If you are accountable for the overall performance of a business unit, then you are probably well aware that metrics matter. Logically, we are preconditioned as leaders to track revenue and profit, but in order to make a significant impact on business growth, smart business organizations need to take a closer look at the drivers behind customer acquisition and customer retention.
Knowing why your customer is willing to do business with you, and understanding what is deterring him or her from repeat business engagements, will set the stage for effective operational and marketing revisions aimed at improved customer satisfaction and improved customer retention.
While there are many tools, both internal and external, that your business can use to measure and evaluate customer satisfaction, consumer online reviews are the new kids on the block likely to have the greatest impact on the way you do business. In fact, in the last decade there has not been a bigger, more impactful change to the way we do marketing than online prompted and unprompted customer opinion.
Tracking your year-over-year review and reputation performance will equip you to laser-point your decision process as it relates to product, logistics, and operational changes; and it will help you create a brand that better aligns with customer expectations.
Let’s take a look at various aspects of the customer experience that you can track and evaluate using readily available online review data.
Identify and Prioritize the Review Sites Most Relevant to Your Business Line
For the most part, we encourage businesses to carefully track all the review sites, with the idea that a comprehensive approach to review monitoring can potentially protect you from a public-relations crisis. We also feel this can serve as a way to alert you of changing trends related to online engagement, as review sites implement new apps, tools, and interfaces that may make the most popular review sites temporarily fall out of favor, giving preference to whoever has the newest tech implementation.
Having said that, for every industry there are a few review sites that are either industry-focused or favored by users as the go-to place to leave online reviews. Take a moment to identify which review sites have the most potential for your industry, and document the top three to five originators of reviews on your year-over-year initial report. You will use this data to track who has the greatest level of engagement in terms of total review acquisition in relationship to lead generation.
Track and Document the Basics
Regardless of the nature of your business, a year-over-year report must begin with the basics. Capture the total number of reviews and average overall score for your top sites. Also, document the lowest and highest individual review scores.
Depending on the nature of your business, review sites are likely to have subcategories that are numerically rated by consumers when completing a review. Document the subcategories that are most relevant to your industry in order to address and correct your weakest areas. If you are a hotel, for example, you may want to consider tracking subcategories such as cleanliness, and suitability for group types such as singles, couples, families, or businesses. By understanding where you stand in these categories, you will be able to make changes to the way you do business and tackle areas that prior reviewers perceive as weakness on the part of your venue.
Don’t Forget to Track Review Site Trends
The truth is, the majority of business review sites are valuable insofar as they generate new business. Because of this, knowing how many business leads each site generates is an important metric to help you decide where and how to spend your marketing allocations.
Yelp, for example, provides you with a dashboard that gives you insights as to the total number of leads generated by their sites. It is up to you to correlate revenue per transaction in order to better understand the value of your presence on each review site.
Look for Trends in Highly Negative and Highly Positive Reviews
Study your highest and lowest scoring reviews to try to identify what drives engagement and what deters repeat business. If you see a repeat pattern on your negative reviews, then work toward implementing a corrective plan. In a similar fashion, use highly positive reviews to reinforce and reward your team members, and educate new employees as to what really matters to your customers. Document the dates of highly negative reviews, to track frequency and measure the impact of operational changes as communicated by reviewers.
Consider a Quarterly Report to Help You Track Seasonality
If your business is impacted by seasonality, then you may want to include a quarterly audit as part of your year-over-year review report. Your quarterly audit will allow you to identify how customer perception changes during high versus low season. Many factors can impact the customer experience, from how busy your staff is to weather variations, or pricing that reflects occupancy.
All of these factors will likely result in a variety of opinions regarding your business, which should be tracked and managed in a way that builds consistency in year-round experiential quality and value perception.
Look for Industry-Specific Trends Within the Text of Your Reviews
Go beyond subcategories, and try to identify common denominators across all highly positive reviews. The goal is to know what drives high customer satisfaction that will result in repeat business, and apply your learnings to the manner that you develop products, pricing, and promotion in order to maintain customer engagement.
Don’t Forget to Track Your Competitors
We are surprised by the number of businesses that become so focused on managing their own reputation that they fail to even take a peek at what their competitors are doing. Tracking overall scores, review acquisition speed, and popular trends among two or three of your direct competitors will equip you with the tools to shape your marketing campaigns and products in a way that captures the best that others have to offer, combined with your most desirable qualities.
Keep It Simple
When it comes to year-over-year review-site assessments, less is more. Only track metrics that are relevant and likely to spark positive change. If you have not yet done so, then consider implementing a review tracking and monitoring tool like ReviewTrackers to help you simplify things, and invest your time where it matters most: with your customers.
Use the Data to Make Things Better
Data is only useful when we use it. The goal of tracking your reputation year over year is to implement operational policies and provide training that will trigger improved customer satisfaction and allow your business to grow in size and revenue.