Listening to the voice of the customer is so vital to the health of your business. But so many small business owners don’t know where to start and where to go. You know from experience that listening to the feedback you get in person can help you learn so much about what you sell, how you sell it and who you are selling it to. So imagine you could extend your ears and listen to feedback in a different form. Well, you actually can. Because more and more of these “discussions” are taken out of the physical business and into the online world, which eliminates the customer’s discomfort of confrontation while magnifying the impact of the comments, good or bad.
The Three Levels of The Voice of Customer For Local Business Owners
In the three levels of voice of customer listening, there are both online and offline components, two vital from online conversations and the third is an extension of the on-site experience.
Level 1: Online Review Monitoring
With 92% of consumers now reading online reviews before making a purchase, monitoring them is growing in importance. But it’s not good enough to just monitor. Respond too. Thank those who give you good reviews, and solve problems presented in negative reviews. The overall feedback you gain about a specific location, however, can give you valuable direction. Listen closely and make the adjustments being asked of you. When you show that you’re responsive, people respond in kind. Plus it gives you instant credibility among the buying public.
Monitoring reviews and notice that not many are pouring in? You may want to think about a review building strategy to encourage your best customers to act as advocates on your behalf. This can help change the perception of your location, and also help search engines index your business to better present it to those searching online. Why? Because online reviews and the rating you receive have an impact on your SEO. The more you have, the better perceived your business will be by search engine. And this is of vital importance.
Level 2: Social Listening
With your location being monitored via review sites in Level 1, you can turn to social media to listen to feedback on social networks, away from Google Reviews, Yelp, Trip Advisor and others. With a social media listening tool to work with, you can track brand keywords and @ mentions of your handles. Using your own online profiles, you can then respond to the positive and negative being published on social networks. In addition, you can think of this information as free focus group feedback that you can apply to your business planning, content marketing, merchandising and customer service approaches.
With the right social media monitoring program in place, you’ll be able to listen to what is being said, track the sentiment of these conversations and gain a better and more complete understanding of your customers. For small business owners, this information is not only vital, it’s gold.
Level 3: Asking For Feedback
Once a customer leaves your location, you’ve lost the chance to engage them one-on-one and discuss their experience. But what if you could extend the opportunity to gain their feedback by giving them a link to a survey? You’ve seen this in practice many times as a consumer, I’m sure. After making a purchase, your receipt has a survey link on it and an incentive to fill it out. Consider this to be another level of gaining the voice of the customer. Every survey response is a personalized, private piece of feedback that you can use to improve your business. Best of all, by standardizing your questionnaire, you can measure your progress on specific objectives and see if you’re gaining traction or falling behind. By measuring, though, you have information you wouldn’t have gained otherwise, which puts you in a position to act.
That’s why, if you’re engaged in Levels 1 + 2 and feel that there’s something missing, bits of information you’re not getting from online discussions, go out and ask. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what people will tell you when you do.
Another reason these three approaches are powerful is because, unlike when you speak to someone one-one-one at your location, you’ll have a record of the discussion. You’ll always be able to go back and review, learn and and, most importantly, teach your staff what works and what doesn’t, identify trends, and help them improve!
And that’s important. After all, local marketing is all about adjusting to the needs of your customers. Otherwise, they may make the adjustment without you knowing. And that’s worse.