For many SMEs, getting their businesses off the starting blocks and driving growth is the main focus. Reading and responding to online reviews from customers may not be high up on the list of priorities, but recent research shows that this is an area that warrants increasing attention and online reputation.
Recent statistics and trends, visually represented in this infographic by Invesp, tell us that 90% of consumers read online reviews before approaching a business and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Therefore, cultivating positive feedback can actually help generate sales.
Engaging with customers on online review platforms is a great way to demonstrate that you value their opinions and are passionate about knowing what makes them tick to ensure you deliver whatever that may be and satisfy their expectations. Glenn Woolaghan, UK SMB director at Microsoft says, “Our research has revealed that companies who make customer engagement a top priority are the ones who are experiencing the most growth, this is because engaged customers are more likely to be satisfied, purchase again and recommend the product or service to their peers – this results in more sales, driving higher revenue that lends to business growth”.
The report found that while 79% of SMEs said they were effective at engaging customers offline, only 55% are confident that they engage with customers as effectively using online channels. So what does it take to successfully manage this online customer engagement? The dedication and commitment that is required to successfully engage with customers who are sharing their views online.
Consistent cross-platform service
Websites such as TripAdvisor have become a crucial resource for people when sourcing a hotel, restaurant or attraction, who use reviews from their peers as reassurance to validate their decision about visiting a specific place – more than half of holidaymakers will check online reviews before booking.
Be more sociable
Once a customer has bought into you and written up a positive review, how do you keep the conversation going?
The Driving Growth Through Customer Engagement report found that four out of five SMEs have a presence on social media, with the most common platforms being Facebook (69%), Twitter (66%) and LinkedIn (56%) – but are they using these platforms to their full potential?
Despite having a social media presence, 57% of the companies surveyed said they regularly post updates and only 52% monitor and respond to questions or comments that could affect their reputations
By not proactively posting content on social media and effectively engaging regularly with customers through these channels, businesses could be missing out on vital sales opportunities. Social media and review sites are great tools for ongoing customer engagement. In order to successfully retain customers and encourage repeat business, using these platforms to entice customers back is crucial.
Taking the challenges along the way
A positive online endorsement can generate sales, but what happens when a review is less than favourable? Try to look at online comments and reviews as a fantastic opportunity to ensure you’re always offering the best service you possibly can, and also to learn about what your customers want and need.
In fact, a whole page of positive reviews doesn’t necessarily engender more trust; 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any negative opinions on the page. The key to handling a negative review to result in a positive outcome is all in the way you respond.
Another important thing in cases where customers aren’t happy is to deal with issues one-to-one rather than having it play out in public view. In some cases the most helpful thing you can do is take the issue offline and speak to the customer directly, either on the phone or via email, to address their complaint and hopefully, by the end of it they emerge a happy customer. If this is the case, be sure to respond to the original comment to summarise the outcome of the offline discussion to ensure other readers know that it was addressed.