Business is booming. Your products are flying off the shelves. Your services are sought-after. Your customers are happy and sticking around. Many who consider themselves in good company when with your brand become an instant crusader for your business.
Of course, you relish getting amazing feedback while you sit at your desk and scroll through your Google Alerts, Yelp reviews, and Twitter mentions.
But ask yourself a few questions. When you’re getting all the praise in the world, who else is reading? Are your potential clients, creative partners, shoppers, and critics privy, too, to the great things being said about your business?
This is why you should leverage customer feedback.
Why manage and leverage customer feedback?
What your customers have to say carries tremendous weight. In fact, studies show that referrals and recommendations for products and businesses made by family and friends make a significant impact on one’s purchase decision. We tend to hold the opinions of others in higher regard than price comparison or brand recognition.
Nielsen notes that 84 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 68 percent trust opinions posted online by other consumers. In many cases, your online customer feedback is more effective than other, more traditional advertising efforts.
This guide will highlight the ways you can leverage your customer feedback (both positive and negative). When you pay attention to the conversations around you, you’ll be able to capture consumers in new ways, hone contemporary marketing strategies, and grow your business to success.
Before we propose strategies for leveraging your feedback, we first need to discuss the ways you can monitor, manage, and respond.
Claim your business listings and review site pages
This can be a daunting task simply because of the sheer quantity of listings and sites available. However, doing so is going to lay the groundwork for using customer feedback to your advantage.
Claiming and managing your online profiles can catapult your business to the next level. Start by creating or taking ownership of your profiles in the most prominent websites for your segment or industry and cascade your efforts into secondary websites.
TIP: When it comes to online visibility and diversification, profile ownership and listing management are essential. Work toward having the highest number of review site profiles to ensure all your bases are covered. (Check out: “Top 9 Reasons to Claim Your Business Listings and Review Site Pages”)
Track online reviews
Online reviews and ratings on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Google, Citysearch, YP.com, and similar sites have a big impact on consumer behavior. According to the latest research, 88 percent of Internet users read reviews on sites like the ones listed above in order to determine the quality of a business. And 88 percent believe these reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations made by their friends and family.
Therefore, a major step in your customer feedback strategy should focus on how online reviews of your brand are affecting your overall business. Spend some time analyzing and developing your profile on Yelp and other review sites where your business might be listed.
Getting started on Yelp? Check out: “YELP HELP: The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Yelp Business Page / Listing”
Ensure consistent profiles across all review sites
Once you’ve analyzed and developed those initial profiles, work on having clear and consistent messaging across all your review site profiles. Your profile could include hours of operation, descriptions of services, menu offerings, detailed accounts of your rooms, or items you always have in stock. Of course, make sure your address, phone numbers, and relevant emails are correct. Finding you should be easy, not frustrating.
Engage with your reviewers
Responding to online reviews is not only smart for keeping your customers around, but it is also a great way to showcase customer commitment to those looking at your profile and considering doing business with you for the first time.
Responses to both positive and negative reviews strengthen credibility and provide a simple avenue for you to connect with your customers. Also, studies show that a response to a negative review is often the trigger for that all-important second chance, and may even help lead to long-term brand loyalty.
Approach your responses professionally. Proofread each one for grammar, customer focus, and brand voice before hitting “publish.” Follow up your responses with actionable items. Deliver on your promises and provide the solution. Finally, adapt your existing practices to make sure they improve based on review feedback.
Who is writing your reviews?
According to Eric Anderson and Duncan Simester, professors of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, respectively, writers of negative reviews tend to be the best customers of the business or service being criticized.
By “best,” they mean the ones who may potentially end up being the most loyal and most valuable of customers.
8 fun ways to generate online reviews
How do you make sure your business is being talked about? Whether you’re after a plethora of Yelp reviews, hashtagged photos on Instagram, or video reviews by influential YouTubers, check out these ways to keep the conversation flowing and generate more reviews.
Ask questions / create polls: Let your customers know you care what they think by seeking out their opinions in meaningful ways. Post an open-ended query to your social media sites and let your fans reply with their thoughts. Or include a poll on your website that asks shoppers to weigh in on a decision or vote for a favorite product. Things like this can generate a lot of customer opinions in one fell swoop.
