Think You Have Your Online Reviews Under Control? Don’t Forget Social Media

March 14, 2014

45 percent of customers say they’re more likely to visit businesses that respond to their reviews

Online Reviews Survey

Build Online Reviews and Reputation, Instead of Just Social Media Likes and Followers

As business owners and corporations improve in their knowledge of working with consumer-generated content like online reviews, they have become far more sophisticated and strategic in how they use it.

Many industry leaders, for example, have full wings of their marketing department solely dedicated to engaging with the customer, and to mining user-generated content in order to identify trends, diagnose issues, and introduce new products and services that fill in gaps created by consumer’s perceived needs.

(Check out: “5 Tips for Improving Customer Engagement)

Hospitality Leads The Way

Hotels and restaurants are notoriously good when it comes to engagement and response, specifically in external platforms. It is not unusual to see a 90 to 100 percent response level to both negative and positive reviews posted on websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Urbanspoon, Google, and others.

The turnaround time for responses is impressive, with some companies addressing every single consumer review within 24 hours of the review being posted on any platform. Responses in many cases are consistent, well thought-out, and resolution-driven.

This trend is great and admirable, but in many cases, even among larger organizations, there seems to be a speed and quality gap in responses on social media platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook.

Customers Opt for a Path of Least Resistance

When it comes to voicing an opinion in a moment of anger, dissatisfaction or despair consumers often seek the path of least resistance. This is particularly true for a customer that is still seeking resolution and is not necessarily just ranting in the aftermath of a negative customer experience.

Environments such as Facebook and Twitter offer a context that provides direct access to the vendor without barriers, such as the need for a login or having to wait for moderation, as they would on platforms such as TripAdvisor.

Because customers are speaking directly to the service provider and, more often than not, because they are right in the middle of the negative experience, vendors still have an opportunity to provide a satisfactory resolution.

Opportunities Missed

While numerous organizations have achieved the highest levels of engagement and response on review sites and ratings aggregators, more often than not, their direct social media involvement is often neglected or minimally managed.

For many companies, Facebook and Twitter are one-way channels for broadcasting their pitch, and not a means to facilitate direct communication with their customers. Tweets and Facebook comments are lost in the avalanche of commentary, frequently because of the difficulty of sorting through the platform, but more often than not this neglect is rooted in a lack of understanding of the value of these interactions.

It is not uncommon for a customer to use Facebook when all else has failed. The customer may have encountered an unresponsive customer service hotline or may find himself in a situation where the company providing the goods and services can and should still come to the rescue.

For those companies which have yet to implement policies and procedures aimed at managing online commentary on social media platforms, it is imperative to go back to the drawing board and make this a priority. When it comes to salvaging customer relations, this context might just be the one that provides you the highest return on investment.

Practical Implementation

Timely and customer-focused engagement on social media platforms does not deviate a great deal from the policies and procedures companies have implemented for responding to online reviews. Because a good number of these customers are still in search for resolution, the main difference in management procedures relates to escalation.

To successfully implement social media management programs, organizations must define their voice and centralize the management of inbound social media communications. It is important to remember that the person creating and launching an outbound branding, promotion or marketing message in social media might not be the best fit to be charged with engaging in customer care and escalation in these same platforms.

When a corporation is designing its inbound social media standard operational procedures, it is critical to keep in mind three basic premises of service: sense of urgency, compassion, and resolution.

These three have to be acted upon but also conveyed, not only for the benefit of the affected party, but also as an opportunity to display the customer-focused qualities of the organization to its social media network.

Finally, when it comes to platforms like Twitter, the social media manager has to go beyond listening and become a proactive searcher of trends and keywords. Complaints and concerns about an organization might just become muffled by many voices, or might be misplaced due to improper tagging.

To reduce this risk, organizations need to be proactive and creative in the way they mine Twitter to reduce, or fully eliminate, complaints or concerns that go unheard. Savvy companies make it their business to have 100% proactive social engagement and response as part of their online engagement arsenals.

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