A video was released just a few days ago by musician Dave Carroll about his frustrating encounters with United Airlines policies and customer service. Apparently, United broke an expensive guitar and the airline refused to replace it or reimburse him. In his final encounter with a United employee, Carroll told the airline representative that he would write 3 songs about his bad experience. So he did.
Mr. Carroll became a media sensation and has been overwhelmed with support, with even Oprah’s people calling him.
By the next day, the musician was contacted by United who made an offer to correct the situation.
And what does this have to do with you and your business? Everything.
While this situation is an extreme example of the power of the Internet, it is a valid one. United lost business from loyal customers and more from potential customers.
In a world where information sharing is fast and easy, I am constantly astounded at the number of businesses with such poor customer service. Do they think no one talks? Compares notes? Have they not noticed the high popularity of websites that allow people to review businesses? I know businesses that have thrived on nothing but customer referrals; they’ve had an advertising budget of zero because they didn’t need one.
But perhaps this is a mystery to you. How does word get out about just how badly (or well) you are doing? How do people research businesses? Or if you’re not a business owner and want to improve your web research skills, how do you do it?
For starters, when I want to do research on a specific business, I begin with Google (or any other search engine) and try this combination of words one search at a time: ABCXYZCorp bad, ABCXYZCorp terrible, ABCXYZCorp scam, ABCXYZCorp sucks. One or two complaints may not be a big deal. But if that’s all I see then I’m likely to avoid that company. If I see one or two complaints but many positive reviews, I’m likely to use them anyway. However, I will read the reviews and see why some people complained. Sometimes it is clearly a customer who had unrealistic expectations. But sometimes I see valid, thoughtful reasons that could apply to my situation and may back away anyway in spite of a great many positive reviews. I evaluate each set of reviews based on my situation.
Next, I’ll go to review websites such as Yelp, CitySearch, YellowPages, Epinions, SuperPages, and RateItAll (just to name a few). Looking for information about a product and not a business? Same tactic! Only I’ll use sites such as Amazon and Consumer Reports. I may check NewEgg for reviews on computer parts. Epinions and some other sites also provide reviews on products in addition to businesses. Businesses such as Sears and Best Buy have added customer product reviews to their site. Also, there are some sites out there devoted to providing reviews on specific industries, such as the healthcare profession.
Next, I do what so many of us do when we’re looking for a good business to meet our needs: I ask friends and family. But with the Internet, I can get quick results. I post to social networks such as LiveJournal, Facebook, and Twitter and can get several quick responses from those whose experience I trust (and sometimes I get responses from random strangers who may or may not be trustworthy, as they often just want to sell me their product or service).
In less than an hour, I’ve got all the information I need to find a reputable business or product to meet my needs.
In light of this, doesn’t it pay to provide quality service and products today? I always recommend that businesses sign up at the review sites if they are not listed there already. Some express fear that only the nightmare customers will write reviews. Looking at all of the review sites out there, that is simply not the case. There are many businesses that get 4 and 5 star reviews from happy customers that want to share their good news with others. Personally, I’ve gone review sites specifically to provide a good rating to a business that provided outstanding service.
If you already provide good service and products, then you have nothing to fear from web reviews. And let’s face it: you’re probably going to get reviewed by someone, whether you want it or not. Just keep an eye on your policies, procedures, and business activities and make sure its what your customers want. Review sites can be an excellent form of advertising. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for a review.