Why Five-star Reviews Fail to Perform (and How to Fix Them)

Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center analyzed 57,000 reviews from anonymous consumers and 65,000 reviews from verified buyers of more than 13,500 unique products in diverse categories.

They made a startling discovery.

Reviews could increase marketing conversion rates by a whopping 270%. Their groundbreaking research covers a variety of areas. Their research validates the importance and effectiveness of online reviews.

So what’s the problem?

Customer Reviews Aren’t Created Equal

Five-star reviews are the holy grail. Let’s say you’re able to produce an avalanche of five-star reviews for your clients. Is it always helpful across the board? Does it always produce the conversion boosting effects clients are looking for?

The answer is no. Customer reviews aren’t created equal.

Here’s a five-star review.


It’s actually just five stars and a compliment for their customer service team. It’s not very helpful. Do we know which products Ginger purchased? No. Do we know if the product met or exceeded her expectations? Still No.

Here’s another five-star review.


The difference in quality is obvious. The former and latter reviews are both five stars, but the latter is far more likely to produce revenue. Which is precisely what your clients are looking for.

Many Five-star Reviews Aren’t as Helpful as They Could be

They fail to perform because the review process, for most clients, is customer led. Your clients do a beautiful job for their customers. They under promise and over deliver. They go above and beyond for their customers. Then they request a review.

Here’s where they make their first mistake.

They allow customers to lead the review process. They ask customers to write a review but they fail to provide their customers with clarity, direction or structure. As a result, their reviews lack clarity, direction and structure. You’ll need to provide these details if you want to fix this problem.

Am I suggesting that you tell customers what to say?

Absolutely not.

I’m not suggesting that you coach or lead your clients. I’m suggesting that you guide your clients. The vast majority of your client’s customers need this.

Here’s why.

  • If your clients do a terrible job, their customers are laser focused. They know exactly what they’re going to say in their negative review. Research shows they seek review platforms out aggressively to share their story.
  • When your clients do a fantastic job, their customers are at a loss for words. Many of them don’t know what to say or how to say it. In fact, many of them are so embarrassed about not knowing what to say, that they do their very best to avoid the issue. It’s one of the reasons why a customer will agree to write a review, then blow your clients off.

How do you compensate for this problem?

You ask questions.

Which questions do you ask to get the kind of reviews you need?

  1. What would have prevented you from buying?
  2. What did you find as a result of buying this?
  3. What did you like most about our product (or service)?
  4. What would be three other benefits to this product (or service)?
  5. Would you recommend this to someone else? Why?
  6. Anything else you’d like to add?

The right questions give your client’s customers the clarity, direction and structure they need. Here’s why these questions are so helpful.

  • It provides customers with clarity and directs attention to the issues that matter.
  • These questions defuse new customer objections automatically.
  • The right questions draw out customer stories, prompting them to create detailed and helpful reviews.
  • You’re able to use their feedback in a variety of formats and multiple channels.
  • These questions produce conversion and revenue-boosting.

How do you turn these questions into reviews? It’s all depends on your business model. If you’re working with a high volume client you’ll want to automate the process. Low volume, you’ll want to personalize the process.

High Volume Low Volume
Lots of customers, small dollar amounts Fewer customers, large dollar amounts
Ask customers for their feedback. Briefly share your interview questions (see above). Ask customers, (in-person, via email or SMS) for a short feedback interview.
Send customers to a review funnel landing page. Use the review questions (above) in your interview.
Send customers to your review platform of choice (e.g. Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.) Record and transcribe your interview. Send customers a transcribed copy of the interview.
Customers write their review on the platform of your choice (e.g. Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.) Ask them to share (copy + paste) their review on specific sites (e.g. Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.)


See the difference?

This is the secret to exceptional five-star reviews.

Outstanding reviews follow a formula. With the right formula and structure, you’ll find five-star reviews become the revenue boosters your clients need.

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