I think it’s probably the understatement of our generation to say that the troika of the computer, Internet, and social media has completely changed the way everyone does business. Even if you own a single location, Mom and Pop shop – the Internet and social media touch your business. Whether you engage there or not.
That’s the key sentence of this column. Whether you engage there or not.
In the good old days (translation – before the late ’80s) if a customer had a complaint, they only had a few choices:
- They could keep it to themselves
- They could call your local or 800 number to complain
- They could write you a letter
- They could complain at their bridge game, kid’s little league outing or during their night out with friends
Even if they did the last three in tandem – odds are, only a handful of people would hear about their issue. If you ignored their complaint (or never heard about it because they only shared it with their social circle) the damage was pretty localized. It was hardly a smart business strategy but it’s a mistake you could survive.
Fast forward to today. According to research cited in Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters (a great read – put it on your list!), people are complaining in record numbers but they’re not doing it the old-fashioned way. They’re taking it to the people.
No one is calling or writing to the offending company anymore. They’re turning to social media and firing off an email right before they head to the review sites. Today’s tools are so much louder and have an incredible reach. And yet, most businesses choose to ignore these complainers – leaving their diatribes and harsh words out there, undefended.
If you’re lucky, they are leaving reviews on sites you control or see on a regular basis, like your Facebook page, your Twitter feed or your Google reviews. Unfortunately, for you – odds are there are a few websites out there, like Yelp (it’s not just for restaurants – check out their professional services section) or Rate my Professor or HomeAdvisor.com that also allow disgruntled customers to vent their feelings for the world to see.
Depending on the study, between 68 – 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations by friends or colleagues. Despite the fact that people are much more likely to place a bad review versus make the time to praise a business, not all reviews are bad reviews. When consumers read a positive review, 72% of them say it increases the trust they have in that business. Really, when was the last time you spent a significant amount of money that the Internet was not a source of information as you made that buying decision?
So, tell the truth, have you been like most business owners and leaders and opted to ignore what’s being said about you online or have you taken a look? Like it or not, our world today dictates that you must care about online reviews. You need to figure out where your prospects go to read reviews when they’re trying to decide whom to do business with and you need to pay special attention to what’s being said there.
Think your customers would never complain because you deliver every time? One of the most eye-opening stats in Baer’s book is that 80% of businesses believe they deliver superior customer service. 8% of their customers agree. Clearly, there’s a disconnect that needs fixing.
Next week, we’re going to describe how to find those reviews and how to respond to them in a way that serves your business well.