By Shawn McGowan, JobsInMD.com
The web is democratized now like never before. Like it or not, social media has given everyone a voice.
While people rely on the internet to help them decide where to dine, which healthcare provider to see, or which contractor to hire to paint their house, one thing remains certain: consumers trust other consumers - the internet has fueled this concept.
According to a recent survey, 97 percent of consumers now use online media to shop locally and 90 percent of this group used search engines, which will inevitably feature consumer reviews in the search results.
With this increased consumer voice and sway, consider the Rule of Seven: for every seven positive customer experiences, one will tell a friend; conversely, for every one negative experience, that person will tell seven friends. Now imagine how this looks online.
One rude waiter, one confusing tech support call, one misunderstanding and the recipient can turn to their online networks with a vendetta for your brand. A poor review that reaches the feeds of 1,000 or more Twitter or Facebook friends can be harmful yes, but once those remarks sink lower on the public timeline, they disappear from memory. A negative review posted where your audience goes for purchasing research, however, will remain and continue to affect your "average user experience" rating.
Remember, these powerful user ratings have become a vital part of the online shopping experience.
By spending less than an hour per week searching online for mentions of your brand, you can pinpoint some of the websites and communities that are most concerned with your product or service.
There are thousands of blogs, forums and specialized communities where conversation about your brand is happening. For example, restaurant owners will find that they are being talked about on sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Urbanspoon, and a host of local blogs. It can be as easy as Googling your company name or keywords to find where your product is sold - or your service is reviewed and discussed - and bookmarking them for later reference. Pinpointing these hubs is essential in understanding the complaints and praises of your customers and how it influences others and future business.
Here are some questions and actions to consider when reading negative consumer reviews about your product or service:
- Is it a fair, constructive critique?
(i.e. "I love your product, but..." or "If you only had this feature...")
Action: Take steps toward achieving suggestion
- Is the review describing a weakness that you were already aware of?
Action: Address both the weakness and the negative review
- On average, are your reviews more positive or negative?
Action: Set goals to reduce the percentage of your negative reviews
Take the opportunity to get to know your customers better and listen to their concerns. Use their reviews as a conversation starter, a jumping point into a better user experience and a better understanding of what your offerings bring to the table.