Glowing customer reviews are the gold dust of modern commerce. Recent studies have consistently shown that customer reviews are one of the most significant drivers of consumer behaviour, with online reviews at least as memorable as any associated advertising.
The main psychological mechanism behind the power of reviews is believed to be the innate desire to be like our peers – the “follow the crowd” and “fit in” mentality.
Defining customers and their expectations
You can’t expect to get consistently positive reviews from your customers if you don’t know who they are or what they expect from you. Customer profiling is needed to enable you to define the different groups of customers who buy into your brand, and pick up on the higher values that lie behind their purchasing behaviour. You can tap into these by using a mixture of surveys, questionnaires and more immediate measures such as on-site interviews (for physical stores) and live chat engagement for online businesses.
You will discover that customers are less attracted to the features of your products or services and more to the less tangible messages conveyed by your brand: quality, prestige, professionalism, trustworthiness, trendiness, etc. With this information you can start focusing your efforts in the right area.
How to exceed expectations
Once you know what your customers expect from your brand, every touch-point between your brand and your customer becomes an opportunity to reinforce to them that your business can meet those expectations. So if your customers expect your brand to be at the cutting edge of technology, keep up to date with the latest advances and be the first to integrate them into your business. If your customers expect an attentive service, every message communicated to them, whether face-to-face, by email or over the telephone, should be focused on satisfying their every need.
By creating a detailed customer experience map you can focus in on every touch-point and ensure your staff and systems support your brand message. Taking this approach will already put you a step ahead of most of your competitors but to achieve those glowing reviews you have to over-deliver on each of these touch-points. A good example is the out-of-town car dealership that not only valets your vehicle as you wait but gives you and your family bus tickets so you can do some shopping.
Many businesses fall down by not actually giving customers the opportunity to give a glowing review. You may have a profile on Yelp! or Facebook, but if your customers are not told specifically that they can leave their feedback on these platforms they may never think to do so.
Post-sale surveys are another place where you can ask for feedback, but make sure the customers have to either opt-in or opt-out of publicizing their reviews. Similarly, if a customer emails you with a glowing review, don’t assume you can use it in your marketing – it is polite to ask them first.
When it goes wrong: rescue tactics
Of course, there is always the possibility that someone will post a bad review of your product or service. This is not necessarily a bad thing as a balanced score – with a range of reviews – can actually look more authentic than a 100% track record.
If you do pick up a bad review, don’t panic and take the following steps:
- Respond immediately – this shows you care about your customers and are conscientious
- Apologize for their experience
- Correct any factual discrepancies with a simple, non-defensive correction
- Apologize for any specific failures and promise to rectify the issue immediately
- Thank them for their valuable feedback
If you want to offer any compensation, contact the customer directly. Posting an offer of compensation publicly is an invitation for more bad reviews!