Hold a contest: Not all of your customers are going to hop on TripAdvisor or Google to write a review. Holding a contest to sweeten the pot can encourage more people to take action.
Take Starbucks’ White Cup contest, for example. In order to initiate more conversations, Starbucks created a contest in which the company asked customers to pick up reusable plastic versions of its signature white cup and get creative. Customers decorated the cups using paints, pens, and Sharpies, then snapped photos for sharing on social media, complete with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. The contest produced a lot of colorful Starbucks-branded images on social media. It also generated more reviews of the popular coffee company.
Focus on product reviews: If you offer customers the opportunity to review their purchases, it’s likely they’ll discuss more than just specs and cost. They’ll probably have a few words to say about your overall brand as well.
Consider setting up an avenue on your website dedicated to product reviews. (The beauty sector is already doing it.) Culling the submissions is a great place to gather handy feedback from your patrons.
Product reviews also give you the opportunity to revise the marketing copy and verbiage associated with your product. This will allow you to be responsive to and aligned with the vocabulary most commonly used by your customers. By making these revisions, you can give your brand a competitive edge in the area of organic search.
Track your mentions: Tracking can be as easy as hopping on Twitter to search through hashtags or setting up Google Alerts for your business name and relevant keywords. You never know what sort of feedback you may uncover just by doing a little digging.
Pay attention to the competition: Study your competition’s reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Google, and other review sites relevant to your industry. What strengths and weaknesses are consumers sharing?
You can take away valuable information about what consumers love and hate by checking your competitors’ online reviews. It may even help you develop a new vision going forward based on what customers really value, as well as what they do not.
Conduct a targeted survey: The more you seek answers to specific questions, the more you’ll learn. When a shopper spends less money with you this year than the year before, ask what changed. When a customer makes a large, first-time purchase, ask why he or she chose to shop with you as opposed to your competition.
Consider including directions to a shopper survey on the bottom of your receipts. Or send an email to your subscribers asking for participation in a survey about what you could do better in the coming year. All you have to do is ask. Often enough, you’ll get an answer.
Check your analytics: Examine trends and patterns by having analytics in place. When your customers and potential customers spend time on your website, what are they looking at and what actions are they taking?
Take note of the pages which captivate your visitors, as well as the pages that initiate their departure from your site. This will help you realize the many ways in which people interact with your page, your content, and your online brand. Analytics can also open your eyes to otherwise unforeseen ways to funnel website visitors to where they can give you online reviews.
Increase content engagement: Study your online presence and identify places where you can publish more content. Create calls-to-action, contests, and hashtags, which can drive engagement and build buzz around your brand. Once customers start submitting their own content, share genuinely and liberally.
5 tactics to leverage customer feedback
Tactic 1: Share customer feedback on social media
Your social media channels are the perfect place to acquire and showcase customer feedback.
Many social platforms even offer the ability to put out “calls for reviews” from your community of followers. LinkedIn, for example, allows you to request recommendations, while Facebook offers a review section for all local business Pages. (And Facebook reviews matter tremendously, too.)
So, when you receive well-written, meaningful reviews, share!
Your customers are no doubt talking about your brand, be it in the form of posts, reviews, images, videos. You can also track these down and get them to reach a wider audience.
For example, scrolling through the search results for a relevant hashtag may turn up a few images of, say, your customers enjoying a meal at your establishment. Why not repost or re-share these on channels outside of where you found them? Your 5-star Yelp reviews can be shared on Twitter and Facebook. Screenshots of happy customer tweets can go on Instagram. Doing this not only showcases your gratitude to and recognition of a loyal fan; it also allows potential customers to see and understand the relationship that’s possible with your brand.
Take Stitch Fix, for example. The clothing subscription and styling service for women frequently shares customer images on their social media channels. They ask customers to take selfies while decked out in their new clothes; the photos are then posted online with the hashtag #StitchFix. The company often picks favorites from the mix and posts these to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Create easy-to-share social media content
It’s no secret that people are spending more time on social media. Many turn to a business’ accounts for more information or details about what the company offers. Many login in order to interact with content pertaining to a certain brand.
If you have a consistent group of followers who show up again and again, sharing your posts, commenting on photos, and interacting with your brand, then you can consider utilizing these folks as advocates or ambassadors of your brand.
