Greeting, thanking, asking please, recommending and commenting (sometimes a bit too much, almost crossing the line to gossip!) was something that was part of our parents’ and grandparents' day-to-day lives (and ours, even though we were only children or teenagers at the time). We lived in so-called simpler times, where personal interactions were exactly that: personal.
As time went by, and with the advent of computers, the internet, our friend Google and social media, we gradually (or maybe not!) began to interact more and more with screens – first large ones occupying a terrible amount of space on the desk; then thinner; then portable and finally so small they fit perfectly in the palm of our hand (so much so that, for of us, they became almost like an extension of it!) – and less and less with “real, flesh and blood, people”.
So, have the "habits and rules" we used to apply stopped making sense? Not at all! We’ve just "translate" them into "virtual" language. Or at least that’s what we should have done (and keep on doing).
Just because we are now communicating more through text messages, Messenger, WhatsApp, or any other digital means, we are still human beings. People! And people continue to greet, to speak, to comment, to make criticisms, reviews (and of course, value judgments). We do it with and behind those screens, often shielding our “real” identity, but we do it. And truth be told, it still makes sense for us to do it.
I remember going to the market with my mother, on Saturday mornings, and the lady at the vegetable stall where we bought the fruit and veggies for the week, saying “morning hun! Look how big you’re getting! Did you like the plums mum took home last week? ”. Me, being extremely shy at the time and avoiding eye contact at all cost, would let out a timid half-smile and a muffled “yes”. But my mother would answer “oh, they were really good, Mrs Natália, thank you. But that melon you sent was worthless – worse than cucumber. ” The lady would answer, looking utterly astonished, she couldn’t understand why, “as all the others ones she had sold were simply amazing – to die for”, and between half a kilo of tomatoes and a lettuce she was putting in our bag, she would add “but look, here’s a beautiful cantaloupe, my treat. Just try it and I promise you: you will love it”.
And the same happened at the fish stall, the butcher, Mrs Maria José’s grocery store, Rosarinha’s kiosk, or any other place we went shopping.
It was common to thank people for their visit, make a compliment, respond to a criticism and even ask to tell family and friends to stop by as well, if we had liked the service or the product purchased. That was how businesses got their reputation and grew (or disappeared, if they were no good) and it is thus not surprising that, in today's digital world, these rules continue to apply. It’s just the “format” in which we do it that has changed, the rest remains unchanged.
Today, we rate with starts a store on Google My Business, leave a review for a hotel on Tripadvisor, ask for recommendations for a good real estate agency on Facebook. And that's how businesses still get their name, grow or perish, online.
None of this amazes me – we’ve transposed what we were doing in terms of commercial interactions personally, to the digital media we use today. What does amazes me is the number of managers and business owners who have not yet realised the importance of reacting and responding to each one of these digital interactions with their company, regardless of their activity sector.
The number of reviews that, for example, a tourist accommodation (Alojamento Local) or store (online or physical) has will have a direct impact on the number of reservations it will get in the future, or on the amount of products and services it will sell. We must respond (and thank) all the reviews and comments received (without exception!) because these are the information that potential customers will look for before deciding on a purchase, reservation, etc.
"OK, that’s all very good and well, but what about the time it takes to do it?", I can hear you say. And rightly so. In fact, it can potentially consume quite a few (precious) hours per week. But if that brings you more reservations, more sales, more exposure, are you going to tell me that it is not time well spent? Those reviews, ratings and comments are essential to gain and build trust in your brand, particularly amongst those who don’t know you yet, who are not your customers, but who are looking for something similar to what you have to offer. How else does a user who finds you on social media, or a Google search, knows that your business is legit, real, reliable? That you’re not one of those scams that you can find by the hundreds on the internet? This, in those times I referred to at the beginning of this article, was called reputation. And you know what? It’s still called that, it just gained “appendix” online now.
