Tag Archives: online reviews

Is Anyone Listening to Customer Feedback

customer feedback

How to handle customer feedback and avoid adverse reviews.

Are you listening to customer feedback? Last week someone posted on LinkedIn a cringe-worthy letter she’s been sent by the CEO of an airline following her complaint at having to wait 11 months for a refund, with no apology, no empathy and no acknowledgement. Although not quite in the same league as the “United Airlines breaks guitars” video (19 million views on YouTube!) it was still pretty damning feedback which simply got compounded by the crass response from the CEO.

It’s easy to get defensive or take things personally when hearing negative feedback from customers. But without it how do you identify what’s working and what’s not in your customer eyes? Customer feedback can give you actionable insights that help you make educated business decisions, rather than taking a shot in the dark. Value this honest feedback from customers.

The bad news is most customers won’t give you a second chance if their first experience is bad. That’s why it is paramount to gather customer feedback at the first available opportunity, so you have a chance to put things right before it’s too late.

Too many businesses rely on customers completing feedback forms or questionnaires. The trouble with these is that firstly, people have better things to do than fill out a survey, and if they’re going to say anything they’re far more likely to post a comment on social media, telling the whole world rather than just you.

Secondly, if someone has taken the trouble to give feedback it’s usually too late to rectify things if there was anything they didn’t like. And there are bound to be occasions when you don’t understand what they’re referring to, and by now it’s difficult to ask questions to unravel the issue.

First-hand feedback

Getting feedback directly from your customers gives you an opportunity to capitalise on positive feedback and minimise the impact of any negatives. It gives you the chance to ask questions to really understand the specifics.

When a customer has had a good experience, sharing this with you at the time helps reinforce those positives, whilst if it’s negative you have an opportunity to put things right.

Give your team the confidence to ask well-structured questions to get feedback on specifics; there’s a big difference between bland statements such as “I hope everything was OK” rather than asking about specifics such as “What did you think of the…..?

Talk to your customers

Being visible in your business, and making contact with your customers builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.

The same goes for your team too, so encourage them to talk to your customers. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bear in mind, your customers will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your team, and vice versa.

Welcome complaints

When there is something wrong, if you get to hear about this early on, it puts you in a position to empathise, apologise and do something about it whilst there’s still time to remedy the situation.

If you don’t agree with the feedback, rather than getting defensive, find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem. If you don’t know what disappoints customers or has led to a negative a perception, you can’t improve on it, so make sure you are prepared to listen to, and take on board any thoughts on what lets you down, so you can learn from this and address it.

It’s easy for team members to shy away from listening to complaints. Instead, train them to be observant and look for clues that things are not as they should be – a customer’s body language, facial expressions, the tone of their voice or hesitation, or their behaviours, such as leaving half their meal untouched, cancelling their order, asking for the bill earlier than expected.

Empower your team and give them the confidence to do whatever is in the customer’s best interest, without having to get approval from a manager, so any issues can be resolved swiftly and professionally with minimum fuss.

Online reviews

Whether it’s TripAdvisor, Google, Booking.com or Facebook, there’s no getting away from the fact that online reviews – and the responses to them – are shared publicly and may be seen by hundreds or even thousands of prospective customers.

Encourage positive reviews: The most effective way to generate positive reviews is organically, by offering such a positive experience that customers feel compelled to tell others. People are more likely to write reviews when expectations are surpassed, and this is often found in the small details and the special care of customers.

When you know the customer has had a positive experience, don’t be pushy, but sometimes just giving them a little nudge to post a review can make all the difference “I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your stay. It would mean a lot to us if you helped spread the word by posting a review on TripAdvisor.” Or for your team members to have cards they can write their name on and hand to customers, making the review process a little more personal.

Accept that you will get (hopefully only occasional) negative reviews. Whatever you do, don’t get drawn into defensive mode; research indicates that when customers see a business respond positively and professionally to a negative review, they are more than twice as likely to buy from that business than if they had not responded. It shows your customers that you care, and are willing to learn and adapt if relevant to meet their needs.

If the review is asking for a response or needs more discussion before it can be resolved, take the discussion off line by asking reviewers to phone/email you directly.

If you get drawn into a debate or argument, just think how many of your potential (or existing) customers could see that response. By the same token, if you feel justified or compelled to make a refund, you’re in danger of setting a precedent if you make this public online.

