, dishes her secrets on driving valuable user reviews and forming trust with buyers with user-generated content (UGC).
Rachel shares why reviews are critical to business success, how to ensure users leave quality feedback, and what you need to know about the inner workings of a strong review collection strategy.
Key takeaways from this interview:
- You can’t ignore the power of reviews. Reviews help influence buying decisions, and buyers trust them more than anything.
- Not all reviews are built the same. You should strive to collect quality reviews that tell a story and provide important context for other users.
- Review collection is all about convenience. Make sure you are asking users the right questions in the right place.
- Commit to your strategy. Embrace all feedback, including the negative, and open multiple avenues of collection to keep reviews coming in on a regular basis.
Interview with Rachel Bentley
Brittany King: Hi Rachel! Thanks again for carving out time for me today. It’s always exciting to talk to a subject matter expert, let alone one you get to work with every day!
For those who don’t have the pleasure of working with you, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at G2?
Rachel Bentley: Hi, of course! I'm Rachel Bentley, Director of Product Management here at G2. I focus on the user journey to connect buyers with the right software to scale their business.
As a director of product, I lead the buyer experience team which focuses on creating transparency and building trust with buyers through user-generated content. I have eleven years of experience in optimizing conversion, although I prefer to call it optimizing confidence.
I wake up every day with a mission to collect great data that will power confident buying decisions and improve software purchasing at scale.
BK: Confident buying decisions - that’s a great way to put it. Today’s buyers like to be informed so they can trust their purchase. And user reviews seem to heavily influence those buying decisions.
Actually, I recently saw a stat that 91% of 18 to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Why do you think reviews are more important now than ever before?
RB: Users depend on reviews to learn about a product. This is either supplemental or to replace information provided by a website.
I personally like using the example of purchasing a refrigerator. Say you've never bought a fridge before and you see a lot of reviews featuring the word “loud”. Maybe you didn't know that factor was important before, but now you certainly know that you don't want a loud fridge.
You can learn about what's important to you by reading reviews and evaluating products based on qualifications and then crowdsource your confidence that what you're seeing is actually what you're going to get.
We've all seen the expectation vs. reality memes. These are funny takes but we don't want products we invest in, whether physical or software, to not meet our expectations.
Trust is also so important. A brand website will always tell you what you want to hear.
“So how can you feel confident to trust that product claims are real? Reviews.”
Director of Product Management at G2
BK: That’s true. When I shop online I always scroll through the reviews to make sure the product claims are accurate. If a website says a pair of shoes has a lot of cushion, I want to see if other customers can confirm it.
However, I’ve also fallen victim to super unhelpful product reviews with not enough detail or context. It’s one thing to have reviews, but it’s another to have quality reviews.
What factors help make a quality review?
RB: The factors that make a quality review are fourfold.
The first factor is authenticity. The good and the bad - the real. What really happened? No one wants us to hand out a participation trophy for leaving a review without important details.
I'll use a restaurant review as an example: “The food was great, but a rat ran across my feet during the meal.” The second part of that review is really important and changes the meaning and importance of the first. So authentic reviews of your entire experience are so important for other users so they can ask, “Is this the right fit for me? Is this the right experience for me?”
The second factor is grammar. Word of mouth is the best advertisement, right? Well, the difference between word of mouth and reviews is judgment. Judgment of spelling and grammar.
You don't want to see a review that's riddled with errors. You want to make sure that others can take this review seriously because the content of the review is really important and shouldn't be diminished if someone made a spelling error. So how can you help with grammar and spelling while a user is leaving a review so it’s not full of errors?
The third factor is depth. I refer to length and depth as completely different things. The highlights of an experience, the important features, the storytelling - that's depth. What are the important details to get your experience across in storytelling?
But it’s not a novel. Think about an email you get that's fifteen paragraphs long. You don't necessarily want to read that entire thing, you want bullet points on exactly what's happening in the message. That's what resonates with the user.
And the fourth factor is recency. 86% of users only look at reviews from the last three months. Quality, in this instance, refers to the recency of the reviews. Because the more recent a review is, the more relevant it will be for users.
What makes a good user review?
- Authenticity: In-depth, honest feedback - the good and the bad
- Grammar: Coherent reviews other users will take seriously
- Depth: Reviews that tell a story and provide valuable context
- Recency: Relevant reviews that are current and fresh
BK: Oh absolutely, I don’t even consider buying a product if the most recent review is from a year ago. I’m also picky about how many reviews a product has.
Some companies are really far along in their review strategy and have thousands of reviews on multiple platforms. Other brands have very little, or none at all. I imagine that getting to a point where you have a solid bank of reviews seems overwhelming for some brands.
Where should companies begin with review collection? And what do you think defines a good review collection strategy?
RB: Ask everyone. Don't cherry-pick. Don't have seasonality and don't ask for reviews just around report season.
“Ask every single person that's used your product to leave a review. And then ask again.”
Director of Product Management at G2
Consistently ask users for feedback so that they're also used to giving you feedback iteratively. Ask for review updates. Just because someone left a review a year ago doesn't mean that their feedback is no longer relevant. Ask how they're feeling now. That shows brand loyalty and longevity with a specific brand.
You're also providing customer service, anyway. Maybe someone had a poor experience with your product, so ask for review updates after you've given that great customer service.
