Your mix of marketing materials, store displays and employees certainly play into your brand image, but there’s one aspect that can be more influential than all of them. Customer reviews continue to grow in importance and significance for businesses small and large. If you haven’t switched your focus to cultivating feedback from patrons, here’s the information you need to know.
Why you should value customer reviews
Once upon a time, the consumer experience could only be shared by word-of-mouth or a reporter who took the time to write about it. That system was eliminated by the Internet years ago as people were able to communicate more and information was gathered on a global scale. Now, you can find more details than you’d ever want to know about almost any type of business through a few key websites.
You may be wondering if all of this data is useful – do people actually take peer reviews into account? Inc. magazine explained how the growth in customer reviews has been consistent across businesses in all industries. Many people look to these open-forum type sites before seeking out information from more official sources or critics because it’s more like advice from a friend. In that way, your customer feedback can serve as a form of advertising. Someone may be motivated to visit your store after reading a rave review from a loyal customer, even if he or she wasn’t convinced by your base marketing strategy.
Beyond the potential for new patrons, what can customer feedback do for you? First, the reviews allow you to see how you measure up with competitors from the consumer’s standpoint. By comparing the types of reviews you receive with those of other businesses in your field, you’re able to gather a clearer perspective on the market. Reviews can also show you where your business needs improvement and why you lose customers, whether it’s based on your pricing strategies, selection of products or another flaw. Patron feedback is especially helpful for identifying problems that directly relate to customer service, such as the attitudes of your staff or the return and exchange process.
How to promote customer engagement
To reap all of these benefits, you first need to inspire customers to voice their opinions, praise and constructive criticism. One way to garner feedback for your own use, rather than public consumption, is with a suggestion box in your store. Simply set up a small station on one of your display tables where patrons can fill out card with feedback. However, online reviews can be much more valuable to your business. Have your employees mention the store’s appreciation for customer reviews when they ring people up.
Promoting the notion of supplying feedback can be even more successful if you do so online. Make use of your social media pages and company website to collect and publish reviews and feedback. These are also great platforms for you to respond to less-than-favorable posts.
How to handle negative feedback
You may be compelled to delete any poor reviews of your store that are posted online. However, doing so can hurt the trust your loyal customers have placed in you. If you only have positive customer feedback rather than an honest mix, the business can come off as inauthentic. In fact, certain review sites including Yelp! have banned business owners from deleting posts from their pages.
Instead of trying to cover up where you went wrong, the best course of action is to respond directly to the post. Reply to the irate customer with a sincere apology and one way you’re working to improve that issue.