How you can leverage customer engagement and expectations to build your brand’s image and bottom line.
Nearly all buyers today trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Though word-of-mouth is still critically important, the conversation has moved from town squares and city streets to the digital landscape. Most people today will hear about your brand’s reputation through a relatively new (historically speaking) medium: their Google searches and the reviews they read online. Your brand’s responses matter, not just to your customers, but to your company’s bottom line.
No one likes a buyer’s remorse.
Whether you're looking for a hotel, a place to grab a bite to eat, or choosing your next laptop, reading online reviews is how we all avoid feeling buyer’s remorse. A shopper at Best Buy or Target looking at a new tablet or camera won't think twice before checking out the product’s reviews on Amazon. They’ll read what other shoppers are saying on their smartphone while they’re standing right there in the aisle of the store. And when they do, they’ll trust what they read and trust that they are making the right decision. Usually, they get exactly what they expect. This is a new shopping superpower that we all now possess (and it didn’t even exist until the last few years).
Word-of-mouth marketing has been the name of the game when it comes to managing your business’ reputation for as long as humans have been enterprising and socializing. Though word-of-mouth is still critically important today, the conversation has moved from town squares and city streets to the digital landscape. Most people today will hear about your brand’s reputation through a relatively new (historically speaking) medium: their Google searches and the reviews they read online.
And the game continues to evolve. Not all that long ago, responding to reviews left by your customers online meant your company was going above and beyond the call of duty. Automatically, you were providing exceptional customer service. Fortunately or unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Customers now expect their brands to respond to the comments they leave. And these responses have officially gone from a nice little "extra" to something “essential” in the customer experience.
Taking A Look At The Numbers
Who reads reviews? Well, nearly everyone. According to the latest research, roughly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase (Spiegel Research Center, 2017) and 93% of people use reviews to judge whether a local business is good or bad (BrightLocal, 2017). And that’s not all. A full 72% of customers won’t even consider taking action until after they have read reviews on the product or service they’re mulling over (Testimonial Engine). Only 3% of buyers say that reviews never factor into their buying decisions (Fan and Fuel, 2016)
These statistics tell a pretty convincing story. Your company’s online reputation matters more now than ever before. Significantly more. Thankfully, you’ve got some say in the matter.
Join the Conversation: Participate Proactively
Know your audience. This is rule number one. Your participation won’t go nearly as far if you don’t understand your audience and know what makes them tick. Here are a few more fast facts to drive home the importance of replying to customer reviews :
- 41% of consumers say that brands replying to reviews make them believe the company really cares about their customers (Bazaarvoice)
- Not replying to reviews risks increasing customer churn by up to 15% (Chatmeter, 2017)
- 89% of consumers read the replies to reviews (BrightLocal, 2018)
- And 7 out of 10 consumers changed their opinion about a brand after the company replied to a review (Bazaarvoice via Marketing Charts, 2013)!
Nearly all buyers (85%) trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Three in four (73%) consumers trust a local business more after reading positive reviews. Six out of ten diners will read online reviews before choosing a restaurant or cafe. And in order for a restaurant, hotel, or product to be a “yes” for the consumer, 87% of American shoppers said the business needed to have a minimum star rating of three or higher (out of five) to pull the trigger and make a purchase. (BrightLocal, 2017)
Engagement and Expectations
It’s safe to assume that if a customer leaves a review, they expect a response. In fact, 52% of customers expect businesses to reply to their online reviews within seven days (HubSpot, 2018). And this shift in consumer expectations doesn’t just mean more work for your customer service team. It also means that your customers are talking to you more than they ever have before. And they’re being more honest with what they say.
Businesses are getting critical and direct insight into their performance in the minds of their customers. And they’re getting it free of charge. Two-thirds (68%) of shoppers go online specifically looking for either information on the reviewer’s experience or problems the reviewer experienced when reading reviews (Fan and Fuel, 2016). A well-crafted response from your brand is a great way to say thank you for the feedback—be it positive, negative, or neutral.
A Case Study
Let’s imagine a fitness connoisseur named Sarah attends classes at two different yoga studios over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, she writes negative reviews on her experiences with both studios. On Monday, she logs into her laptop and finds that the owner of Yoga Studio A has responded to her review with a genuine and sincerely written apology as to why service at her studio was sub-par that Saturday. Meanwhile, she hears nothing from Yoga Studio B on Sunday’s lack-luster class.
“So, Yoga Studio A cares about me,” Sarah is left to deduct. “And Yoga Studio B couldn’t care less.” On Sarah’s end, this is a quite rational and typical response. It creates a lasting emotional memory that will likely inform where she chooses to practice yoga in the future, and if she would ever give either studio a second chance.
What you say—or don’t say—makes a real and lasting impact.
The experience of receiving a personalized response from a brand changes the game for consumers and companies alike. From here on out, any brand that neglects to respond seems untransparent, inaccessible, and uncaring. Conversely, brands that respond, will be seen as honest, authentic, and humanitarian. So answer your reviews. The conversation you have (or don’t have) online with your customers builds a narrative around your brand. Make sure it’s one you are proud of.
Reputation management is not just about self-promotion. It’s about enhancing the entire customer journey. Go beyond advertising your business and create and share content of interest and value to your audience. As you continuously engage with your audience and build positive relationships, you’ll see your presence on these platforms improve and so too will your presence in online searches.
As you gather the data from your own customers and potential customers, you collect valuable insight into who they are and what they’re looking for. You can cater your responses to more directly and powerfully influence your followers, influencers, and target markets. All replies are not created equally, however. If you truly want to own your reputation, it’s time to get crystal clear on what you are saying, how you’re saying it, and who you’re saying it to.
Say the right thing to the right people. And say it well.
Want Help Managing Your Brand’s Online Reputation?
Learn more about Online Reputation Management (ORM) tools like Reputation Studio to see how to consolidate customer reviews and Q&A into a single platform to manage customer interactions on every channel. Our revolutionary workflows and process builder automation provides faster response times and advanced review and response analytics.
Looking for more ways to engage with consumers? Download Reputation Studio's complimentary eBook, Using Consumer Engagement To Drive Revenue.