Yes, it’s a fact: you can’t automate human interaction. Stellar online ratings are achieved by doing one thing: interacting with your customer. For years, customer satisfaction surveys were controlled and kept private between dealers and manufacturers. That process requires extensive interaction with your customer and online ratings management is no different. The Social consumer has arrived. Social networks and ratings sites give your customer the ability to instantly find out what their friends and family are saying about places they shop and who they buy from. If you’re not participating in those conversations then someone else certainly will.
Sure, there are convenient tools to monitor and manage things but leaving it solely up to those tools is very risky. You must be proactive internally to create awareness to solicit and capture reviews so the real-life experience with your store is what your online ratings convey. If you consistently deliver a 5-star customer experience then why do you have 2-stars on Google Places? It’s because your internal process isn’t in place.
In my last post, I advocate the hiring and implementation of a Customer Service Manager (ie: Social Media Manager or Community Manager). The proactive, dedicated online ratings duties fall on that person’s shoulders. They are the liaison between your fans, your staff, your brand and your potential customer. Grow your own. Build it and cultivate it yourself so that you’ve got your arms wrapped all the way around it. If you’re not sure about who to hire, or don’t know if they’ve got what it takes, seek out a Social Media coach to help you “plant your garden”. Isn’t it worth it for you to control your online destiny?
Everyone wants to buy from a trusted source. Develop that trust through Social networks to gather your community and attract them with a sense of support. That means leadership, time, focus, and attention and that simply can’t be automated. My ex-boss used to say, “Nobody watches your money like you do.” Your online reputation is your money. Shoppers spend an average of 11 hours online researching their next vehicle. They spend a portion of that time on review sites, especially Yelp because it’s social. 96% say their decision to purchase is influenced by online reviews (Nielsen 2011) so if you don’t think your online reputation is money then you won’t have either for very long.
A potential client told me that his customers were choosing the 3 other stores in the area to do business with. I asked him, “Is it because they deliver a better experience than you do?”. He quickly and emphatically said, “No, our customer experience is second to none.” I said, “Then you need to convey that fact to the online shopper!” Social marketing is how we do that.
A proactive approach to online ratings has to come from within your store’s internal operation–from the top down. It requires your management and staff understand the online ratings platforms and how Social Business works. You must send a clear and consistent message of its importance to your staff because they are the conduit to your customer. Use your marketing and your internal process to guide your customer to do what you want them to do. Your stellar online reputation is your prized asset. Would you leave the keys in all of your front-line inventory? Then why would you leave your online reputation up to chance?
People do repeat business with those they know, like and trust. They choose your store because they had a great experience with you. Letting others know about it through online word of mouth is golden and that’s your goal. The average customer buys 12 cars in their lifetime. They spend thousands to service their vehicles every year. If you can develop and nurture that lifelong relationship using Social Media, why wouldn’t you? Your customer is waiting.