 

Make it easy

Have systems in placed to make it easy to gather and review feedback. Take note of the language your customers use to describe what they like. Capitalise on this information and use it in your marketing.

Capture the good and the bad.

Every bit of feedback you get from your guests is valuable to you, whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not. So treat it as such.

Action

If you only do one thing:

Have a process, system or forum for your team to share and review customer feedback so it can be acted upon quickly to learn from it and build on it to make continuous improvements.

p.s. if you need more ideas to get your team on board and give them the skills in  asking for feedback see 38 Training Exercise & Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service for ways to hone these skills

 


Who’s talking about you behind your back?

‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’

Oscar Wilde

So what do you do to get your customers (or your team, suppliers or joint venture partners) talking about you?

There’s nothing like a glowing review, testimonial or referral to endorse your business. Pick up any research on advertising effectiveness and you’ll see word-of-mouth at the top of the list.  But they won’t say good things about you unless you meet and exceed their expectations.

 

Give people a reason to talk about you

Everyone has an expectation these days for good service. So if you want to get people talking about you and ultimately give you great reviews or referrals, constantly look for ways to go the extra mile to impress your customer and make it really difficult for them not to talk about you.

Do something exceptional. Identify the things that are of perceived high value to your customers but minimal effort or cost to you so you can give added value. Do something to give people a real reason to talk about you. It’s the exceptional and unexpected that gets you noticed, remembered and most importantly brings you repeat or referral business.

It’s certainly the personal touches that can make an average encounter into a truly memorable one.

What is there that makes your offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others? Show your appreciation of their business and well as providing a memento that reinforces your relationship.

Your personal touches might not be pre planned, but as a result of being attentive to your customers’ needs. Train your staff to listen and be observant to what customers say or are looking for.

Customers love personal recommendations. And they love honesty. If they’re not sure what they want, find out about their needs, tastes, preferences, and tailor your recommendations. Share the ‘insider’s’ view, your personal favourites, what other customers tell you about their experiences or choices. Give your own tips, advice, and suggestions to help them make an informed decision, not the one that will make you the most money!

What is the very last thing that happens at the end of their visit or stay? How genuine is the farewell? How sincere the offer of help if they have problems? Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit to leave them with that wow factor.

Don’t be tempted to just copy what your competitors are doing. If you know what’s important to your customers you can start to tailor what you do to meet these needs.

And as you can’t be there all the time, give your team authority to do something spontaneous if they see an opportunity to enhance the customers’ experience.

Whatever your business, reflect on what your customers remember most about their experience with you? What happens in the last few moments of their visit will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression. Leave your customers with that little touch of magic that will stay with them for weeks, months or even years to come. So when someone asks them of THE place to go for that special occasion, fun day out, or indulgent treat it’s you that comes instantly to mind.

 

Create a social media buzz

Once you’re confident that people are saying the right things about you, get some of it in writing, so instead of just telling their friends they tell the world!

I personally still love an old-fashioned guest or visitors book for people to write their comments. But of course these only get seen by you and your other customers so encourage them to get the message further afield. If you’ve had a glowing comment in your visitors’ book, start off by asking if they’d be happy if you use that as a testimonial on your website. (And it adds even more credibility if you can get a photo of them or even a video!)

Then encourage them to get the word out there on social media. TripAdvisor is the obvious place to start, but encourage them to get talking about you on other social media networks which are most suited to your target audience, be that Facebook, twitter, etc. Again even better if they add photos tagged with the name of your business or other key words.

But please make it easy for them. Give them the link to your page rather than leaving them to hunt it down for themselves, because the chances are they won’t.

 

Get referrals

Referrals go one step further and are a great way to build your customer base – if a person comes to you as a result of a referral, you don’t need to go out and find them. The person who made the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you.

And, even better, referrals build loyalty with the people who recommend you – they will want to be seen to stand by their referral by continuing to come to you themselves.

But referrals, just like reviews, won’t always happen unless you ask for them.

The obvious people to ask for referrals are your existing customers. Focus on those customers who are your ‘perfect customers’ as the people they refer will be a better match to your preferred type of customer (people generally know and mix with other people like themselves).

