• January 20, 2020
  • By Adam Dorfman, director of product management, Reputation.com

Why Businesses Need to Manage Customer Feedback—Wherever It Appears

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It’s time for businesses to rethink customer reviews.

While many CRM professionals focus on the customer reviews sourced from surveys being sent out post-visit, they often forgo the trickier places customers are leaving feedback. Indeed, the first input is important. But your customers are giving you valuable input through formal reviews and unstructured feedback across the entire digital world. To get a complete view of customer insight, think of feedback as an ecosystem.

This reality is especially true for businesses that manage multiple brick-and-mortar locations (the focus of this column), where reviews will attract more customers or turn them away depending on what people say about their in-store experience.

Google Is Your New Front Door

Here is a statistic that should make you take notice of how the world of reviews has changed: about half of all the searches people perform on Google remain on Google. In other words, about half of all Google searches don’t even click through to your website. People are getting what they need from the search results that Google serves up, such as content from your Google My Business (GMB) listing.

Are you treating GMB as a destination for managing reviews? Are you responding to customer reviews there and taking their input to improve your operations? What about managing questions that get asked in the Q&A feature of the GMB listing? You should be. Continue to survey your customers, yes, and manage reviews that customers leave on your own sites, most definitely. But it’s important to manage your reputation across a broad set of sites.

Your Review Ecosystem

Your review ecosystem can be comprehensive without being overwhelming—especially if you are managing multiple locations—so long as you are able to categorize the types of sites and apps where reviews happen. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Primary: Google and Facebook. These two sites wield an inordinate influence on your reputation. I call them “review amplifiers” because a review on Google or Facebook is going to receive more attention due to Google’s monopoly on search and the power of social media. Many businesses are familiar with how customer reviews on Facebook work, but they may not pay as much attention to how customers leave reviews on their GMB listings. Now is the time to put Google at the top of your list.
  • Secondary: Location-based sites such as Foursquare and Yelp. These sites are still important, but they are losing their influence, especially Yelp as reviews being generated on their site and app continues to decline. You cannot ignore Yelp—especially if you are in certain industries like dining or entertainment—but don’t prioritize Yelp as a primary source.
  • Vertical: All industries need to manage reviews on sites that are specific to their vertical, such as HealthGrades for provider care and HomeAdvisor for real estate. But our own client data shows vertical-specific sites quickly losing their influence, too. Why? Because more people are choosing to leave input on Google over vertical-specific sites. It’s just too easy for people to leave a review where they spend a majority of their time online (Google) than to visit a vertical site.
  • International sites: If you operate locations outside the United States, you also need to mind your reviews on sites such as Dianping in China or Gelbe Seiten in Germany, depending on what industry you’re in. These add a layer of complexity and completeness, too.
  • HR sites: Sites such as Glassdoor. True, employees are not “customers” in the way many businesses define CRM, but Glassdoor can help you spot potential trouble spots at locations if input reveals, say, low employee morale on the retail floor.
  • Apps: If you have an app, keep track of reviews of your app. You would be surprised what people say about your business, not just the app you provide.

Managing your reviews across a broader ecosystem results in a number of benefits:

  • You tap into the No. 1 source of data, customer reviews, to improve your customer experience—more broadly, beyond your website.
  • By managing reviews across an ecosystem—including responding to reviews—you build trust.
  • When you improve your customer ecosystem and build trust, you receive more reviews—which results in an increase in your online visibility, too.

I call the above dynamic the virtuous cycle of CRM.

So what should you do next?

  • Audit your review management approach. Where are your customers talking about you, specifically? Are you tracking that input?
  • Prioritize your approach. As noted, I believe businesses should place more emphasis on the review amplifiers of Google and Facebook – especially Google.
  • Consider leveraging a tool to help automate review management, especially if you manage hundreds and thousands of locations. Being responsive to GMB listings for every storefront can become time consuming!

By treating reviews as an ecosystem, you will have a much stronger customer insight leading to effective CRM in the digital age.

Adam Dorfman is a director of product management at Reputation.com and leads the teams responsible for its directory, business listing, and publishing solutions. He is a technology and digital marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience. In 2006, Dorfman cofounded SIM Partners and helped create a business that made it possible for companies to automate the process of attracting and growing customer relationships across multiple locations. Dorfman regularly speaks at search marketing events such as Search Marketing Expo (SMX) and State of Search as well as industry-specific events including HIMSS. Follow him on Twitter @phixed.

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