Online Customer Reviews & Comments: Be Part Of The Conversation


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You may not be talking with your customers on social media, but rest assured that they’re probably talking about you. It may seem like a private chat to the people involved, but their reviews, complaints, and comments are all out there for the public to read and share.

Strangely enough, many businesses ignore social media. In 2012, Stanford University studied social media usage and found that half of companies fail to collect and analyze information from their social media activity. Less than a third of companies monitor social media at all.

Bad publicity online hurts your bottom line: research from 2009 found that just “one bad Tweet” or negative social media post may turn away thirty potential customers. Many more people use social media now than in 2009: if you’re not playing the game, you’re guaranteed to lose.

An Online Community Has A Lot Of Influence

Twitter gets most of the media buzz, with the importance of events measured by how many Tweets per minute get sent. It’s important because of the reach and attention it gets from the media and general public. So companies often focus so much on avoiding embarrassing PR disasters on Twitter that they ignore portals with even more impact on their target audience: review sites.

Bad service leads to bad reviews, which leads to lower sales:

A 2011 Harvard Business School study found that a one-star increase in a business’s rating on Yelp can increase sales by as much as 9%. Negative reviews may decrease sales. A 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker survey found that 4-out-of-5 consumers changed their minds about a purchase after reading a negative online review.

Review sites like TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Yelp, and UrbanSpoon are influential because people trust them. In fact, some studies have found that people trust online reviews and recommendations, as much – or more – than those from people they know personally!

And why not? Social media certainly feels personal and intimate and the conversations help replace the intimacy and personal connections that many people lack. A 2006 study found that a quarter of Americans felt that they had no close personal confidantes. With social media, everyone has a virtual community of “friends” to ask for advice.

Two-way Communication Is Critical

This is the danger zone for businesses: friends respond to questions and complaints. And customers expect businesses to do likewise. If people are posting comments and reviews about your product or service, you need to be part of the conversation.

There is, of course, a right way to do that (be candid, apologize for problems, and solve them – quickly) and a terribly wrong way. Immediacy doesn’t have to equal idiocy. If communication is managed well, it “…can lend authenticity and a more conversational tone to engaging with people online, building trust and fostering relationships that don’t come about from firing off press releases to media.”

Responding to complaints and solving customer problems is, of course, absolutely necessary. But once you put out that fire, it’s time to investigate why the problem happened in the first place – and stop it at the source.

How are customers treated when they call your business, try to get a store clerk’s attention, or complain to a waiter that their food is cold? Social media comments and reviews give you an invaluable insight into your product and staff performance. They represent an early warning system that every business should be monitoring.

If customers are unhappy with your service or products, most will try to solve the problem in person first. That’s particularly true in settings such as a restaurants, medical offices, etc. It’s harder to do when dealing with a large company or retailer, but most people still want to talk with a live person – even if it means waiting on hold. Even the 18-24 age group prefers to contact companies by phone!

But when that experience is bad, watch out! Frustrated customers have many opportunities to share their experiences online with friends and followers who are inclined to trust that they have to say. Smart businesses pay attention, respond quickly, and fix the problem. But businesses that ignore social media can’t fix any problems that get discussed. Too often, they don’t even realize they have a problem.

Social media should be the place where you promote your business, not apologize for it.

Scott Anderson
Scott Anderson is the Marketing Director at On Hold Company, a leading provider of on-hold marketing. We deliver creative and timely on-hold messages and offer hands-free remote-load technology to a single property or multiple corporate locations. To learn more, log onto On Hold Company.


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