It’s been a while since I last posted something on this Blog. Sorry for the long silence, apparently work and life caught up with me. Anyway, I sure don’t want to leave this to dust, so I thought I’d break the ice with my thoughts on a popular and current topic: online customer reviews; the psychology behind them and how to engage each unique customer personality type for better results.
Digital Visitor, a “social commerce agency” in the UK, recently published a good and insightful post about this topic. I’m going to quote some parts of the article and give my comments on some points:
"Whatever product or service you’re selling; online customer reviews have real bottom-line benefits including increasing conversion, lowering return rates and customer dissatisfaction, and boosting SEO efforts."
All true. Furthermore, and speaking out of experience in the Travel Industry, I can tell you that nowadays just being listed in the Top 10 hotels/resorts for your destination on TripAdvisor helps increase online bookings significantly. Most of the time it’s the customers and not the resort owners that open up a TripAdvisor listing for a certain resort, so your customers might already be talking about you, and if you don’t join the conversation it will only make your brand look like it doesn’t care about customer feedback. So, there’s really no good reason to ignore what your customers are saying about you online anymore.
Talking about the topic of what drives a customer to make time to leave a review, I’ve seen quite a few online reviews by now, ranging from the very short to the extremely long and detailed ones. These are made by customers that are taking time out of their busy schedules to write about your product or service; what exactly drives them to do it, and what is the best way to engage and encourage more reviews?
The folks at Digital Visitor break it up into 6 main groups: Altruism, Rewards, Influencing, Complaints, Loyalty and Fame.
It may sound surprising, but one of the key reasons why people submit reviews is because they have a desire to help others. They consider what information they themselves would want to see when making a buying decision, and post this so other shoppers can make an informed choice.
What you can do:
Start appealing to your customers’ altruistic side by asking for their help. Tell them that you value their feedback and that it’s important to both you and your other customers. And remember to say thank you!”
Agreed. I’ve seen many TripAdvisor resort reviews where you can clearly see a helpful tone; some users even mention that they hope that with their trip report and experience other travelers can make a better, more informed decision about their next place to stay. As part of my job as Community Manager at Royal Resorts I regularly choose good TripAdvisor resort reviews and post them right in out Facebook Timeline, along with a short text thanking the reviewer and leaving a link for others to click and land directly at the resort’s TripAdvisor page. This shows complete transparency and has worked very well in helping to increase the frequency of new reviews, which is one of the main elements for a top TripAdvisor ranking.
Brands today are asking more and more of their customers – asking them to like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, sign up to their newsletter, tell their friends about them, post a review etc. etc. etc. All these different requests have the ultimate same goal (to help drive sales), but they acknowledge the power of the individual in extending audience reach – using customers as part of an unofficial marketing team.
The result is that consumers are now becoming savvy to this, and with numerous brands seeking to make them a brand ambassador, they often expect – and require – some sort of reward for their efforts.
What you can do:
Rewards don’t have to be of a monetary value - a reward could be that you provide your reviewers with exclusive content or early access to a sale. Some 3rd party review sites such as Tripadvisor have very strict rules about this, so be sure to check the rules of each site to avoid being blocked or penalized.”
Like the post says, you have to be very careful and confirm with each individual review site if it is forbidden to encourage reviews by offering incentives. Your resort can be subject to penalties if found guilty of offering gifts to guests to leave glowing reviews and it is very easy to report such activity at the contact centers of the review sites such as TripAdvisor. In this case I’d suggest for example to instead focus on generating more brand awareness through a Facebook campaign in where you ask your fans for likes and/or shares of certain content in return to participate in some kind of contest of promotion. Offer your customers Facebook exclusive deals and promos, as well as feature their photos on your page and recognize and reward brand ambassadors (the most active fans of your brand who generate the most reactions to your posts)
Some reviewers are prompted by a desire to help brands improve their products. They might ask for a clothing retailer to make an item in a different colour, or for a transport supplier to add a new route.
In doing so, they not only provide companies with essential customer insight, but have an opportunity to help steer a brand’s product and service portfolio towards one that best meets their individual needs.
What you can do:
Tell your customers that their feedback will be listened to and considered – and follow through on this promise, updating them on any changes you do make. If they feel they have a real chance to influence change, they are more likely to respond.”
In my experience, I’ve found that there is nothing that a customer likes more than to feel listened to, and to see a change in the product of service as a result of voicing his/her opinion. I strongly suggest to keep a close eye on all customer feedback and analyze which ideas can be executed; follow up on those and be sure to let the customer know about it. You will end up with another brand ambassador who will be happy to rave to his friends about you and possibly send in new business leads.
When you add review functionality to your site, with it should come an understanding that not every review will be a glowing one. And whilst the good usually far outweighs the bad, you will find the odd unhappy camper will take to the keyboard to make public their dissatisfaction.
You may be nervous about negative reviews, but a site full of five-star reviews will set alarm bells off. Nobody expects everything you do to be absolutely, unwavering perfect – and the occasional bad review will show balance.
