Lesson 15: Bridging the Online and Offline World – Part 2

Part 2: Intercepting Bad Reviews

For some businesses review sites are regarded as the evil, dark side of social media. In reality, they actually are not bad for business if you use them right. They are, after all, a great discovery tool for customers. The key for reviews to work for a business is to make sure great reviews end up online and the bad reviews are kept private.

The best way to do that is to give customers an avenue for private reviews. Think about it; Why do customers post negative reviews online? The main reasons are:

  1. To get the attention of the business owner and get an issue addressed or compensation for their trouble
  2. To warn others about a business that they should stay away from
  3. For vanity reasons – to get acknowledgement and recognition from their network

While it’s hard to prevent people who are driven by vanity from posting online, the first two reasons are easily addressable privately. If you provide an outlet for customers where there issues can be addressed, not only will you prevent the bad review, but you may also convince them to come back to the business for another try.

Many businesses believe they already have an outlet for negative feedback. We often hear business owners gripe about customers not complaining to their face and instead going online. While complaining face-to-face is something the owner considers best, most customers would never do that. Many people are embarrassed or afraid of face-to-face confrontation. It is also often the case that they are in a situation where it might not be appropriate (such as a date or a business meeting).

What about offering an email? Some businesses put their email everywhere and hope customers will contact them that way if there’s a problem. However, while in the past customers would give out their email freely, these days customers associate emails given to businesses with spam. They do not want to reveal their email and end up on a marketing list. Customers are also worried about that email getting sold to other marketing providers and spammers. Unfortunately, due to the unscrupulous behavior of bad actors in the early internet years, there is very little consumer trust left.

Another reason customers hate email is that it will often mean exposing their name and identity. Many customers are not comfortable with that. In particular, it is the most loyal of customers that actually do not want to expose their name for fear of ruining the relationship with the owner and the staff. Some fear retaliation of employees they complain about.

Another popular feedback tool is the contact form on the website. These were great in the nineties. Sending customers to a website to fill out forms just to send you feedback does not work anymore.

A customer has to be extremely dedicated to make the effort to go home, find your website, fill out a bunch of personal details on a form and then detail from memory what happened that upset them in the first place. In the age of mobile phones, that’s going to happen less and less. It’s much easier to pull out a phone, go to Facebook or Yelp and just rant away.

Lastly, you’ll sometimes find the predecessor to the online contact form: a physical feedback card. This quaint solution has been around since the invention of paper and while it still works for some, it’s losing relevance quickly. Response rates to feedback cards were never great anyways. Call it a generational thing, blame mobile phones, whatever it is, feedback cards only work on a limited and diminishing set of customers.

So what’s a social media manager to do?

It should already be clear to you that the solution needs to involve a mobile phone. And, as they say in technology, there’s an app for that! Several companies out there offer a wide variety of phone-based tools to gather customer feedback.

A common type of tool involves using text messaging to send the business owner a message. This requires that the business get a dedicated phone number for this purpose (unless the owner wants to expose their personal phone number). More problematic is that it requires that the customers spend their own money to send a business an SMS. If they have a long complaint with a lot of details, they may even have their message split into several chunks, each costing them money. Lastly, consumers send an average of 750 text messages a month. It’s easy for the message back to them to get buried between the messages from mom and the reminders from the kids.

Alternative solutions involve mobile apps, whether native or web based. The nice thing about an app is that many of them are location based, so the customer can pull it out and it shows them the business right there on the spot. They don’t have to search so there’s less effort involved. Many of the apps also allow for a photo to be sent so the review can be more meaningful (for example if it includes a photo of the rude cashier they refer to).

Apps are free to the customer and they allow the customer stay anonymous while maintaining the integrity of the message. That’s because of the unique ID every device has. This means that each customer can only have one profile that’s tied to the device. Unlike the web, where one person can create multiple profiles and send multiple messages, with most mobile apps users can’t create multiple profiles limiting the opportunity for fake users. If a customer abuses an app and sends multiple spam messages, it’s relatively easy for an app provider to shut them down and block them from the system. Another advantage for apps that offer it is the ability to determine the location of the customer to confirm that are indeed in the place of business they are reviewing or had recently been there. This also limits the opportunity for fake reviews.

Of the apps available our favorite is, naturally, OwnerListens. It’s simple and easy to use. It comes pre-populated with almost every business that’s in Google Places and offers the ability to manage multiple locations in one inbox. This is especially useful for the social media manager who has multiple clients. To learn more about it head on over to our homepage.

After you’ve chosen your feedback program provider, you must let customers know about it. Again, this is where the customer-facing materials come into play. In the same way you ask customers to follow you online, you need to ask them to send you a review if they have anything negative to say. You have to tell customers about the tool you’ve chosen, otherwise they will default to what’s convenient – Yelp, Facebook etc. We will discuss materials and placement in the next post.

Pro Tip:
Want to be a really great social media manager? Don’t only prevent bad reviews, ask customers to post good ones when they message you about a good experience.

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