Saturday, August 13, 2011

Word of Mouth is Dead

Every business has the potential to be reviewed. It doesn’t matter if you are a restaurant (most popular) or a funeral home (I’m not kidding) - If given the opportunity and the outlet, a customer will sing your praises or voice a valid concern. As more and more people rely on the opinions of others via online review sites such as Yelp, Google, and Urban Spoon, how your business is perceived on these means is important.

If you leave a review unaddressed, good or bad-it may change the opinion of future customers. There is a saying that if you have a good experience you tell a couple of people, a bad one- you tell everyone. Having the opportunity to go online and let your opinion be known before you have even left your business takes this adage to a whole new level. You need to make sure you have the good sense to address any review, good or bad. I am a little obsessed with online reviews because I have seen businesses affected by the way they are handled.

Here are some tips to make the best out of your reviews, good and bad:

1. Make sure all your sites are claimed under you as the owner. This gives you the opportunity to add pictures, fill out hours, information, areas served, etc. You can fill in additional contact information, your website and specials. It also makes you look like you have this area of your marketing plan handled. Nothing looks poorer than that unclaimed box with a question mark in it!

2. Set up Google Alerts for the name of your business and category i.e. “SBT Designs” and “Interior Design in Chicago”. Make sure you set up a search in Twitter, and check your @replies. Facebook has also recently given you an option to be notified via email each time a comment is left. You need to make sure that these are checked often, if not every day. The quicker the response, the better the outcome.

3. Time to monitor! A lot of this is organic, you can go in and check (daily) on these review sites but there are some platforms like Hootsuite that will allow you to do the searches all in one place.
Address them. Within 24 hours (hopefully). If they are good, share it on your Facebook and other social media. Make them a part of your marketing plan, add them to the testimonial portion of your blog or website. If they are bad, and it is valid-contact the reviewer as the owner, be polite and offer to rectify their time by bringing them back in on your dime. This is not the time to be argumentative. If you feel like you are going to be combative, ignore the review and move on. I promise that they if you take these steps, they will change their review and praise you for your excellent attention to customer service.

Be humble and listen to what they have to say. If there is a resounding theme, your clients are trying to tell you something.

This may seem like a lot of work, and some business owners aren’t comfortable opening up and putting themselves out there for the world to critique. I would much rather see you take the control and time to make the effort before someone does it for you.
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