Reputation and Customer Satisfaction

Reputation eats your brand

Photo (CC) by David Armano, on Flickr

Business owners know a satisfied customer is more likely to be a repeat customer. And a dissatisfied customer can only hurt your reputation.

If that was the end of it, business owners might not have to worry as much about their reputation. But it doesn’t. Research suggests that a satisfied customer will tell about five other people about their experience. Dissatisfied customers will tell approximately 20 other people.

Those numbers, especially for the unhappy customer, are why business owners are continually urged to do everything they can to maintain high standards for customer satisfaction.

Yet those numbers represent only those people who we told mostly by word of mouth.

Today the potential audience that people can tell is much larger. Why? Welcome to the impact of social media.

There are two reasons why social media is so powerful in terms of your business reputation. First, look at the size of the audiences. We have all heard about certain viral customer complaints that went viral. Certainly those can have some substantial impact but what about a single negative comment just among friends.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. I routinely use TripAdvisor to post reviews of restaurants and hotels. I recently made three posts. According to TripAdvisor, within 10 days approximately 60 people had read those reviews.

Let’s move on to social media such as Facebook. Now the potential reach gets much bigger. For example I have about 250 friends. Already the audience is four times greater. But now friends tell their friends. If only 10% pass of my friends share the post with perhaps their 250 friends, 6500 people have now read something negative about your reputation.

And if sheer numbers aren’t enough to make you cringe, consider the second issue. People believe what they read online. Although the rate varies by generation, about 50% of baby-boomers and 80% of millennials accept the reviews they find online as valid. And that rate only goes up if I know the person writing the review.

More than ever before, customer satisfaction makes a difference in terms of reputation. And the trend is going to keep on growing.

So: (1) keep your customers satisfied and (2) monitor your online reputation. The time spent doing these will be time well spent.

eXtension FREE Webinar – Blogging for Food

eXtension Online Marketing Webinar Series
February 13, 2014
2:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. CT/12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. PT
 
Blogging For Food
Presented by Jennifer Lewis, The Soup to Nuts Resource for Artisan Food Entrepreneurs
 
The eXtension Entrepreneurship webinar winter series focus is
marketing online and enhancing their online marketing strategy.
 
February 13 – Blogging For Food
Presented by Jennifer Lewis, The Soup to Nuts Resource for Artisan Food Entrepreneurs
2:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. CT/12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. PT
 
Starting your own business is not an easy task especially if you are involved with the food industry – after much research it was evident there were few resources where ‘foodies’ could ask questions and get helpful information. Jennifer Lewis will share her experience with creating a blog to provide resourceful knowledge to the artisan food community.   Learn how a blog could be useful for your business to engage with customers.

Follow Entrepreneurs and Their Communities at:
 
UPCOMING WEBINARS
March 13
– Incorporating Video into the Marketing Strategy
Presented by Jeremy Doan, Rolling Plains Adventures
 
Video today is as important today as content marketing.  Learn how Jeremy Doan, Rolling Plains Adventures uses video to explain what their business is about, how they can share customer experiences, and what it takes to create short video segments to benefit your business.
 

All webinars will air monthly on the second Thursday at  1:00pm (CT); 12:00pm(MT); at https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/etc-cop.  Webinars are recorded for your convenience and are archived at https://learn.extension.org/events/recent

 

Being There for Your Customer – Location and Hours

Know your customerAre you where your customer is? And are you there when they need you?

You may think this is another push for ecommerce and being online and that certainly fits. However all stores, traditional and online, need to think where their customers are and are open when the customer needs service.

Think about where you shop. For example, my grocery shopping is driven by where is the closest store. Unless you provide me, as a consumer, a reason to come to a different store, consumers tend to take the easiest route.

Yet probably an even more important part of “being there for your customer” is driven by the hours you are open. Most of your customer base works from 8 or 9 to 5. Yet how many times has your service department informed a customer that they will be there sometime during those hours. It happened to me just last week. So my choice is forgo the repair, probably not an option, or take a day of vacation.

Look at how many businesses have changed. I can go to my bank from 7 am to 6 pm M-F and Saturday morning. My dentist has similar hours. Getting my haircut can be done 11 hours a day, seven days a week. And I have located an appliance repair shop that does evening house calls for no extra charge. And the list goes on.

This issue of “being there for your customer” begins with understanding who the customer is. The understanding though must include what they want. If I am your customer and like your product or service, I may find a way to continue our relationship. But it may not indicate I am fully satisfied. If a competitor offers something better, I may just give them a try. And if I like what they do and when they do it, you may have lost a customer and not even know why.

