The Rise Of The Review

When I book a holiday, I have a process I routinely follow. I choose several hotels or destinations based on my budget and the facilities I require, I narrow the list down to two or three possibilities and then I go to TripAdvisor, or a similar review engine, to read up on the reviews.

No, it’s not always 100% accurate and there are many variable factors, not the least of which is the objectivity or subjectivity of the author. However, it is fair to say that if the reviews are all generally positive, my chosen option would be a safe choice. Not only do the reviews provide me with a general insight into the quality of the hotel, they also often offer tips. For example, ‘the ground floor can be noisier’ or ‘it is a long walk to the beach which may not be suitable for buggies’, etc.

Research shows I’m not alone. More than 50% of people research their chosen destination online using a review platform before they go ahead and commit. This has significant implications for the hospitality/tourism industry as they navigate the new territory of savvy, digitally-connected consumers with high expectations. Whether it’s TripAdvisor, TrustPilot, Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, checkatrade.com or any of the more industry specific review websites, reviews matter.

 

 

Last week my neighbour informed me of her ongoing drama with Everest windows. As busy professionals, both her and her husband decided to choose Everest Windows based on their reputation and their logo ‘Fit The Best’. Completely aware that this company was known to be more expensive than its competitors, they happily parted with their deposit as they ‘had no time to rectify issues or mistakes that might arise with cheaper companies’.

In fact, the installation dates were delayed, the wrong colour windows were installed and the brickwork above one of the windows sagged with gaping open spaces between the courses.

After hours spent on the telephone and emailing the customer services and complaints department, my neighbour was unable to elicit a response or any semblance of responsibility. Driven to desperation she wrote a scathing review on TrustPilot. Within 20 minutes she received a phone call and was assigned a manager to review and redress her case. The power of social media is frighteningly real. And whilst Everest may be failing on the customer service and product front, at least they are aware of the power of review websites and social media and clearly have a response plan in place!

Your reputation is your success (or not!). Whether it’s a service or a product you are offering, there will be a series of written reviews out there in google world (other search engines are available…) and within a few clicks your potential customer will have a plethora of information about you. It may not always be 100% accurate but general patterns can usually be determined and decisions made in a matter of seconds.

What are you doing to protect your reputation? Three simple steps can mean you remain a popular choice for the sofa surfers who would never think of making a purchase without reading reviews.

  1. Stay connected. If you are a digital dinosaur you may be hindering your own business success. Read your own business reviews regularly and set up alerts if your name is mentioned on social media.
  2. Be responsive. Respond immediately to any negative review with a promise to contact that customer directly. Do not write a very defensive rant in which you moan, complain or criticise the complainant (example below)
  3. Ask your customers if they would mind writing a review for you if they are happy with your service. The more positive reviews about you, the more likely that ‘potential customer’ will become an actual customer.

 

 

Using Text Messaging To Capture Your Customer’s Loyalty

It is estimated that millennials now send between 60 and 85 text messages per day. That’s a lot of texting and a lot of time spent looking at a very small screen!

According to their article of August 2015 ‘The UK Is Now A Smartphone Society’,

OFCOM says the UK is now clearly addicted to the smart phone.  Statistics tell us the mobile phone has overtaken the laptop as internet users’ number one device.

There isn’t much we can’t do on the smartphone these days. Several years ago it was quicker and more reliable to surf the internet and make our purchases on our PCs or laptops, or even tablets. But superfast 4G is helping us to do our shopping, banking, booking and buying all on our pocket sized hand-held devices quickly and easily. The average person now spends approximately two hours online on a smartphone every day. If you can spot a teenager without a mobile phone on his/her person, it’s likely they are on a ‘digital detox’ or from another planet!

90% of SMSs  are read within the first 3 seconds and SMS has a final read rate of 98%. MOST text messages are read. In comparison, only 20% of emails are read and 12% of Facebook posts are read. It is glaringly obvious that if you want your message to be read, a text is the way to go.

Mobile Phone

So if your customers are now mobile savvy, are you? Or are you still producing A4 size newsletters to pile up near your exit in the hope that your customer will collect one on the way out?

