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Making the most of online reviews and your reputation.

By Angie Ash, Executive Vice President

Years ago, before the Internet, business and product reviews weren’t necessarily relevant to a company’s success or failure. If a company disappointed a customer, a phone call was likely placed, or a letter mailed to voice displeasure. When a customer was extremely thrilled with a product or service, there may also have been a phone call placed, although we all know it is human nature to complain more than it is to give praise. However, in today’s world, it is very easy to post your feelings about everything from a product or shopping experience to a sales associate or waitstaff. That in itself is a reason for you to be on your best behavior.

Everyone from fast food restaurants to online directories want to know your opinion regarding your experience with their company so they can make improvements. Some even provide incentives to get that information. For instance, after at a recent visit to Starbucks where I purchased my coffee drink at the drive-thru with an app, I was asked via e-mail to rate my experience. The survey was less than 10 questions long and I was promised 10 extra stars toward my next free drink purchase when I completed it. With tactics this easy, it’s a no-brainer to participate.

Every day on Facebook, I see friends posting questions to their friends about where to shop, where to take kids for a fun day trip, where to eat a romantic dinner with a spouse, or which specialist is better. Although I get frustrated by these questions (just Google it already!), I also understand many people put the most faith in recommendations from friends and family. And if they can’t get the information they want, they’ll go online to look at reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor among others. I bet you’re nodding your head because you do the same.

At Your Convenience

Have you ever acquired a new customer via a referral? It can feel wonderfully effortless to have your best customers essentially drive business to your door by recommending you to family, friends, and colleagues. Instead of picking up a phone and calling half a dozen people to ask for a recommendation, people survey their Twitter followers, monitor which brands their friends ‘like’ on Facebook and look for reviews from trusted peers. And it’s becoming standard practice. In fact, Bazaarvoice—an online network allowing people to view and share authentic opinions, questions, and experiences about products—reports a whopping 84 percent of Americans are more likely to check online reviews before buying than they were just one year ago. (This number is likely similar in Canada.)

Remember, people shopping online are doing so in most cases because it’s quick and convenient. They also don’t want to be disappointed with their purchase or have to bother with a return if it can be avoided. They’re going to browse through the number of stars given to a place of business or product, as well as the comments people have posted. If they like what they see and as long as the overall review is good, they are going to be more receptive to engaging with your business. Time is a precious resource that people neither want to waste nor can afford to. Remember the last bad movie you suffered through and the two-plus hours of your life you’ll never get back? Bet you wish you had read the reviews first more closely. From the books you’re thinking about reading to that restaurant you want to try, reviews are the first place most people now look before they commit.

Reviews also build trust. Consumers are becoming more skeptical of what a brand says about their product. They need that information to be backed up by a third party. Great reviews can be the deciding factor when it comes to a customer picking you over your competitor. The two new restaurants in town you were torn between trying? I’m sure you picked the one with the best reviews.

Managing Online Reviews

As a retail jewelry store, are you currently enabling people to post a review about your business, or do you offer Podium to do that? If you’re not, before you hit the panic switch, be armed with a few facts. First of all, it’s not necessary for you to be on every review platform. Facebook and Google Business reviews are the most common and easiest to set up. Reviews are good for search engine optimization (SEO), help people find your business online and are perfect for new customer acquisition. For example, Google Places displays reviews along with search results. Try searching for something right now. See? Also, businesses with higher ratings typically draw more clicks. Think about it—if you’re a pretty good cook, you’re more likely to try a recipe with great reviews before you serve it to friends or guests at a party. Yelp is used in some geographic areas, such as the west coast of the United States, though mainly by restaurants and tourist and vacation destinations. It may not be relevant or valuable for you to be on this platform. Overall, do a little homework on your own before you commit.

That being said, be aware that although you may receive lots of great reviews, potential customers will likely pay more attention to bad ones. Rather than ignoring them, make sure you have administrative access to the social review platform you use so you can log in and engage with whoever has posted a negative comment. Before you reply, read what they have to say after taking a deep breath. Are you aware of the incident? Do you feel your customer was treated fairly from your perspective? Is this someone trying to stir up trouble? If you’re able to, post a response acknowledging the bad comment, but don’t get into an argument with a customer online. Rather, if possible, post a message to that person to arrange a date and time to speak, whether on the phone or in person. Follow up with a private message with the details of your meeting. Customers are looking for transparency and honesty, therefore do so in your interactions. Online searchers are smart enough to make a judgment in your favor if the majority of what is being said is good. And with the potential for an online review, you know you and your employees will work hard to keep them that way.

Wanted: Online Reviews

So, what’s a jeweler to do to get started? Ideally, you want reviews to occur naturally, but let’s face it—writing about your business after a great experience is probably not going to be first thing on your customers’ minds. Here are ways to plant some seeds.

1) Consider adding Podium to your wheelhouse. It works with your POS and you can text customers to leave a review while they’re waiting to have their purchase wrapped. Their texting platform is also an awesomely easy way to let customers know their repair is ready to be picked up or to send a reminder for any offers out there, birthday, sale or otherwise.

2) Not using Podium yet? Consider adding the request to your monthly e-blast or e-mailing a review request to new customers right after their purchase. Provide a direct link to the Facebook review area or Google Business page. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out Google My Business to get started. Consumers are more motivated to respond when the transaction has been recent. You could also print out some bag stuffers with the review links, but just realize that tactic requires the customer taking an extra step.

3) Got some great reviews already? Use them as testimonials on your website and in traditional advertising efforts, such as your store literature. You could even place tiny cards in your jewelry cases, interspersed amongst pieces, with quotes from happy customers. With the potential for an online review, you and your employees will work hard to keep them positive and complimentary.

With technology comes sophistication and evolution. Reviews, glowing remarks, and scathing comments that were previously done on paper and sent privately are now online for the world to see. They are influential purchase drivers and business tools that are important to consumers; their applications and usage will continue to evolve with technological advances. The reality is they’re not a trend and will only become more and more relevant from here on out.

 

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