So how do you get an understanding of what I want? First, look at your own patterns. You are a customer for goods and services. What makes you happy when you keeping your own business open.

Also, just ask. A one-question survey can slowly gather data and not be considered intrusive. Maybe just run the survey for a week. And leave time between each survey.

Customers lead busy lives. The more you can help them keep control, the more you have gained loyalty and a voice for your business.

Your Business has an Online Reputation!

Trust attributes

Photo (CC) by Intersection Consulting, Flickr

Every business owner knows that their business has a reputation, both good and bad. They know people who have thanked them for their help and they know customers have left angry (but they probably don’t know them all as we, as consumers, sometimes don’t tell the owner but we let everyone else know).

In the days of traditional media, statistics suggested that a satisfied customer told maybe five people about a good experience. However the dissatisfied consumer may tell as many as 20.

Well today information about the reputation of a business can be found online. Even if it isn’t in one of the online review sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, people make comments on their Facebook page or in a tweet about their experiences. And, as in the case of United airlines and others, some of these incidents become wide spread, or “go viral.”

There are tools that a business owner can use to help him or her monitor what is being said (see https://www.openforum.com/articles/online-reputation-management-tools/). Yet research suggests that many small business owners simply do not take the time or don’t consider it a priority. Not watching what is being said about your business though brings great risk. No longer are 20 people hearing about a poor experience but all of that person’s hundreds of friends. And if a comment is made, just starting multiplying that by their friends and their friends, etc., etc. Thus you can see not paying attention is perhaps letting the snowball start rolling down the hill until it devours your business.

And if nothing is being said, don’t assume that is a good thing. Being there is the first requirement. But more and more, people want to check out your reputation. Online reviews are a quick and easy way to begin to develop a trust relationship with the consumer. You need to work on developing those online reviews. Encourage them from current customers.

Bottom line: 1) Know your reputation. 2) Encourage your customers to share their online reviews.

The Power of Promise – Why product guarantees work

A number of years ago, I purchased a tree from a local, well-established nursery. I did everything I was told to plant and care for the tree properly but the next spring the tree was dead. Since the receipt had “100% replacement guarantee” printed on the bottom I called to see about getting a replacement tree. The person on the phone made me provide a lot of information to prove I actually did buy the tree from them and then proceeded to grill me with questions about what I had done wrong. Finally I was told if I wanted a replacement I would have to bring the dead tree in so they could look at it.

Satisfaction guaranteedI was offended. I did not bring the dead tree in. I did not collect my original money or a replacement tree. I also never returned to that nursery and have since spent thousands of dollars on plants and products with other local businesses. About five years after this experience that particular nursery went out of business. And, nearly two decades after the fact I still remember this incident!

In the psychology of consumers there are few things more powerful than a simple guarantee. In most cases, it will cost you very little and it just might increase your sales and bring in some new business! 

When customers see that you stand behind your product it sends a powerful message. It says, “I am proud of my product“. A product guarantee says, “I want you to be satisfied and I am willing to do whatever it takes to see that you feel good about doing business with me“.

Furthermore, the implied message in a guarantee is “I value your business and trust your judgement.”  In the example above, the nursery in question lost my business not because a tree died or because they would not replace it. They lost my business because their policy and actions said clearly they did not trust me.

All of these sentiments help build the type of customer loyalty that our businesses need to face the relentless competition in the marketplace. Having a guarantee and promoting it will also set you apart from those competitors who aren’t willing to fully get behind their product.

Here are a few considerations about product (or service) guarantees:

  • Make it easy for customers to return products. It is perfectly OK to ask a few questions but don’t grill customers — remember the goal is to make them happy not annoy them more.
  • Be clear about what your guarantee covers — Is it cash back? Is it a replacement? Store credit?
  • Train your employees on how to handle complaints and, if you are not available, empower them to make judgement calls when it comes to refunds, replacements, etc. No one wants to hear, “we’ll have to check with the manager and get back to you…

 Are there risks to offering guarantees? Sure. Could you be taken advantage of? Sure. But not offering guaranteed satisfaction sets you up for even greater risks down the road.

Great Customer Service Begins with a Smile

Smiley Face

Smile (CC) by seanbjack on Flickr

The first step in great customer service is simple and easy. It begins with a smile. And give a nice “hello” also.

What does it cost? Nothing. What does it get your small business? A great first impression. And if you continue to do it, it creates an atmosphere where I, the customer, look forward to doing business.

Of course that isn’t all that makes up good customer service but, if you miss the first step, you already are playing catch-up.

What are some of these other pieces? Read a blog post on Small Biz Survival.

What would you add to the list?