What you can do:
Have a clear process for customers to complain in place – be it a dedicated phone number, email or Twitter account, and encourage unhappy customers to use this. Offensive or inappropriate reviews (e.g. a tirade against store staff on a product review) can be deleted, but contacting the reviewer telling them why you have done so will help prevent further actions, and also open communication for you to resolve any issues.”
One of the most common fears when a business is opening itself to social media is exactly this; “but what will happen if people come into our wall and leave complaints and bad comments for everyone to see?” Like the post says, actually, it will add credibility to your brand. People are more internet and tech-savvy everyday, and these days it is much more suspicious to see only glowing reviews than to also spot a few bad ones. Also, while it is true that some of the bad reviews can be fake reviews specifically aimed at hurting your brand, the majority of them aren’t. This is a superb opportunity to be aware of your business’ pain points, as told by your own customers. You can adjust your product or service as needed, and again, your customers will love to feel listened to and will possibly bring in more referrals as a result of this.
Having said this, just like the post says, it is always best to bring the conversation from a public to a private channel; always reply in public to let the customer know his/her complaint has been heard and it is being followed up on, but always try to send the customer a direct message requesting contact details so as to follow up with a personal call or email from a manager - most times, this single action can help defuse the anger and end up converting an angry customer into a happy one.
In today’s competitive marketplace, brand loyalty can be hard-won and easily lost. But brands that deliver consistently great products or services, or have a reputation for superior customer service, can build up a loyal legion of fans who want to shout about them – which includes leaving glowing reviews.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a global giant or small start-up – if you’re doing a good job, you will start building a fan base. Foster these people and you will reap the rewards.
What you can do:
Bring your reviewers closer to your brand by shouting about them. Hold a reviewer of the month’ competition, where the winner is publicised on your website and social channels. Consider calling or emailing them personally saying how much you appreciate their efforts, or treat them with a gift voucher or discount code.”
This is similar to the previous point about encouraging reviews through incentives; one needs to be careful here so as not to make the review sites think you are getting new and glowing reviews by giving your customers something in exchange. I do think it is a great idea to regularly choose the best reviews, engaging the customer and asking for personal contact details and follow up with a call or a small token of appreciation for his/her next stay. This small gesture can go very far in bringing new business, as it makes the customer feel appreciated and will probably make him/her rave about your business to friends and family. Remember, these days more than never, it’s always the smallest details that make the biggest differences.
An especially heart-warming, vitriolic or comedic customer review has the opportunity to go viral. Part of the joy of social networking is the sharing of content that catches our eye. From cat videos to customer service mistakes, we love to share the unusual and the amusing – and that includes off-the-wall reviews.
While these unusual reviews may not have you seeing pound signs, consider that their entertainment factor means they are more likely to be shared – and the more they are shared, the more extended your brand reach.
What you can do:
Encourage people to say whatever they want – explaining that you value honesty and opinion above all else, or think about a competition to find the most amusing or inventive review.”
In my experience as Community Manager, I’ve faced only a few incidents in where I chose to delete the Facebook comment or report a review to be taken down; only when it was very clear that either the review was fake (left by a competitor or 3rd party), or the tone/language of it was very vulgar and offensive and/or said nothing about the product itself, it was more of an angry rant. Complete transparency is always the best way to go. You have to be prepared for the occasional bad comment/review and engage accordingly; if your brand answers correctly to an angry review, potential new customers will see it as a humane brand and will become more interested on it. It is not the review, but rather how your brand answers to it what other potential customers pay more attention to. If you find out that the complaint is valid -even though it is angrily written- always begin by accepting the fault, offering an apology to your customer, and always inform them of the steps you’ve taken in order to ensure avoiding a similar incident in the future.
I would add another reason on why people leave online reviews to the previous list:
- Competitors: Unfortunately, it is very easy to pay a 3rd party to leave a positive or negative review on a review site such as TripAdvisor. I’ve even seen services offered at some websites in where for a few dollars a person can leave a review of your liking in any review site. This creates 2 main problems: a bad competitor can pay a 3rd party to damage your online reputation by leaving a fake, negative review of your property; and he can also pay the same 3rd party to leave glowing reviews on his site, causing the property to increase its ranking on the review sites. Any of the previous activities is just plain unfair competition and any ethical business should abstain from them. It is always best to increase your rankings naturally, and instead invest in providing outstanding service and facilities; true, positive word of mouth has much more of an impact in potential customers.
What you can do:
If you are suspicious of some particularly negative review of your property, most review sites provide a link where to report it. On TripAdvisor you can learn more about how to do it here:
Rest assured that the review sites will take a look at your report, since its on their interest to be as transparent as they can be to the public, as that is what has built their business; the trust of millions of customers in that the reviews they are looking at have been left by other travelers. They usually respond in a couple of days and I have had TripAdvisor take down a couple of fake reviews after I reported them without any problems.
Those were a few of the reasons that I believe are behind customers leaving online reviews. In your experience, would you add more to the list? The comments are yours.
Link to the original article:
What’s in it for me? Why customers leave reviews - Digital Visitor