Referrals from current customers have always been some of the most effective and least expensive marketing any business could deploy. Having a current satisfied active customer recommend your business to a prospective customer is solid gold. Often it’s these words: ‘You should take your dry cleaning to…’ that direct a customer to your door. And more often than not, it’s a recommendation to your business that tips the scale in a prospective customer’s mind to at least give you a try.
Today, most folks don’t even know their next door neighbors, let alone talk to them on a regular basis. Many folks jump into their cars, drive to work (alone), sit in their cubicle, spend their coffee breaks and lunch breaks with their faces in their smart phones, and at the end of the work day head home and isolate themselves in their home, apartment and condo with their face immersed in Telly, tablet, Netflix, or laptop. On my last trip to Chicago, I couldn’t help but notice the number of folks on the crowded trains that didn’t even look at the person sitting next to or across from them, everybody had their heads in their phones. With all this compartmentalization, getting people to talk you up is extremely difficult to get started these days. Never before have we had so much and so many social tools to enable people to connect with one another, and yet at the same time these same social media tools are polarizing, isolating and insulating everyone from everyone else.
If you ARE fortunate enough to get some word of mouth happening, how do you control it? How do you direct (target) your message to people who need or want your services? If you get too busy from a massive influx of customers (and orders), how can you slow it down so you don’t sacrifice quality and service?
Many people today are very afraid to make a recommendation about any business they use, even if they use it a lot and like it very much. Why? Well, many of these folks are afraid of being embarrassed if the person they referred is disappointed by or does not like the business they were referred to. How many times has it happened to you that you were told about this great new restaurant, then when you went to it, the food was cold, over-priced; the servers were rude and inefficient……how did that make you feel about the person talking up the place?
Conversely, many people put a great deal of credence in a stranger’s opinion and online reviews. Surveys show:
• 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation (https://www.brightlocal.com/)
• 65 percent of people see online search as the most trusted source of information about people and companies (Edelman Trust Barometer)
So, as people become more introverted and reticent, customers have resorted to educating themselves by seeking information online. Search has resulted in online reviews effecting customer flows to business because:
• 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business (https://www.brightlocal.com//)
• 54.7 percent of respondents admitted that online reviews are fairly, very or absolutely an important part of their decision-making process (https://moz.com)
When people are conducting searches, bad online reviews can cost you a lot of new business and customer opportunities. In the same Moz.com study above it’s reported that one bad or negative review that is displayed in search results can cause 22 percent of customers to pass you over. If three or more bad or negative reviews show up in search results, the odds of being passed over increases to a shocking 59.2 percent of new business opportunities lost. So no doubt about it, positive customer reviews drive and improve bottom lines.
It’s our human nature to want to fit in, and nobody wants to hang with losers. If your business is receiving bad reviews, and worse, customers are POSTING bad reviews, you have to listen AND you’d better react. Nothing can kill a new business, or even an old established business, than not listening to your customers. I know that you own your business, but your customers own their patronage. If you ignore customers and their opinions, they will go someplace else, and with today’s online world, they are going to be taking a lot of potential new customers with them BEFORE these new customers even get to your door.
You used to be able to disable the Facebook Review tab to remove the ability for anyone to leave a review on your Facebook page (good or bad), but with the last major update Facebook has now rolled out the ‘would you recommend this business’ functionality placing reputation right back into the hands of everyone. Google devotes a full ten percent of its ranking algorithm and search ranking results to reputation and reputation sites like Google Reviews, Google Places reviews, and Google my Business. Google even gives a lot of weight to competitors such as Yelp!
So, what should YOU be doing? Well, you need to make it EXTREMELY easy for anyone to complain to you, directly, easier than it is for someone to post a complaint on Yelp, Google Reviews and the hundreds of review websites popping up (even the online Yellow Pages has reviews now). You should have a way for people to leave a review or testimonial built into your web site, and more than just a ‘contact us’ page. You need to be proactive in asking customers for testimonials and reviews in your email marketing and in your text message marketing. You need to be asking all of your customers ‘How are we doing’ with hangtags on outgoing orders, and even printing a link to your review generation/collection system on the bottom of every invoice you staple to the customer’s order.
The best way to keep a good reputation is to develop a very thick skin. When bad news does become reported, don’t despair. Respond to every bad review by being as accommodating as any politician; respect your customer’s opinion even if you disagree. Treat every bad review as an opportunity to improve and do better. Good reviews should be appreciated, and COLLECTED! Use good reviews in your marketing materials (but do ask permission of the reviewer). Wear those good reviews with pride, and put them out everywhere, like posting them on your Facebook page, twitter, Instagram….and more.
In the interest of full disclosure, I offer my clients an extensive reputation management, review and testimonial collection system that can restore and rebuild one’s online reputation by controlling and containing bad news, and amplifying good news. If you have any questions about this or any of my articles, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email, telephone, or comments in the online comment section in this article below. There is never an obligation to buy anything or fee for my readers.