In the old days, it was easy to understand the customer experience. You had your manager or salespeople walk around. You asked or incentivized your customers to complete comment cards or surveys. Then you added in mystery shopping. All were good sources of information about the customer experience.
But that won't suffice anymore. Today, you have to think about your online reputation and what your customers are saying about you in social media.
Customer feedback spreads like wildfire: The average online review is read by 150 people.
Comfort with social sites growin: Cumulative reviews on Yelp, for instance, grew 54 percent year over year to more than 30 million, and average monthly unique visitors grew 52 percent year over year to more than 78 million.
Online reviews drive sale: A half-star improvement in online ratings can lead to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a restaurant will be fully booked during peak dining times.
The social world is here to stay. And the best brands in the business use social media, or more specifically the customer intelligence gleaned from these online conversations, to optimize their supply chain, tighten service standards, and generally make their customers happy.
Achieving these goals starts with listening to the feedback -- really listening. And the feedback should be categorized. For example, restaurants would assign feedback to specific categories such as service, food, prices, wait times, and ambiance. Then brands can improve strategically based on this data and communicate to let consumers know they care. The results play out in operational improvements that earn customer loyalty and affinity.
The effectiveness of using data-driven intelligence to drive business strategy depends on a brand's social media maturity. The more mature the company, the better they are able to leverage social market intelligence. There are four stages to social media maturity: read, engage, empower, and optimize.
Stage 1: Read and understand customer sentiment
During this stage you will find that you are visiting 15-20 review sites, bookmarking them, and reading every review. In most organizations with less than five locations, it's the owner who does this task. Once the business grows to more than five locations, this usually becomes the responsibility of the marketing and promotions team.
Some reviews can be lengthy and have lots of location-specific data. Some will be mostly positive and others mostly negative, but the majority of the reviews will be nuanced. That is they will contain several insights, positive and negative, and the corresponding star ratings don't give you the full picture.
When it comes to reading online reviews, best practices include:
- Hire a full time social media manager, especially if you have more than five locations. Minimally, make this the job of your marketing team, as a high priority.
- Ensure the reader is taking notes. Try to categorize the feedback by what matters to your business.
- Read everything. Don't skimp. It's important to ensure you understand the entire landscape of reviews.
Reading online reviews comes with challenges, such as handling a large volume of reviews, remembering what was said over time, and staying focused on this task. But if you can overcome those difficulties the results will definitely benefit you as you use the data to make informed, intelligent business decisions.