If Facebook were a country, its 845 million users would make it the third largest in the world. One out of every seven minutes spent online is spent on Facebook. With each update to the social network’s interface, comments people make gain breadth of reach.
51 percent of American consumers use social media to communicate with companies, yet 95 percent of posts to brands’ pages on Facebook go unanswered. Small wonder only 8 percent of those consumers are satisfied with companies’ use of social media as a communications tool.
The issue is not just limited to Facebook. Response rates for comments left for businesses on Google, Yelp, CitySearch and other online review sites are just as lacking.
The impact? 90 percent of people who see unanswered comments believe those companies don’t take customer service seriously. 88 percent say unanswered complaints render them less likely to do business with that company.
Why don’t businesses respond? Professor Liel Liebovitz, who conducted the New York University study that rendered many of these statistics, suggests companies, “aren’t equipped to deal with this new public forum.” Let’s drill down a level.
They don’t know the comments exist.
A poor system for monitoring, or the lack of a system, renders a company ignorant to the conversation about itself. Social media monitoring tools can help.
There is a lack of acumen within the company.
“I don’t want a Google Places page because people will make comments on it.”
We recently heard this from a law firm. We certainly understand the concern—lawsuits are usually zero-sum propositions. The fallacy here lies in the notion that this degree of message control is available.
Google’s empire is built on providing all available relevant info. Your business has a location. That location is a matter of public record. Google doesn’t need–and won’t ask for–your permission to create a Google Maps Web page for your business. Anyone who chooses to create her own free Google account can then leave a comment on that page about your business.
Webolutions believes all comments should be acknowledged. Internet users should see not only that your company is appreciative of opportunities to address problems but also that you have the common courtesy to say, “Thank you” when someone pays you a compliment. Want more compliments? Publicly acknowledge and demonstrate your appreciation of them.
Company leadership is in denial.
“If I don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t exist,” or, “Maybe the problem will go away.” The Internet, and all content upon it, is forever…as is your response to it or the lack thereof. Better late than never.
The company has fear or uncertainty as to what will happen if they respond…
…or fears that online conversation will develop into a time-consuming pursuit with no upside to the business. This can be tactically alleviated by:
– Using the PLEASE system, outlined below.
– When possible, taking the conversation “offline,” i.e. contacting the complainant directly via phone.
We also encourage businesses to look beyond the immediate issue.
– This is a customer retention exercise that could transform an unsatisfied customer into a loyal one.
– Because comments are forever, responding to comments is an exercise in brand development.
What should businesses do?
Webolutions encourages companies to adopt our PLEASE system for responding to negative comments online.
Plan: Develop a system so that comments are channeled appropriately
Listen: Monitor from central location. Tie social media monitoring to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
Engage: Quickly and publicly, acknowledge the complaint (opportunity) and take ownership of the issue.
Ascertain: Based on past behavior, what the risk/reward and proper level of involvement is for this customer.
Suggest: a way the matter could be resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
Express Thanks: Publicly thank commenter for bringing the issue to your attention and the opportunity to resolve the matter.
Get ahead of the game.
Instead of waiting apprehensively for reviews, generate them from your customer base! Sloane’s Carpet Secret—a two-person operation only open on weekends (and proof these strategies work for companies of all sizes) that started in 1979—sends a “Thank You” email to customers who purchase their product. The email contains a call-to-action for recipients to leave a comment about their experience and a link to Sloane’s Google Places page.
Implemented in January, 2012, as of this writing the campaign has generated nine reviews, seven of which are five stars (the other is a four star). Total number of online reviews generated organically throughout the life of the company prior to this campaign: six.
This John Vachalek blog post says it all. If you’re going to ask for online comments, monitor the Web and respond to them.
How to Use This Information
Engage. Your brand is whatever the Internet says it is. You cannot control your message, but you can influence your company’s reputation and its perception by continually co-creating it with everyone it touches. If you’re looking to actively manage and improve your online reputation, here’s how to bury or suppress negative google results effectively.
Act. Arm your company with quantifiable goals. Build systems and acquire tools to achieve them. Accept that this is now and forever an ongoing pursuit. Integrate this effort with all appropriate entities within your company—marketing and customer service for starters, but additional parties–Human Resources, Accounting, even Legal, for example—will likely play some part.
Today’s Internet is about conversations. Take an active part in the ones about you.
Sources: New York University, comScore, Boston Consulting Group, US Securities & Exchange Commission, Socialbakers
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