And use all avenues available to you for collecting reviews. Just like how you and I learned to solve math problems differently, what prompts us to leave feedback may be different as well. So exhausting all possible ways to collect reviews will be the best way to ensure you have that coverage and continue to have the volume of reviews and continue to gather reviews.
Again, collect reviews where it's convenient for the user. Let G2 and your company do the lifting and not ask the user to make new accounts on multiple platforms in order to leave feedback. In other words, how can we make this easier and frictionless for them to tell us how we're doing?
BK: Reviews on third-party sites are super important for when buyers are in the research stage. But there are obviously other ways companies can utilize their user reviews, other than just letting them sit on third-party sites for buyers to discover.
How else can companies leverage their user reviews?
RB: Companies should leverage their reviews by treating them as data. Data, data, data. Codify your feedback.
Even in five-star reviews, there are “I wish” statements from users explaining the gaps in your functionality.
There are opportunities to learn trends in your reviews for where you should be investing in your business next, where there's white space, or maybe where your competitors are beating you out.
By learning from democratized feedback you can invest in smart growth of your company. Reviews can be used just like they are on the site in social media assets, case studies, and within marketing materials depending on who you are targeting or what your goal is.
BK: So you want to collect quality reviews that not only help other users, but also help drive business decisions. How can companies encourage customers to leave in-depth, honest feedback?
RB: Make it convenient! Make it easy for someone to leave you feedback, whether it's by using binary questions or not asking them to fill out a census-worth of information. Moreover, you need to catch them at the right time and place when they're actually using the product.
Think about the last time you got a food delivery and received a text right after. Was the food hot? Was it on time? How was the driver? All of those questions are relevant at exactly the right time.
Having multiple avenues of collection is really helpful for collecting and getting more in-depth and honest feedback because you're basically providing more methods to collect so that you can get different types of audiences to leave feedback.
“There is no single way of asking for feedback that works for every user.”
Director of Product Management at G2
Don't just ask for reviews around report season, either. Users notice that. Keep the flow of reviews coming in to improve your coverage and not have huge spikes and huge valleys based on seasonality.
BK: You keep mentioning the word convenient, so clearly this is an important factor of review collection. But even if the process of leaving a review is simple, companies still fear they’re going to catch users at a “bad time” and end up with an onslaught of negative reviews.
How can companies make the process easier? And when is the best time to ask a user for a review?
RB: Ask users to leave reviews consistently and in the moment. You can't predict someone's bad day.
“The best time to ask a customer to leave a review is all the time.”
Director of Product Management at G2
For B2B companies, you most likely shouldn’t ask on weekends. You should also be sensitive to their time zones so when those emails or prompts are delivered, again, it’s happening in the moment. The most convenient time to ask the user for a review is on your platform while they're using your functionality.
Again, convenience. If you send a customer an email and that email prompts them to a form, and part of that form is to fill out their email address... you already know that information! Autofill those fields with what you already know about the user. So email, name, company they work for - don't ask those questions you already know.
And partner with companies like G2 to do the heavy lifting, like with integrations to prompt the user within your own environment.
It's so important to have it be convenient and comfortable. A comfortable place they're already used to using and where they're interacting with your product now can help make that experience much more frictionless.
BK: Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room - what are companies supposed to do with negative reviews?
RB: I say bathe in them. Respond to them, acknowledge them, then take that feedback to improve. Understand that users need negative feedback to trust you in the first place and validate if you're the right fit. Not every prospective buyer is the right fit for your software.
If someone is 6’2” and a pair of pants doesn't fit them, they may leave a bad review. But if you're five-six, is that review by a person much taller than you a bad review? Or is it relevant information to compare your experience and say, “Hey, is that applicable to me?”
Negative feedback can be codified to inform improvements to your user experience, add insights to your roadmap, and help you delight your users or inform where you can innovate.
Some customers will face barriers with review collection with factors like email permissions, for example. But email isn’t the only way. By utilizing partnerships with G2, which leverages Pendo, Medallia, and other integrations, we have more collection avenues to get the reviews your business needs.
The 4 pillars of a review collection strategy are:
- Ask everyone for reviews
- Ask for reviews consistently
- Ask for review updates
- Provide customer service by responding to reviews
BK: I never thought of negative reviews in that way, but it makes sense. One user’s negative experience doesn’t necessarily represent the whole.
So let’s say you kick off your strategy and get a batch of reviews. Now what? How do you keep quality reviews coming in on a regular basis?
RB: Keep quality reviews coming in on a regular basis by automating your asks. Don't do this once a quarter - buyers will notice this. Make sure that you're using all avenues available so that you're consistently having reviews come in and provide customer service visibly on those reviews by replying and engaging.
So if you provide customer service on a poor review, ask for a review update. Even if it's not a poor review, continue to engage with your user and ask for updates as a way to close loops and show brand loyalty.
Partner with platforms like G2 that have the automated means to support your review collection. We also have tools, like our integration with Grammarly, so you're getting the best and brightest feedback not riddled with errors.
We’re here to help with your review collection strategy. You're not alone in this.
If you want to get in touch with Rachel, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.
Looking to collect authentic feedback from your users? Build trust and credibility in your brand with a G2 Review Campaign. Schedule your 15-minute consultation with a G2 expert today.