Written by Mike Abb
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7VYpWw0T6w – Listen while reading
Last time we talked about the problems advertisers face gaining trust of the consumer. Well in my experience honesty is the best policy and what I was told long ago by my father and his father before him. The reason that has been handed down for generations is that it could be the most important advice in existence. So when advertisers make a mockery of their product pitch by overselling it with celebrity spokes models and flashy commercials, we lose trust. The majority of the marketplace are not celebrities, it’s the common man and the common man may respect the celebrity, but he’s smart enough to know he can’t actually ask them about this product or that service.
Who the common man can ask and trust is his good old neighbor and that neighbor now not only lives across the street, but also online in the form of the user review. This review is now considered a direct quote from someone who truly wanted to give you his or her personal user experience about a product or service. There are hundreds of online studies touting various percentages and statistics intended to fortify the consumers belief system that user reviews are now making the difference when it comes to purchasing decisions. Statistics aside I can speak from my experience and I can tell you reviews absolutely matter to me. When I go to make a purchase in store, no matter how large or small, I will take a moment to quickly search the item. I scan the product description and then go right to the meat, the user review. I check the amount of ratings the product has and its star count. Then I sort by the 5 star posts and the 1 star posts. I need the best and the worst of the spectrum. From this I gauge what is the mean average of the quality of the product or service, and make my decision based upon these factors. If someone is only giving a one-sentence description I rarely regard it as worthy of my time, but if someone takes the time to spell out his or her reasoning behind the rating I take this as the truth and factor it in. Do you do this as well? Something tells me you do. If you didn’t why would companies like Yelp exist!
With user reviews clearly establishing themselves as the antithesis to traditional marketing, how do companies use this to their advantage? The first step in making proper use of your consumer bases opinion is to find out where your product is being talked about. This means start by searching your product name in the usual suspects like Yelp, Twitter, Facebook and Google reviews. If you don’t already have an account on these platforms I highly suggest you do. The main reason you want an account is so people can link their reviews to your page. What you don’t want is a ton of conversation happening about you without you! This gives you an opportunity to not only understand your consumer base, but also respond to their reviews, positive and negative.
Response is the key to the consumer lock. How annoying are those automated customer service numbers that instead of helping you, they end up doubling your frustration. In a twisted game of cat and mouse, each push of the 0 button gives hope that it could lead to a real human. This is now the norm in customer service, which in application is the exact opposite of what customer service should be. We’ve talked about the psychology of people trusting other people and this is no different. People don’t trust a robotic answering system. How could they? They aren’t real people and in my experience rarely lead me to the valued information I was seeking.
Social media has opened up brands to the love and scrutiny of the marketplace. For as many positive reviews there are just as many if not more negative reviews. This is just human nature. We expect everything to be perfect and when something falls short of our expectations we usually gripe about it. It takes a really special product to generate positive reviews. People just assume most products will live up to the hype and don’t feel a need to go to the internet to leave a confirmation of that. People will go to the net to complain though. It’s the perfect medium for complaining. You can be hidden away and anonymously complain without fear of someone calling your bluff eye to eye. This is a powerful feeling for the complainer. They get a chance to have more than the people in the store hear their complaint and people are more than happy to band together on forums, blogs and online reviews in mutual gripe, which equals power in numbers.
What’s a brand manager to do when they encounter all these positive and negative conversations? First things first you should attempt to answer. Being a wallflower does you no good in the social world. That’s why it’s called social! Engage in the conversation and bring something to the table that is useful. Many top name brands (Nike, Samsung, Ford, Microsoft, UPS) have turned to Twitter to tackle their customer service needs. This is useful to consumers who want that instant satisfaction of knowing someone is actually listening to them. Once the outlet to communicate has been established, consumers begin to respect the brand more and more. It makes you feel important when your feedback positive or negative is responded to. That feeling is what customer service used to be before all of our technology attempted to make that portion of the business automated too. This feeling is trust. Trust that you can count on the brand that you purchased a good or service from values your purchase and opinion.