If done properly, SMS campaigns can build a strong and positive relationship with your customer base. But there are some factors to consider when preparing a campaign which involves texting.  Whilst texting can have extremely positive and immediate results, there is always the risk of your customers becoming frustrated with your service or disengaging themselves from your brand.

Texting is a direct, usually two-way conversation and, unlike emails, is considered a far more personal method of communicating. There are certain ‘codes of courtesy’ that must be considered before you text.

Ten Top Tips For Creating A Successful SMS Customer Campaign

1.     Capture your customer’s mobile number.

This could be on a membership or loyalty scheme, otherwise run a competition or raffle.

2.     ASK permission.

Always ask the question ‘may we contact you by phone’, however you choose to word it.

3.     Ensure your SMS has an opt-out option.

Make it simple and obvious for a person to stop receiving SMS communications from your business.

4.     Have clear campaign goals.

Ensure you have clear and tangible goals. Don’t confuse or muddle your customers with multiple offers or vague promises. Be brief, clear and direct.

5.     Text only occasionally and when you want a really good response.

Shout about immediate and relevant campaigns or promotions.

6.     Start slow and leverage incentives.

Our mobile device is one of the most personal devices we have. The customers that welcome you into their phone are probably some of your most loyal customers. Therefore, it’s important to treat your most loyal customers with some extra love. So incentivise your customers to opt-in, stay in or come in to your premises by giving something of value; a 10% off voucher or free coffee. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most and the small incentives often create a much bigger spend overall.

7.     Use an efficient automated text service and schedule or plan your campaigns from your PC.

There are many SMS automated systems and platforms available. Choose carefully.

8.     Make your texts useful or beneficial to your customer; don’t just SELL.

Ensure that at least half of your texts contain information that may be useful to your customers in some way. This might just be a link to a recipe or game or blog on your website or advice or perhaps a tip relevant to the season. Then, when you do text with an offer or an invitation to buy you won’t be reaching tired, disenfranchised eyes who will simply glance then divert.

9.     Have a clear Call To Action

One of the most common reasons SMS campaigns fail is because the call-to-action isn’t presented in a way that the customer recognises or understands what to do.

10.  Measure your campaign results.

Be sure to clearly measure your subscriber growth, opt-out rate and offer redemption rates.

If you haven’t started looking for ways to add SMS text message marketing to your marketing mix, it is certainly time you took a close look.

The mobile channel is certainly the channel that offers the widest possible reach and the incredibly high read rate of text messages means this a method of communication you can’t afford to ignore.

Feedback : Do you ask the right questions at the right time?

I am always stunned at how poor businesses are at asking their customers the right questions.  Let me give you some recent examples:

  1. I recently was late on an EasyJet flight and I received a questionnaire entitled “We are sorry you got diverted.” I did not get diverted, it was late. Did I respond? No.
  2. A BA questionnaire about my recent web experience when I had actually spoken to a team member over the phone
  3. A large hotel group’s questionnaire that was so long the final third was all answered “Yes” just to get through it.

In each scenario the data is corrupt. The findings are useless and these businesses who invest large sums on research are making decisions based on fantasy.

I became even more disillusioned when I visit a lovely independent hotel. Let me explain.

I was due to speak at a conference and always try to stay in an independent hotel.  It was clear the hotel was really developing. They were adding new rooms, renovated the dining room, and adding the small touches that can make a real difference. However, there were things that were not quite right, for example…

In the bedroom:

  • The wi-fi did not work with ease
  • The iron flex was worn and could be dangerous
  • It was hard to open the bar fridge in the bedroom
  • I got soaked when I turned the bath on, as the setting was set on the hand help showerhead!
  • The TV in the bathroom had a flaky picture

At meal time:

  • My lamb at dinner was overcooked
  • The grapefruit at breakfast was off

My Opportunity

When I went to the checkout I thought this was the opportunity to tell the team all the things that could be improved.  My first impression was that it was clear the staff member was hassled. Customers checking out and phones were ringing.

The staff member with a quick glance asked “Was everything alright?” in a manner that “Yes” had to be the only answer!

So reluctantly, while going through the list in my mind I stated, “Yes fine thanks.” The staff member then told me the amount I owed.

