Local businesses know from experience how social media has transformed customer service. Customer relationships are no longer confined to the exchanges of goods and services. These relationships are now defined by likes, comments and reviews that show up on a business’ Twitter feed or Facebook page.
Increasingly, reputation management is a major concern for local business, and the statistics back this up. According to a survey conducted in the third quarter of 2015 under the auspices of BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor, more than 58 percent of businesses surveyed disclosed that they monitor customer comments, either using a free service or taking on the task themselves.
With Facebook launching its own Local Services discovery and rating tool (currently a standalone desktop application only, but likely to expand to mobile later in 2016) in December, local businesses can expect that channels for consumers to share their opinions and recommendations online will only continue to proliferate.
The good news, of course, is that these same channels are also direct marketing channels for local businesses. How can you create more social proof of your business’ excellent reputation? What are the best strategies available to you to make sure you’re driving but not dominating (or manipulating) the online conversations about your business?
Make excellent customer service a high priority. Obviously, no matter how much you or your employees repeat the mantra that the customer is always right, deep down you know that, well, sometimes the customer is not as right as they may believe themselves to be. However, remember that every interaction that occurs IRL (“in real life”) may end up replayed online. Concentrate on working with your staff to minimize unpleasant customer encounters. Try incorporating exercises focused on empathy, patience and cordial and consistent communications (especially when explaining business policies) into your regular team meetings. Likewise, encourage your colleagues and employees to demonstrate a strong work ethic in resolving customer disputes, and give them the tools they need to achieve a level of expertise that will allow them to answer any question a customer may have. This means also learning when to say, “I don’t know,” and to always follow up that admission with, “But I will find out for you.”
Know who your supporters are and collaborate with them on making positive content about your business available online. Who likes your business on Facebook? Would you recognize those individuals if they walked through your doors tomorrow? Are you actively promoting the positive reviews you’ve already received? Do you have a regular customer who raves about your products, services or overall excellent customer experience who may be willing to share their enthusiasm online? Be proactive and integrative. Encourage positive feedback in all your marketing materials, regardless of channel, and be transparent with your clientele about how any content they share — for example, harvested via an email survey about a specific product — may be utilized by your business for promotional purposes. And check out DMNmedia’s December 2015 post about how to integrate your direct marketing efforts with social media for additional advice.
Be responsive, and resist the temptation to give negative feedback the silent treatment. There’s no pleasing everyone. Complaints are inevitable. The key for your business, however, is to treat all customer feedback as worthy of engagement. As much as you like and promote the positive feedback you receive, you should pay equal attention to negative comments. Customers want to know that your business is willing to address their concerns in a timely, conscientious and solution-oriented way. Facebook even gives you additional tools to turn a poor customer experience into a better one, allowing local businesses to respond to public comments via private message, as well as promoting businesses that reply to 90 percent of their private messages and maintain an average response time of five minutes or less with a “Very responsive to messages” badge. And, if you are able to resolve customer disputes via social media, encourage your customers to update their original comment or review with information about how your business found a way to offer them satisfaction.
Know the rules and behave ethically. Your business needs to engage with its fans online, but creating engagements that comply with the terms and conditions of the various platforms themselves can be tricky. For example, in considering ways to leverage the positive feelings customers have for your business and building your social reputation on Facebook, reacquaint yourself with the site’s Community Standards and how they affect the guidelines for ratings and reviews. In your communications, avoid language that suggests incentives for positive comments or reviews. Never be abusive toward a customer for leaving a bad review. You should also review DMNmedia’s overview of how Yelp oversees reviews of local businesses for tips on best practices for social engagement with your customers — especially for those cases in which you feel as if you’ve genuinely exhausted all your options and need to take formal action regarding a complaint or negative review.
Whether yours is a local business with an established social media and digital marketing presence looking for a greater ROI or a new venture trying to navigate these platforms, DMNmedia can help. Contact our experts today to learn about how DMNmedia can advise your business on social media marketing and more.