Think about other people who know you well enough to recommend you. This might include colleagues, suppliers, your own team and others in your network. This will be easier the better they know you and when they fully understand the extent of everything you offer.

 

Make it easy

If you don’t ask you don’t get.  So ask customers (and others in your network) directly who else they know who may be interested in your promotions or forthcoming events.  The sooner you do this after they have stayed or visited the better. This is the time they are likely to be most positive about what you delivered.

The way you ask for referrals is key. If you ask:

“Do you know anyone who might be interested in receiving details of our promotions?”

you are likely to get  Noor at best  I’ll think about it.”

But if you ask a specific question, for example:

Who else do you know who is celebrating [their birthday, wedding anniversary, retirement …] in the next few months and may be interested in our [all-inclusive weekend breaks, wine promotion…]?”

“What other groups are you connected with who love..[ walking, cycling, floristry, local history….., etc]  and would be interested in our ….[exclusive programs, off season tours….]?”

 

Creating a simple referral form that you include with the bill or at the end of their visit can encourage existing customers to make referrals. Make this prominent, and offer incentives for them to give you names.

Maintain relationships with your customers, even if the likelihood of more business with them personally is limited. They are more likely to refer you to friends, colleagues or others if they have had recent communication from you.

Even if a customer only visits you once, remember, they have a network of friends and colleagues who may also be your ideal customers. The lifetime value of one customer can be their connections to other customers, too.

 

Reward reviews and referrals

If someone gives you a glowing review take the trouble to say thank you. Set up alerts and notifications so you can track what and when people are talking about you.  It demonstrates to others that you appreciate the feedback and don’t just take it for granted.

And if someone gives you a referral as an absolute minimum ensure that you thank them in person. Don’t wait to see if this actually leads to business, as what you are looking to reward is the referral process. The more referrals you have the greater the likelihood of gaining new customers.

Consider what other tangible incentives you might give that are of high value to the person making the referral, but at a low cost to you. Just ensure that the cost of the incentive does not outweigh the value of the referral. The nature of this incentive will obviously depend on where the referral came from, and what they’ll appreciate. Incentives don’t need to be cash; but they might include such things as a gift, an upgrade or bonus with their next visit, an invitation to an event, or an offer unique to your business.

 

Follow up

Once someone has gone to the trouble of giving you a referral the very least you can do is follow it up. Immediately.

Once you have a referral system in place, keep track of where and how you’re getting successful referrals. This will enable you to find out what works and what doesn’t, so you can refine the process.

 

Summary

So remember:

  • What are you doing to deliver exceptional customer service to encourage great reviews and referrals?
  • How do you make it easy for your customers to get the word out there to your perfect customers?
  • What systems do you have in place or need to set up to generate referrals?
  • How will you recognise and reward those who give you reviews and referrals?

Do you dread reading your online reviews?

Love them or hate them, online reviews do get read and will influence prospective customers. Sadly statistically people are more likely to be prompted to post a review if they’ve a bad experience than when they’ve had a good one. So aim to redress this balance, by encouraging as many of your guests as possible to post reviews, so you get the good ones as well as (hopefully only occasional) bad ones.

Display your confidence by encouraging your guests and website visitors to link to TripAdvisor. One of the easiest things you could do is to put a link from your website, and on your post stay e-mails, and prompt people who have enjoyed their stay to post a review.

It’s considered unethical to offer incentives, such as room discounts, in exchange for positive reviews. But the least you can do is show people you appreciate the feedback (good or bad) by responding quickly to the feedback you receive. Register with TripAdvisor so that you can monitor your reviews by receiving notification. A quick thank you in acknowledgement might be all you need for a positive review or feedback.

With negative feedback it’s important to show that you have looked into the situation and taken things on board. Feedback that you feel is unjustified can be frustrating, but the way in which you handle this will reflect on your professionalism and reputation, so deal with it in a constructive way. By asking them to phone you provides an opportunity for you to get more detail and having a better chance of resolving the situation.

Don’t be too concerned about the occasional negative comment. This demonstrates authenticity of the content and in some cases can actually help to highlight the type of hotel you are. For example, if you have a comment that the hotel is not child friendly, this may be seen as a positive for some potential guests.

Watch out too for feedback through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites so you can respond accordingly.

Caroline Cooper

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