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“The customer is always right” has been a business mantra for decades, but in today’s digital world, it takes on new meaning. As online reviews become ever more influential in consumers’ purchase decisions, a customer’s firsthand experience is far more trusted than a brand’s marketing campaign.
Since customers with great experiences with a brand are more likely to recommend a business to a friend, customers are now a brand’s best advertisers. Capitalize on this natural word-of-mouth marketing by gathering customer feedback on a larger scale, and incorporate it into marketing efforts to maximize your advertising efforts.
A Matter of Trust
A positive customer experience goes a long way toward inspiring customer trust, loyalty and satisfaction. Consumers see thousands of brand messages every day and have grown wary of advertising and marketing tactics. When brand marketing comes across as insincere or false, customers may find a competitor.
While they have a hard time believing brand messaging, they do trust their fellow consumers. In a recent survey, 97% of consumers reported consulting reviews before making a purchase and 89% said reviews were an essential part of their purchase decision-making
Reviews, comments, and testimonials from customers are objective and tangible messages to potential customers about your superior customer services. By sharing real-time customer experiences on your website, social media channels, and online review sites, you can position your business as trustworthy and authentic while creating an emotional connection with your customers.
Ask for Feedback
How can brands collect a plethora of customer feedback? It’s simply really: ask! Customers love to share their experiences – when asked if they were more or less likely to tell others about their customer service interactions, more than half (58%) reported they were more likely to share their experiences.
Customer Surveys: Use a customer satisfaction survey to learn what customers are thinking about your brand. Design the survey to find out what is or is not working in servicing your customers. Surveys can help pinpoint smaller issues and trends that may otherwise go overlooked. Send a follow-up email after a purchase or post a message on your social media channels asking them to rate and review your brand. Don’t waste customers’ time: keep the survey as short as possible and tell them upfront how long it will take to complete.
Provide Incentive: People are busy and might not want to take the time to complete a survey or write a review. Instead, offer a reward for their opinions. Hold a monthly gift card raffle or offer a discount on their next purchase for completing a survey.
Respond to Feedback: Positive or negative, respond to customer feedback to demonstrate your commitment to your customers. This also encourages others to share their experiences because they know you are paying attention to the feedback. Take the time to thank customers for both positive and negative reviews. If a customer leaves negative feedback, address the issue politely and do all you can to rectify the situation. Customers pay attention to how you handle negative feedback so do everything you can to resolve any complaints. You can turn the negative into a positive by being transparent with your customers.
Note: When soliciting feedback, however, it is important to remember that many third-party review sites such as Yelp may have guidelines dictating how businesses can and can’t ask customers to leave reviews. Be sure to follow these guidelines!
To reach your customers, you need to be where they are. Right now, your customers are using social media networks to connect with peers and businesses. Social media enables businesses to humanize their brand and build real relationships with customers. You can also leverage your social media channels to drive inbound traffic to your website.
Which Channels?: Select the social media channels based on your customer demographics and market research. Not all platforms will be necessary or effective, so focus on the channels that will deliver the best return on investment.
Customer Service: In addition, many businesses are using social media to provide customer support. Customers prefer using social media to communicate with businesses, and brands can demonstrate strong commitment to providing them best customer experience. Twitter has emerged as stellar channel for providing customer support, but again, know where your customers are most likely to spend time on social media and focus your efforts there.
Pro Tip: While social media is often thought of as a way to draw traffic to a website, don’t forget to direct website traffic to your social channels as well! This is crucial for gathering feedback and engaging in customer service via social media. To direct website visitors to your social channels, incorporate social media buttons in your website header or footer.
Share Customer Reviews: Share and promote organic customer feedback via your social channels. If a follower tweets about a great experience, retweet it! If they post on your business Facebook, share it! Social media can broaden your reach to thousands of potential customers through the combined effect of your brand’s social following and that of your customers.
Using social media also enables you to be more creative in telling your story to customers. Video, graphics and polls are some examples of content you can use to enhance the social media experience for your customers.
Be Active: Take active control of your online review and social media pages. For example, ensure you enable reviews on your Facebook page and other platforms, and encourage as many customers to leave you reviews as possible. Make sure you monitor your social media channels for feedback and respond as quickly as possible.
When someone shares your blog, give them a shout out – take this tweet, for example. People had shared this company’s blog and even though the company is more concerned about background checks, they engaged and gave recognition for the tweet. Given the 24/7 nature of social media, customers expect an immediate response.
Review and Testimonial Pages
Social media and third-party review sites should not be the only platforms you can leverage reviews. Build a section on your website for customers to leave reviews. By asking for reviews, you demonstrate transparency and show you care about your customers. When shopping online, 63% of consumers search for business websites with product reviews. Feedback also provides additional benefits to help your business attract more customers.
Create a Dedicated Review Page: Pages dedicated exclusively to customer reviews and testimonials give customers an easy way to learn what other customers are saying. Review pages on websites can be set up in a variety of ways depending on what fits best with your business and brand. Check out some examples of testimonials, customer reviews, and other ways to display customer feedback.
Incorporate Reviews throughout Your Website: Don’t limit positive customer reviews and testimonials to just one page, but weave a story across your website. Sharing success stories will reassure customers they can trust your brand and help them envision using your product or service as they move through the buying process.
SEO Benefits: Customer feedback can also influence your search engine rankings. Content created by customers provides unique and fresh content that will naturally be full of keywords that are relevant to your brand.
Brick and Mortar
While more and more purchases are taking place online, feedback is still just as important for brick-and-mortar retail. Put a link to their website on the receipt and ask customers to go to their website and complete the feedback survey. Customer feedback forms can be provided and customers encouraged to fill out and return during their visit. Other options are to have a manager or employee stationed in the store to personally solicit feedback from customers.
Customers are very powerful messengers for your brand. Customers with positive experiences are more likely to remain loyal to your business and refer others. However, marketing and advertising messages are met with skepticism. Increasingly, consumers want to hear from other customers. Collecting and sharing customer feedback is a great way to help fill customers need and demonstrates you are trustworthy and care about their needs.
About the Author
Haku Kapule is a contributing editor at 365 Business Tips, a new blog that prides itself on presenting the best advice and practices for small and medium-sized businesses everywhere. He’s passionate about finding and offering useful tips to small business owners. He is an expert in digital PR and marketing strategy and has assisted with the increase of digital presence and customer support for small and large companies alike.