There are many ways to ignite these advocates. For example, you can convert a few strong quotes from recent customer testimonials or reviews into a succinct, shareable image. Or you can write easy-to-digest success stories that highlight what customers love most about your brand. The point is: you can always leverage customer feedback to create great social media content, which in turn can generate even more feedback.
Tactic 2: Incorporate feedback into your website
Many retail websites feature a review section, but it’s not always easy to find. Visitors have to scroll to the very bottom of a page, or the reviews are tucked in the middle with an inconspicuous title no one would think to click.
If your customers have positive things to say about you, why hide their words? Incorporate feedback and review content into your website. Consumers seek out reviews when making purchasing decisions, so help them find this easily.
There are a lot of ways you can choose to feature customer feedback on your website. Here are some ideas:
- Landing pages: If your website utilizes landing pages to promote offers, incorporate positive customer feedback in these pages. By doing so, you can exert some influence right where it counts: in the midst of a buying decision.
- Customer stories: A blog series is a great way to structure your content development and marketing efforts. One type that almost any brand can create is a series for customer stories. This could be a simple Q&A interview, a feature story, a guest post written by the customer. Whatever: the goal is to leverage and promote feedback in an organic way, mirroring the trust many potential customers place on recommendations made by family and friends.
- Case studies: If you have a strong case study, bolstered by data and relevant testimonials, make room on your website to publish its contents. Your case study should do the following: identify a problem your customer encountered, explain how your business worked towards a solution, and share the positive results that resulted from that action.
- Videos: A picture paints a thousand words. So imagine what a video can do. Consider creating and sharing videos on your website, videos that feature your customers giving viewers a realistic picture of what it’s like to interact with your brand. According to a study published in 2015 by the Content Marketing Institute, video is one of the most highly effective forms of content marketing.
- On-site review content: It’s tempting to create one corner on your website for all your customer feedback to reside in. But there’s no harm in initiating extra social proof along every path a Web visitor may take. How about adding reviews to all your site pages? Prospective buyers can feel confident they are making the right decision, especially when they can see themselves mirrored in the positive experience of others. Consider placing reviews in sidebars or widgets, on your “About Us” page, and on the last page before point of purchase.
- Dedicated reviews page: You can set up a dedicated reviews page, too. That way, when potential customers search for reviews relevant to your brand, the reviews page can show up in search results, alongside your Yelp, Google, Facebook, and review site listings.
Clothing company ModCloth is a fantastic example of a brand that incorporates customer reviews on its website. User feedback is a noteworthy feature on every individual item’s page throughout ModCloth’s entire site. So, when users are considering a specific sweater or a pair of heels, they can read reviews written by customers who purchased that exact item (a la Amazon). You can even sign up to be notified by email when a review is published. On each item’s page, users are asked, “Do you own this item?”, and if they do, they are encouraged to share their thoughts with the “ModCommunity.”
Tactic 3: Use feedback in all kinds of marketing efforts
After securing a diverse collection of reviews, brand conversations, stories, and images from your customers, you can start to get creative. Plug all the feedback into a multitude of marketing materials based on what works best for your business and what channels you are already utilizing. Take a look at a few exciting ideas:
- In-store advertising and promotional materials: Customer reviews are helpful not only for getting more people through your doors; they’re great, too, for increasing basket or order size. Create in-store advertising featuring the names and faces of customers. Include customer testimonials on promotional materials around expensive or hot ticket items. Consider reserving sections of all your printed promotional materials for customer reviews or stories. Think: circulars, flyers, brochures and posters, and even press releases. This lets prospects know that you have a customer base loyal to your brand.
- Testimonials included in premium content: Do you offer premium content such as white papers, books, tutorial series, or educational courses? These serve as a perfect outlet to include testimonials, especially if you are marketing these materials as a solution for a customer problem. Even if your premium content is free, sharing customer feedback can foster trust in your brand.
- Email newsletters: In your email newsletters, include a section that spotlights a current customer. Or you can use these newsletters to show off great feedback you may have uncovered recently: say, a 5-star Yelp review or a great photo on TripAdvisor posted by a guest. Show your email subscribers that, left to their own devices, people are talking positively about your brand.