According to a study by Northwestern University's Spiegel Research Centre, in 2017, 95% of consumers already read the reviews available online before making a purchase. And before you tell me you don’t sell anything online and that your business only has one physical office where you provide services rather than sell products, you need to know that another 2018 study by ReviewTrackers shows that 63.6% of consumers would check those “online assessments” on Google (more than on any other platform) before visiting a business. Since we are now in 2020 (such ill-fated year) and particularly in this climate of “forced digital transformation” to which businesses were subjected, we can easily conclude that these numbers have not decreased, quite the contrary.
“OK, right. I will start responding to all reviews (with or without comments) that I receive from now on. But what about those negatives ones, which just make me want to poke the eyes of those who left them? It’s best not to say anything and leave them be, right? ”. Well... I must confess that sometimes I also want to poke the eyes of one or two people and their immense online wisdom! But if I don't do it personally, because the rules of a proper education, respect and civility so dictate (damn you evolved society and moral principles!), I won't do it there either. And, to tell you the truth, those “bad” reviews and comments are precisely those that cannot (at all) remain unanswered. Why? Because consumers are actively looking for negative reviews to find out, not only authentic feedback from real customers, but also to understand how your company handled the situation and reacted to a negative experience (and there you have it – even behind a screen, we continue to be humans. Thank goodness!).
We all know that we will never be able to please everyone. So let us cut the crap – there will always be someone who will not be satisfied with what we “gave” him and who will share that opinion with the world. To answer it, first of all, you will need to gain some "detachment" from what you do, from your business, as you cannot react, and respond, as if someone just offended your mother or your child. Don't take a negative review or criticism as something necessarily bad: look at it as an opportunity. Invest some time in finding a solution and turn that negative experience into a positive one. By righting a wrong, correcting a fault, or just by showing someone that you care and that you want to do more and better, you may not only retain a client, but also show potential customers (who are researching you right now) that you are responsible and that you really care about their experience and customer satisfaction. Be true; speak from the heart, but not with the heart, if you know what I mean!
"Alright, so we understand the" thank you "part of the article’s title, but where does the "please" come in?". Easy! Do you believe that reviews, ratings and comments come out of the blue? Although users like to read them and seek guidance from the reviews available online before purchasing, booking, etc, most people (still) don’t do them, regularly, after visiting a certain space, or buying a particular product or service. Unless something went wrong, or extraordinarily, hitting-all-records, well! And in order for users to book more with you, or visit you more, or buy more whatever you sell, you need to earn their trust, grow your online reputation (there's that appendix again!) and be seen (preferably in a good way, with a nice image). Bottom line, you need those reviews, ratings and comments. A good way to get them is “the old fashioned one”: ask for them! And say please!
There are several ways to get this request to your current customers who, hopefully, can advocate for your company through a positive review. Remember which digital channels you use to communicate with them, or where they are most active, and start there.
You can, for instance, include links to your main review websites (Google, Tripadvisor, etc) on your social media, or create posts in which you share reviews you’ve received and encourage (to be read, ask, please) your other clients to do the same.
If you send out newsletters by e-mail and a user has subscribed to your mailing list to receive them, it is probably because he is pleased with your business, or with the information you offer. Once again, a link to an online review website at the bottom of these newsletters, with a good call-to-action, could be a great incentive for him to go and leave his feedback to other potential customers. And the same can be done with your email signature.
Don't forget that, in what this is concerned, Google is still King and a business profile (or listing) on Google My Business (which is completely free and easy to create) can help you with your quest – and in this case, you will even have our friend Google working for you, with his “Local Guides” program, i.e. users to whom he asks to review and rate any place they pass through or enter, when they are there or when they leave it.
And finally, one last piece of advice: avoid the temptation to offer something in exchange for a review or rating. It’s just that, like your answers (of which I spoke previously), this feedback must be motivated by real feelings (and experiences) and therefore come “from the heart” and not “from the wallet”.
There you have it – thank you and please, my grandmother used to say, and she didn't know the first thing about the internet!
For more information, bespoke strategies and efficient digital marketing solutions, just contact the Clarity’s girls through email@example.com or visit our website at yourdigitalclarity.com.