90% of Americans say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.
Social Media and online ratings go hand in hand. Thousands of people share their experiences online everyday with their friends and family. Many are compelled to take it a step further and write a review on Google+ or Yelp, which in turn shows up in search results for other prospective buyers. This wave of interpersonal sharing of experiences has morphed into one of the most important components on the road to a purchase decision.
Understanding the online ratings phenomenon is your first step in managing your online reputation. This is where some businesses get stuck. Instead of embracing the medium so they can implement a plan to manage their online reputation, many are doing one or more of the following:
- Ignoring it
- Wishing into the cornfield
- Showing disdain for a specific platform (ie: Yelp)
Embracing even a hint of any of these is dangerous. It puts your future, your business’ success and your employees’ fate in jeopardy. If you refuse, you lose.
Understanding your customers’ behavior has always been a key part of sales success. Our sharing of experiences has been around since the dawn of time. The only difference now is that it’s done digitally. I came across a situation recently where it was clear the dealer had not prepared for something that has happened at dealerships since the dawn of time – a dissatisfied customer taking their cause to the street (literally).
The customer’s vehicle had been in for service and through one reason or another, the dealer was unable to repair their car. Not happy with the outcome, the customer went down to the local gas station with signs proclaiming his disgust. Then, in an apparent effort to create even more bad publicity for themselves, the dealer posted their response on their Facebook page! They took something that was offline (ie: fairly quiet) and made it online for everyone to see. I’m sure their intent was to diffuse the situation but what they posted was obviously done by someone who had little or no experience in handling a customer relations crisis:
This is the absolute BEST way to tank your online reputation. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a customer relations crisis, please take these critiques of this dealer’s response into consideration before you take action:
- Make sure the person speaking for you has experience with customer relations and crisis management. Do not send an amateur to speak for you.
- Any Social Media post addressing a crisis situation should be approved by the dealer/owner. This one has spelling errors and poor grammar.
- The response to this situation should have been kept offline. Utilize your already existing, time-tested conflict resolution process. I’ve been on the receiving end of many of these types of situations having been in auto retail for nearly 30 years. It doesn’t matter what’s right or wrong, only that the customer is satisfied. I used to say to my managers, “If it gets to me, it’s free.” They knew how to handle it from there.
- NEVER make light of a very serious situation by saying something so thoughtless as “We do NOT sell lemons but we do have free freshly popped popcorn & ice cream!” Stop it.
I believe this dealer had good intent when they posted this on Facebook. However, it’s clear they and their marketing team don’t have a solid understanding of how to protect their online reputation. I don’t know where this situation went from here but I can tell you that it didn’t have to go this far.
Social Media amplifies everything about you. Making the customer wrong is never a good idea (even it they are). Please put a process in place for online reputation and crisis management…and don’t invite bad publicity by taking things online.