Businesses are built one customer at a time. B2B companies know all too well that each customer interaction is a unique opportunity to delight and encourage them to broadcast their feelings as a brand evangelist. This is especially true today in retail as well. On the other hand, disgruntled customers can easily degrade a brand’s reputation through social media.
Unless the business is a monopoly or a utility, companies have to actively manage their reputation, for which feedback is key. Customers today have the choice to switch to a different brand at the swipe of their fingers, so companies should guard each interaction carefully. Look at what’s happening in the cable TV space and with wireless services. Customers are switching providers frequently due to higher price, lack of product bundle flexibility, or poor customer service. The customer churn and lack of change in these industries beg the question: Are they listening to their customers? And, are they addressing the feedback they receive? The answer is, probably not.
Feedback is an opportunity
Accelerated digital retail adoption during COVID presents a fresh opportunity for marketing leaders to rethink their operating models, and create a convergence between customer feedback, reputation management, and brand building.
Here are five reasons feedback is so central to brand building through reputation management:
- In today’s five-star rating culture, consumers want to know what other people think about a product or experience, especially for brands that are not household names. Feedback content is practically free to promote in branding campaigns and websites since it is your property. Sometimes the act of soliciting feedback alone is enough to make a positive impact on customer loyalty as it signals to customers that this brand cares.
- It is difficult to satisfy everyone every time and therefore, feedback obviously goes both ways. Typically, customers will give feedback on two ends of the spectrum: delighted and extremely dissatisfied. But the most interesting feedback is everything in between that highlights potentially real problem areas. For instance, when a location, function, product, or process consistently receives lower ratings or negative feedback, that is evidence of systematic issues to be addressed.
- Consistent positive feedback can also indicate that something the company does really well may not be coming out in marketing campaigns and messaging around one of the brand’s value propositions. Clearly in such an instance, marketing teams need to beat the drums about that thing.
- In addition to the rating itself, there are other metrics such as review frequency, number of words, and sentiment analytics that can indicate improvement or degradation in the customer experience. Soliciting customer experience feedback at critical steps in the customer journey — as opposed to only at the end of the sale or experience — can pinpoint improvements needed in key areas such as registration, amenities, or payment.
- Feedback gives companies the opportunity to convert a potentially negative customer into a promoter — if they quickly triage negative feedback, and actually do something with it. Often it’s those negative customers who really appreciate an instantaneous response and follow up action in response to their feedback. That’s what converts them.
Reputation management should be ongoing
When it comes to reputation management there are any number of “best practices,” and these are constantly evolving in response to market forces and customer expectations. But here are 10 dos and don’ts marketers should adopt in order to protect and enhance the brand:
- Allow associates to be brand ambassadors and to post pictures of happy customers, engaging or interesting sales experiences, and what they love about their job on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Proactively manage your reputation via social monitoring platforms that help regulate what employees are posting.
- Gather customer reviews centrally; federating it to individual sales locations will provide mixed results.
- Do not rely solely on email, as text messaging — with customers consent — elicits a better response rate than email for feedback.
- Solicit feedback via reviews on ubiquitous platforms such as Google or Facebook. Be sure to immediately acknowledge and process the information received.
- Benchmark ratings using a consistent scale such as NPS or reputation score.
- Thank your customer right away for a great review, then promote the heck out of it on your website, and use those reviews in your marketing campaigns.
- Work the feedback — especially the not so flattering ones — then follow through to make things right. Delight the customer, and then ask for the feedback to be updated.
- Track how many times the same customer is solicited for reviews. You don’t want to survey them “to death” as you want the customer to put in the effort to provide rich feedback.
- Finally, dedicate a small team to promote the review platform to store associates, train them on social posting, manage review solicitation, and work negative feedback.
The most crucial advice for marketing leaders is to weave customer feedback into the fabric of the organization for continuous improvement in the customer experience. Ensure that everyone sees how satisfaction metrics have gone up or down, and then ask why, what to preserve, and how to improve? This may require a cultural shift, but it makes a big difference to your brand building strategy and to your efforts to build an exemplary reputation within your industry.