We live in an increasingly social world. Today, roughly 90% of consumers will read product or service reviews online before making a purchase decision. Clearly our customers, and the information they provide to others about us, influence our success and our reputation.
There was a great article from Bill Lee on the Harvard Business Review’s website recently that challenged executive leaders to think about customers not just as purchasers, but also as providers of value and knowledge. Customers are as much assets as anything else in your business. Not only can they help you improve your products with their feedback, but they can also act as an extension of your customer service team. This is the reality of our digital world and must be considered during strategic planning and goal setting.
Online tools like social media and mobile applications are platforms that almost everyone is using today, and they offer a tremendous opportunity to build your brand and increase awareness. By simply making these tools available to customers you are increasing opportunities for your customers to share feedback and endorse you to their network.
On the other hand, screw up the customer’s experience and you may feel the social media wrath just as quickly. It’s a double-edge sword, so make sure you are on the right end and let your customers help you sell more product. Here’s how:
- Make Your Website Social. Make sure you have social plug-ins and sharing buttons on every page of your website. This allows users to quickly and easily share any piece of content with their network.
- Allow Reviews and Comments. If you highlight products or services on your website, be sure to integrate review and/or comment functions on those pages. This allows customers to provide valuable feedback and helpful tips to other users.
- Consider User Forums. If you provide a highly technical product or service, consider adding a knowledgebase forum or message board to your website. With your own help forum, experienced customers can help each other and provide their own tips and suggestions to each other.
- Reward Vocal Customers. If you start to see great comments coming from the same customers, thank them publically. You could even reward them with special discounts, gifts, or other rewards to acknowledge their loyalty.
- Acknowledge Bad Reviews. Somewhere along the line, you will probably be on the receiving end of a bad online review. When that happens, respond quickly and publically by apologizing, acknowledging the unmet expectations and offering a solution. Never get into a he-said, she-said argument online. Try to get the reviewer to contact you offline so you can get more information on his experience. After you resolve the situation, ask the customer if they would be willing to post a follow-up comment indicating their satisfaction.
Encouraging customers to share feedback on your products and services creates opportunities for company endorsements, brand awareness and product improvements. It is time to embrace your customers as the knowledge assets they are and give them the tools they need to spread the word about you!
Howard Shore is a strategic planning consultant and founder of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to their executive leadership. To learn more about strategic planning through AGI, please contact Howard at (305) 722-7213 or email him.