Despite all the small wrong things, I quite liked this hotel and possibly when the changes had been made would try it again. So how sad it was not to give the customer the right conditions to gain an insight that could have a larger financial impact than new bedrooms and renovated dining rooms.

So what are the magic questions?

Well, the first thing is to allow your staff to have the right conditions to ask for feedback. So in this case, they either needed an extra staff member, a diverted phone or a different process for checking out.

And then there are the two magic questions…

  1. Was the best thing about your stay?
  1. What three things would you improve if it was your hotel?=

The consequence of these questions prove the staff are listening and they are going to the get the information they need to ensure the hotel can more easily pay for their renovations.

So if you gather feedback or are about to embark on this journey make sure the questions marry up the the customer’s actual experience and then ensure the right questions are asked, to give the best possibly chance to deliver a world class experience every time.

Do you share my frustration?  Please tell us in the comments below…..

 

What Would I Say About Your Business?

What Would I Say About Your Business?

It is so easy to get bogged down in the ‘to do’ lists or action plans of every-day business. The more you do, it seems, the more there is to do. You decide to ‘just check your emails’ and before you know it, mid-morning coffee is calling. LinkedIn and Twitter should take up 20 minutes max and yet three hours later you’re still deciding whether to comment on that Pulse article about time management?! Is there anyone out there who actually ticks off ALL of their tasks each day?

If you’re serious about your business success, there is one ‘must do monthly’ strategy that is often overlooked. It was in favor several years ago, has been renamed and updated more times than Google can remember but often slips down the priority list of most managers I know. It is, of course, the business health check. I’m sticking with the health analogy because the identical thing happens in our personal lives. What is the single most important thing in your life? (Yes, I hear you say, your partner, your children, your financial security, your Audi R8……..) but there is only one right answer really; your health. Ignore it and you may be dead. Ignore the health of your business and your business may be dead. So what would I (or anyone who doesn’t know your business) say about your business?

Morning Coffee Challenge

Ask five different team members around you right now to each give you three words that sum up your business. Do it now. Grab a pen and make (another) list. Which words appear on your list? Save this for later.

Whether you’re a startup business or have been running for years, the business health check is one simple procedure that astute business leaders will never leave off their to do list. Even the ‘work ON your business and not IN your business’ disciples need to be reminded to take time to review business strategy. There are any number of online diagnostic tools and tips and you could pay a fortune for a professionally presented audit and report. But an accurate picture of your current business position doesn’t have to involve equations, formulas and questionnaires.

Regardless of the nature of your business, if you’re not doing a quick health check every month, you’re not driving your business where it should or could be. Highlighting areas of strengths and weaknesses and being objective about your business is paramount to staying relevant, current and successful.

The five main themes that any business leader needs to look at, whatever business are:

  • First impressions: if it be phone, web or visual, what are you telling your customer about your business before they even start to think about engaging with you?
  • It all starts at the top: the leader will determine the tone and culture of the business, so look in the mirror. Do you recognise that your team are your number one customer? If you love them, they are more likely to love the customers that pay your bills.
  • Feedback: Are you getting enough feedback? How will you know what your customers really think of you? Is feedback measurement an integral part of your monthly reporting alongside your P and L?
  • The service vision: Feedback can tell you how you are performing now but what do customers want in the future? What is their utopia? Innovation becomes more challenging as our business and social communication channels rapidly expand, but staying ahead of the field is where your customers will expect you to be.
  • Finally KISS. Keep your customer relationships simple. Too many businesses make the process of communication too complicated. We have all had the recorded messages and hours on hold with major corporations. We have all received mixed messages and poor communication from our local suppliers. Can your customers find you and speak to you when they need to?

So take a look at the list of 15 or so words that you have on your desk right now from your Morning Coffee Challenge. These 15 words sum up your business from an internal perspective. Hopefully they are positive and professional. Now ask an external team, perhaps some existing or potential customers or a customer feedback professional (we have the tools at the ready!) and when you have your feedback compare the two lists.

Probably only one in ten of you will find the words are similar. How big is the mismatch? And how honest do you want to be with yourself, your team and your business vision. What would the customer say about your business? If you don’t ask, how can you ever truly know.