- Blogger outreach: A great way to engage with some of your best, most vocal customers is through blogger outreach. Whatever your company is good at, you can be sure that there are plenty of bloggers who would love to give it a go and write a full review.
- Mobile apps and local discovery services: There are tons of ways to encourage feedback and user-generated content. Mobile apps and services like Foursquare, Instagram, and Swarm are wonderful places to start because they are designed to facilitate engagement and recall, while connecting consumers with great local businesses.
- Brand ambassadors: There are many ways you can identify viable candidates for brand ambassadors: through a loyalty rewards program, through social media monitoring, or through surveys and contests.
Tactic 4: Identify your opportunities
So far, we’ve only been discussing tactics for leveraging positive feedback. But negative feedback can be good for your business, too.
Viewing the negative as “opportunities” is the first step towards leveraging them. This will also allow you to identify operational policies that need to be changed, or pinpoint certain areas where you can make improvements that will be worthy of better reviews the next time around.
However, before making any changes, here are some things you should take into consideration:
- Consider overall impact. How many customers will see this change as positive? Will it make things easier, cheaper, more helpful, better customer service?
- Consider the opportunities. How will this change affect your market opportunities? Do you stand to make more money? Right away or over a long period of time?
- Consider support from management. Will you be able to propose this change to management and communicate how it serves to better your overall brand? Can you sell the idea and explain how it will increase sales? Is this an opportunity that will garner buy-in at every level of your company?
Net Promoter Scores
One tool that’s immensely helpful in identifying opportunities from your customer feedback is the Net Promoter Score survey. Businesses can implement NPS surveys as a means to measure customer sentiment and drive customer satisfaction levels.
The NPS survey makes use of a scale that ranges from -100 to 100 and measures how willing your customer base is to recommend your services to their friends or family. The number is used as a proxy for overall customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
For example, a company may ask a client, “How likely are you to recommend this product?” The respondent is then offered a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being extremely unlikely and 10 being extremely likely.
Those answering this question with a 9 or a 10 are considered your promoters. Those falling in the 7-8 range are passive and 0-6 are your detractors.
So: let’s say your business has 20% promoters, 50% passives, and 30% detractors. You simply would subtract your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters in order to calculate your Net Promoter Score.
20% – 30% = a Net Promoter Score of -10.
You can utilize Net Promoter Scores to learn more about what is most important to your audience, identify your opportunities, and make changes accordingly.
Tactic 5: Respond to customer desires, feedback & expectations
Hopefully, by investing some time identifying your opportunities, you can start making a few changes with ease: changes that respond to your customers’ desires, feedback, and expectations.
Take it slow at first. Customer feedback allows for these types of changes and revisions to occur without having to wait for other forms of business intelligence, like surveys or end-of-year analysis. When your customers are overwhelmingly bringing up the same problem, you can fix it, and now.
Here are few examples of small changes you can make based on feedback and review data:
- Updating brand icons or making minor changes to logos
- Incorporating new or better photography in your marketing materials
- Creating more descriptive advertising copy for print materials and your website
These changes may seem trivial but can certainly impact how consumers view and engage with your business.
Meanwhile, here are a few slightly bigger changes you can make based on feedback:
- Implementing or offering new deals, EDLPs (every day low price) /price structuring, sales, offers, or coupons
- Making alterations to your POS system to make check-out more efficient
- Incorporating customer reviews and recommendations into your website
- Adapting your return policy to be more customer-friendly
These changes are more labor- and cost-intensive and could require maximum buy-in from leadership.
You can also leverage feedback to introduce big changes. Here are a few examples:
- Better support for your mobile customers
- Updating your web design for a more user-friendly experience
- A redesign of one of your brick-and-mortar locations
- Reiteration / development of your products
- A change to your product mix
- Updated policies enabling more effective customer service
Hopefully, you have gained a better understanding of how you can leverage customer feedback to improve your business performance.
Once you get in the habit of the tactics listed above, you’ll be able to take your business to the next level. You can make brand revisions that speak to your customers’ desires. You can garner a larger fan base by marketing a positive customer experience. You can reengineer your approach to customer service and product development in highly impactful ways.
By truly listening to your customers, you can let their words work for you, and not against you.