Would you believe us if we told you people have been posting reviews online about companies since the mid ‘90s? That’s right, in the era of Tamagotchi’s, mullets and boy bands, customer review sites like RateItAll.com, epinions.com, and the infamous Amazon were birthed.
While many of the OG (original) platforms are not live today, these chat rooms, blog sites, forums, and messaging boards paved the way for topical discussions. They provided everyday folk the opportunity to share their personal opinions and life experiences online, whether in a public forum or private online discussion.
Before the Internet, businesses depended on word-of-mouth to build their reputation. It was an impactful way to inexpensively connect with new customers and build buyers trust. Traditionally, if a customer of yours had an amazing experience, they’d share it with their friends and family, who would then share it with theirs, and so on and so on. The same goes with negative reviews – if a customer wasn’t happy, they’d let their people know.
Now in the age of digital, word of mouth spreads much faster! If you’re not careful, you can be buried in a pile of narrative so high, you don’t know which to deal with first. Remember the #McDStories: When A Hashtag Becomes A Bashtag fiasco of 2012? The epitome of good intentions, gone wrong.
This is what McDonald’s thought would happen:
But this is what actually happened:
As you can see, word-of-mouth has evolved, and businesses must evolve with it. Our behaviours and expectations have changed for how we interact with businesses on social media, search engines, and e-commerce sites. Because of this, it has become important for businesses to manage their online reputation. If not, your business’s reputation has the potential to be built and controlled, entirely by your customers.
Consumers have the ultimate power as they can use reviews to share their experiences, positive or negative, to their networks and the general public. While this may not seem immediately important, their reviews can greatly influence someone else’s decision to buy from you as nearly 86% of local consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad. So, it’s important to understand that every review, comment or post made about your company is an opportunity to improve your perception.
Today, there is ample opportunity for your customers to voice their opinions on your company. Just like before, with forums and customer review sites but now there’s the comment section of your videos, blog posts, social posts, on your social media pages, on their social media pages, in messenger apps, on Google, Reddit, Quora, Yelp – we could go on forever. Your customers can take photos of your business, menu items, and of the products you carry in your store and upload their thoughts, in record time!
So, how can you improve your perception amidst all the comments, reviews, and opinions?
- First and foremost, provide great customer service. While this may sound obvious, negative reviews will cost you, again and again. Usually caused by customer dissatisfaction, negative reviews can be an opportunity for you to regain your customers’ trust and improve their previous experience.
- Ask for feedback. Whether at the checkout counter or through a survey, always find ways to get customer feedback. (1) It keeps you top of mind, (2) it lets you know what you’re doing right and what you can improve upon, and, (3) it shows you care.
- Capitalize on your reviews! As we said before, every customer review presents an opportunity. Every time your customers provide feedback, it is your chance to acknowledge and resolve any of their issues. Use reviews to increase your organization’s transparency. Create positive word-of-mouth on the platforms your customers frequent and enhance your online presence by being a part of the conversation.
Customer reviews are essential to building positive perceptions around your company. As a business owner, what often occurs, is that your customers are leaving reviews on one of the many business review websites available. From Yelp and Trip Advisor to Amazon, Facebook and Google, it can be difficult to respond to your reviews if you’re not even sure where to find them.
If you’re looking for assistance in managing your reputation or customer reviews, we can help! Call us at 1-800-667-8201, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact your media advisor for more information.
Until next time!
– Rosana Mookshah is a Product Consultant on the Brand & Digital Platforms Team at Directwest.July 23rd, 2019