It is time to face the facts: The success of most service-driven businesses, especially restaurants and hotels, have long been affected by online review sites. Recently, though, their efficacy has started creeping into other industries, as well. So much so that everyone from real estate agents to contractors to babysitters have become susceptible to the sting that can come with negative peer reviews.
It may seem as if brands have lost all control, but among the ubiquitous rating systems and comment boards, your brand can still garner more influence than you think. Here’s how.
1. Create lasting online relationships. A sure-fire way to strengthen positive brand visibility and identity is through the effective use of social media. Creating one-on-one rapport with customers online can facilitate broader customer outreach, including everything from troubleshooting product or service issues to providing relevant company updates in real time.
Creating positive social media connections can also help foster healthy relationships with customers offline, as well. The goodwill that comes from a productive online interaction will be passed on to friends and family offline in the form of positive word of mouth. This translates into more potent brand influence overall, which can combat an occasional bad review.
2. Look at criticism as an opportunity. Notwithstanding the initial wound of a negative review, customer criticisms can be more valuable than praise because they can give companies accurate insight into how they are performing. When a business gets authentic feedback, directly from the consumer, it can address the issue and correct its course, which can establish a reputation of transparency and willingness to create a dialog with the consumer.
Another reason to not fear negative reviews comes from research from Reevoo, a London-based online ratings service, which suggests that 68% of customers trust online reviews more when there is a mix of negative and positive comments. There is also the opportunity for brands to turn complainers into repeat customers since 95% of customers will return if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently, reports Social Media Today.
3. Provide service with a smile. Providing excellent customer support and service that goes above and beyond the minimum will leave a lasting impression on anyone on the receiving end. This sentiment transcends every industry. While it may seem impossible to please every customer every time, there are tactics that can be employed to create the kind of customer experience that customers are compelled to rave about:
-Treat each customer as if they are the top priority.
-Fully explain any difficult situation and find a compromise that leaves the customer satisfied.
-Listen carefully to all customer concerns.
-Welcome customer feedback and demonstrate a willingness to improve.
Typically, when notable service and support is provided, online and off, customers will want to tell others about it. Establishing a customer experience that motivates stellar reviews will come full circle to attract more business and, in turn, more excellent reviews.
4. Play to your unique strengths. Arguably, the most obvious approach is making sure that whatever service or product is provided is special compared to what is offered by the competition. The goal is to generate a unique impression in the customer’s mind so that the customer correlates something specific and beneficial with your brand that is unique from rest of the marketplace. This is where your brand’s position comes into play. Brand positioning happens whether or not a company is proactive in establishing a position; however, if the organization takes an informed and forward-looking approach, it can positively influence its brand positioning in the minds of customers.
To actively position your brand means that you must stand for something. Only then will you truly be on your way to owning a specific, positive position in the mind of your customer.
Yelp, Amazon Reviews and others like them all have a place in the brand influence lifecycle, but there are still plenty of options. Subsequently, there’s no magic formula to determine how potential customers will perceive your brand.
This means that the onus falls on you to optimize your brand’s influence—through social media efforts, customer service offerings and enhanced brand positioning—to create a winning, and highly influential, brand identity.
Mitch Duckler is the managing partner of FullSurge, a strategic consulting firm based in Evanston, Ill.