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During the past 6 years I’ve responded to thousands of customer reviews, for multiple clients in a wide variety of industries. If I’ve learned anything, it’s this…. when customer reviews are central to your business the results are obvious.

Why you can’t afford to ignore Online Customer Reviews!

A quick internet search around the importance of customer reviews returns a plethora of research indicating how important reviews have become in business today. Of course a large amount of the research is done in countries with a high online penetration, where increasingly people are shopping online. But even if you knock the stats down to a number you think best represents the South African Market, you’d be hard-pressed to deny the general trend.

Take a look through these stats from Invesp, and compare them to your own purchasing / review behaviour:

  • 90% of customers read online reviews before visiting a business
  • For nearly 9 in 10 consumers, an online review is as important as a personal recommendation
  • Customers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with ‘excellent’ reviews
  • 72% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 92% of users will use a local business if it has at least a 4-star rating
  • 72% of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review
  • Reliability (27%), expertise (21%) and professionalism (18%) are the most important reputation traits for a local business
  • 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews

In light of data like that, I’m often bewildered at why so many businesses pay little to no attention to their customer reviews, and worse, do it so badly?

When It Works

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Online Customer Reviews are only important for online stores. It doesn’t matter if you’re a family hotel in the Drakensberg, a restaurant in a busy Jozi Suburb, or an online supermarket in Durban, in our experience at Calidascope, customer reviews work well when they’re moved to the centre of your business.

Here are a few of the Signposts we’ve developed over time:

Make sure you have competent and experienced people engaging with customers

Experience matters when you’re dealing with people. Empathy is critical. Emotional tone is key. Being able to ‘really see’ what’s being said, and what your customer is looking for in the exchange is important in order to craft the best response. Keep in mind, rave reviews are really easy to respond to. It’s the critical reviews that will test your metal. I’ve had clients, who from time to time, would far rather tell a client or customer to never come back. That’s never a great response.

Respond Quickly

When a customer takes the time to write a review, there’s a lot of effort that goes into it, for many people. There’s risk attached when putting yourself out publicly. The very least you can do is to get back to them as quickly as possible. Sometimes it takes us a day or two to gather all the information, to ensure our response is accurate and we have as many of the facts as possible.

Create a direct line between the Responder and Senior Management

We won’t take on a client if we don’t have access to a senior person in the business. Sometimes action needs to take place to rectify a situation, and if we can’t ensure the necessary steps are taken, then our responses are impotent, and the customer ends up losing. In fact, if it’s something that’s going to impact future customers, then all customers are losing, and the entire exercise becomes a farce.

When necessary, pick up the phone

Just because the review came in via an online channel, there are times when the response requires a phone call, or even a face to face meeting. In our experience the more extreme a review, the more likely that a phone call is the best response.

You’re always responding to two people

Keep in mind that you’re always writing a response to two people. The customer who wrote it, and future customers who will stumble across it and read it. Each reply is an opportunity to describe a fuller context, or educate, or promote, or illustrate, etc. While you and the first customer understand the situation, your future customer may not. Take the time to make sure both audiences have the full picture.

Say Sorry! Even when you’re not wrong

When you’re in the wrong, apologise. Don’t make excuses, don’t try and rationalise or explain things away. Simply apologise. Apologies are magical things. They can dissipate the anger of a client instantly and turn them into fans. They allow you to move beyond the problem and focus on the solution, or the next visit, or shop, etc. Sometimes you may even need to apologise when you had nothing to do with it. I’ve apologised on a number of occasions to guests staying at a Hotel because it rained all weekend. I’ve apologised to customers who had to sit in peak hour traffic on their way to a restaurant 🙂

Customer at the Centre

Placing your customer at the centre of your business is critical. It’s why you have a business in the first place. Lose touch with your customer and you’ll ultimately lose your business. In today’s digital world, customers have an incredible range of options to speak directly to you. To tell you what they love, and what they hate. To suggest fixes and tweaks to make your product or service better. It’s unprecedented in human history to have so much access to feedback from your customer. When you do it well, and you respond effectively to your customer and make the necessary changes and tweaks to your business, there’s a far greater chance that you’ll move ahead in your market and your industry.

I know this because I’ve seen it over and over again.

Need Help with your Customer Review Process?

Calidascope has years of experience working with small and medium sized businesses in a range of industries to assist them with their customer feedback. From building strategies, to training teams, to executing with our own experienced team. If you’d like to chat further, please drop us a line.