In my days managing car dealerships, we had a very specific regimen for securing our reputation within the community. It involved clear objectives, employee buy in, customer advocacy, rewards for loyal repeat customers and so on. The level of action we took defined our company culture. Our culture was directly reflected in our customer satisfaction scores.
When I left the day-to-day operations of retail automotive, Yelp and other online ratings sites were just coming into their own. Consumers were waking up to the fact that they could share their experiences with people in a much larger arena. Today, 96% of people say an online review influences their purchase decision.
With the rise of online ratings platforms, there’s been an influx of online reputation management providers and gurus. Many make promises of ONLINE reputation management and many dealers/owners mistakenly think that means real-life reputation management.
My ex-boss used to say, “Nobody watches your money like you do.” I say, “Nobody watches your online reputation like you do.” Being lulled into a false sense of security by delegating your reputation management leaves you open to many surprising, uncomfortable situations. If you’re not truly managing your daily operations’ reputation then any reaction is futile.
ONLINE reputation management is about managing the medium, not the customers’ experience. It’s fairly straightforward to monitor, listen and periodically respond to consumers who take the time to write reviews. Managing your business operations prior to any customer’s review is where the hard part is. This is where many fall into the trap of thinking their online reputation is safe.
How do you want to be perceived? How are you showing up in real life? If your business’ operation has holes in it when it comes to customer experience, those holes will be found out on Social Media. If you find your online reputation is in the cellar (or could be with one or two negative reviews), perhaps the reason is one (or more) of these:
1. You’re Not Managing Your Process. Managing Your ONLINE Reputation starts inside your business. What happens in real life gets amplified on Social Media. I had a call from a dealer recently. We discussed his needs while I reviewed his current state on Yelp: 146 reviews/2 stars. Many reviewers had written novels when sharing their experiences about this store. It’s clear these people have passion and they want everyone everywhere to know about their negative experience. The dealer said to me, “I need somebody to help me clean this up.” Respectfully, it’s not that simple. What he really needs is somebody to help him clean up his process. There is no magic wand to wave over your online ratings to make these customers stop sharing their real life experiences.
2. You’re Not “Customer Centric”. It’s one thing to say you are and quite another to actually operate from a customer centric space. Are you committed to making your customers’ experience stellar? Most likely, yes. Does your culture reflect your vision and mindset?
The sum total of all interactions a person has with your company is “customer experience”.
We just welcomed Joefrey Bean, author of “Customer Experience Revolution” to our local meetup called Social Media Campfire. He’s done extensive research on companies like Amazon, Apple and Starbucks and found that great ideas and great products alone are not good enough anymore. These companies change people’s lives, cause competitors to scramble to catch up and transform their industries forever.
These companies delight people at every step of the customers’ experience: intriguing them as potential customers, satisfying them when they become true customers, and continuing to outperform until their customers become advocates for the company. Your culture must be customer centric to keep your online (and offline) reputation positive.
3. You’re Ignoring What’s Being Said. I’m in contact with a lot of dealers and one of the common occurrences I see is that some prefer to stick their head in the sand and ignore what’s being said about them online. I understand and it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the Social space. However, now is not the time to choose denial. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Set up a Google Alert for your store. Consider using Social monitoring software. Technology has provided great ways to hear what’s being said about you online and it gives you more control when you need to take action.
Where does the customer experience start for your business? Social Media and ratings sites are only getting more popular. It’s time to shift your strategy and update your process to include how your business is perceived online. It’s a mirror of the perception people have in real life. That’s where the magic happens.