Feedback is worth so much more than the paper it’s written on

Recently I’ve upped the ante with my yelp account, and would even go as far to say that I have become a ‘yelper.’ www.yelp.com is an ‘online, urban city guide’ where anyone, anywhere can post a review on products and services ranging from restaurants to vets to state run facilities.  I initially used the social review site as a guide for restaurants, hairdressers, places to watch the Chicago Bears hopefully romp home to victory.  However, in the last few weeks, I’ve graduated from freshmen yelper, to at least sophomore grade, as I’ve also been writing reviews based on my experiences.

To date – I’ve written 11 reviews.  Of these, I’m hitting a ratio of about 50:50 on good experiences vs bad ones…. And to be honest, the good reviews I’ve added in case anyone stumbled across my profile and thought that I was a typical whining Brit.  So, do we provide reviews as a cathartic form of getting a bad experience out of our system? Or do we do it to provide honest feedback to the company and future patrons in the hope of improvements being made or to save someone from the same fate?

I have to admit, when writing up a review about an abysmal Food Truck Fest I went to here in Chicago – my initial reason was because I was so upset with the entire experience and it felt good being able to ‘vent’ in a socially accepted way.  However, if I had a friend asking if I would go again, would I provide the recommendation to avoid it like the plague? Absolutely.  And do I believe, if addressed, a number of my points would improve the experience exponentially? Based on the fact at least 5 other reviews also picked these up, definitely.

Why would a company not want to track feedback of this kind, respond, and ultimately improve their products/services, reduce negative impact of bad word of mouth and create customer advocacy?  This recent survey found that 90% of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive reviews influenced buying decisions, and 86% said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.

Therefore, now more than ever companies need to put processes in place for not only gathering and monitoring feedback from external outlets and service interactions, but also highlighting what is relevant and doing something about it.  Companies serious about implementing a 360 degree feedback initiative have a number of options available to them:

  1. Create a social media task force: with social media websites like twitter, facebook and forums often being the channel of choice for disgruntled customers, prompt and effective action can turn a potentially damaging experience into a positive example of excellent customer service.  Dedicated teams who monitor and provide timely action via these channels not only diffuse the situation – but often turn dissatisfied customers into some of your best advocates.
  2. Build an online community:  Encourage your customers to come direct to you with questions and issues by building an online presence which is designed to promote discussion, debate and sharing about your organization.  This not only puts you back in control of the feedback process, but customers will often solve each other’s queries via discussion boards and blogs – and if not, automatic routing will schedule a follow up action from an appropriately trained CSR.
  3. Empower your team: Nothing infuriates customers more than being told ‘you should’ve read the small print,’ or ‘I don’t have the authority to do that.’ Throw out the script, and empower your team to go the extra mile when dealing with your most loyal (and profitable!) customers – solving issues before they become worse will reduce detrimental feedback, and show your customers you are invested in them, and in return they will continue to invest in you.
  4. Do something about it! The whole feedback process is redundant if the information you receive sits in an inbox for 6 months with nothing being done about it.. Therefore take action!  Route the feedback to the right person (or people) who can address it, and set service level agreements to ensure that they do.

Your customers are often doing you a favor, highlighting breakdowns in service or potential product improvements – so why not reward them for it with great customer service?  In return, they will reward you with positive word of mouth and, most importantly, their advocacy. I mean, even this moany Brit has written a couple of glowing reviews…..

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