A close-up of a man sitting at a table and looking at the screen of an open laptop with one hand to his chin in deep thought. The man is bald and clean-shaven, and he's wearing a dark gray button-up shirt.
A recent study suggests that customers are more likely to be most comfortable with leaving feedback in a way that doesn't require them to disclose too much personal information. — Getty Images/John Fedele

Customer video testimonials can serve as powerful social proof and encourage new customers to make a purchase. However, this approach may not work for all businesses. A recent study from Washington State University suggests customers are likely to prefer “low self-disclosure” options — those that don’t require users to share as much identifiable information, including text-based feedback — to “high self-disclosure” ones, such as video.

“Some restaurants and hotels actually ask customers to create video testimonials that they can share,” Ruiying Cai, Ph.D., a Researcher and Assistant Professor at WSU Carson College of Business and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “But, for general customers, it seems they feel more comfortable with low self-disclosure.”

Cai’s research studied customers’ preferred modalities for leaving both compliments and complaints via AI-powered platforms, as well as the reward tactics that can encourage customer reviews.

[Read more: 7 Types of Video Content for Your Business]

Concerns around AI capabilities may drive the preference for text-based testimonials

For this study, Cai and her team presented various online scenarios to 439 participants. Each participant was instructed to imagine a restaurant where they had received good service or bad service. Then, they were asked to report how willing they were to share compliments or complaints, using either text or video, on an AI-enabled tablet.

In this context, participants were more likely to provide feedback, both positive and negative, via text. One potential reason for this, Cai theorized, is a lack of understanding of what AI can (and cannot) do with someone’s data. While the study participants reported concerns about how their information would be used in both text and video contexts, this response was heightened for video testimonials.

If your business chooses to use AI, particularly to handle customer information, taking an ethical approach to AI is crucial. Consider disclosing when customers are interacting with an AI-powered tool, and what exactly the AI can do, to help quell these concerns.

[Read more: How AI Can Help You Serve Your Customers Better]

A delayed reward like a discount for the next visit … is more effective [than an immediate reward] in encouraging customers to leave a compliment.

Ruiying Cai, Ph.D., Researcher and Assistant Professor at WSU Carson College of Business

Rewards, especially delayed ones, can encourage customer feedback

In the study, participants also received a hypothetical reward for providing feedback: a 5% discount on either their current meal (an immediate reward) or a future one (a delayed reward). For complaint scenarios, the timing of the reward did not make a significant difference — consistent with the researchers’ expectations that customers are generally more motivated to complain than to compliment.

For compliment scenarios, however, the researchers found reward timing did matter: More participants were willing to leave feedback when offered a delayed reward than when offered an immediate one.

“A delayed reward like a discount for the next visit … is more effective [than an immediate reward] in encouraging customers to leave a compliment,” Cai told CO—, adding that providing the compliment may serve as its own reward.

How to encourage customer feedback

Cai and her team’s research suggests low self-disclosure methods and the provision of delayed rewards can encourage patrons to leave testimonials. Here are some additional tips for garnering feedback from your customers:

  • Make the process easy. If you’re asking customers to leave reviews, include direct links to review sites on receipts or in email communications, and ensure it’s compatible with both mobile and web-based devices. An overly complicated process is likely to result in people clicking out halfway through.
  • Keep feedback requests short and focused. When sending out a customer feedback survey, limit the number of questions. This shows respect for your customers’ time, increasing the likelihood of receiving responses, while also ensuring you get the information you’re looking for.
  • Find incentives that motivate your customers. The right incentives can increase customer feedback rates as well as encourage repeat purchases. These rewards may include free or early access to products, discounts, or loyalty points.
  • Encourage both compliments and complaints. While it may seem counterintuitive, Cai suggests there is value in providing customers with a direct avenue for negative feedback: “If restaurants can encourage customers to complain directly to them, then they may be able to recover and solve that service failure before [an angry video] goes viral online,” said Cai in a statement.

[Read more: How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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