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, 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.



Have You Got A Mayday Button?

Those of us who walk in the customer’s shoes each day of our working life are feeling pretty smug right now. The stage is well and truly set for a customer-centric world and we are, of course, embracing it with open arms.

Most decision makers in business are aware that customer experience must now be a top agenda issue, although these decision makers are often still using antiquated or ineffective tools (often in-house) to measure their customer service offering.

Fortunately, business leaders are also now recognising the urgent need to prevent poor service. The cost of poor or substandard customer service is enormous and given society’s desire to broadcast the good, the bad and the very ugly to the world via social media, the cost to any business could be fatal. The saturation of social media can mean that your business name could be spread across the world in a matter of hours if you fail spectacularly in the customer service arena. The most famous examples that spring to mind are Twitter and the ‘Bendgate’ scandal (The iPhone 6plus bending in your back pocket) and YouTube’s ‘United Breaks Guitars’ (a very disgruntled guitar owner wrote a song about United Airlines damaging his guitar in transit). Whilst large companies like Apple and United can survive such negative media, can your business? Even without social media, people talk. A bad experience encountered in your environment can mean the loss of loyalty of that customer and his seven friends, and their families and their contacts, etc.

Customers are now very firmly in control and their voice will only become louder as the marketplace responds to their demands which are often amplified to the ears of the world. Customers now expect to get results at a tap; immediate, pain free solutions are not just desired but expected. If an order, purchase or expectation doesn’t go to plan, customers expect an immediate solution.

Some businesses are now embracing social media and using a multi-channel reach to engage with customers and to show their dedication to excellence in customer service. The battle is on to provide unique and customer-pleasing services to make their customers’ lives easier:

  • Nationwide Building Society now has a dedicated social media team and has just launched a Facebook page to answer questions and promote its products.
  • In the US, Jeans Online and Lamoda now have a delivery service where the courier will wait 15 minutes whilst you try on the products then they will return unwanted items. No more printing off returns labels, trekking to the post office and often paying for the return postage.
  • The Amazon Mayday button connects Kindle Fire HDX tablet owners to an Amazon customer service representative via webcam. Among tablet owners, 75% of customer service interactions occur via the button.
  • Spotify and Apple music offer immediate, live access to any song you could think of (for a monthly membership fee); you’d be hard-pressed to find a teenager with a CD collection these days!

Those businesses who continually think like the customer, and devise solutions and gimmicks to appeal, are the businesses that will continue to delight their customers and retain loyalty. Loyalty equals repeat business – repeat business equals increased profits.

To be viable in the future marketplace, businesses must use big data to create a truthful acknowledgment of who their customer really is and be proactive in all relations with them. Embracing customer intelligence and social media will not be enough if companies hang on to the premise that it’s all about the product. Customers want more. It’s not about the product. It’s about the relationship you create with your customer and only then is it about the product.

Looking at your own business, when was the last time you focussed on ‘delighting your customer?’. Using our four examples of on-trend customer love, here are a few ideas to take your business to the next level:

  • If Nationwide has a Facebook page, it must be time you did. What is your presence on social media like? Do you know what social media platforms your customers are using? Have you asked your customers where they find their information about products or services that are relevant to them? How do you update your customer database on new developments, products, services, occasions etc.?
  • I have two teenage daughters both of whom I know would exclusively use the online jeans delivery company who waits while they try the jeans on. When the millennial generation want something they want it NOW. And they want it without complications. With this ability to ‘bring the range to you’ who wouldn’t be happy? We all have busy lives; we don’t shop as we used to. What have you done in your business to make your customers’ lives easy? Think about it from their point of view, walk in their shoes. What obstacles do they encounter and how can YOU help to overcome them?
  • A mayday button on your tablet? An immediate response at your fingertips? This technology makes Siri seem a little ‘last year’. What’s your mayday button like? How can customers contact you if they need to? Are your phone numbers correct and visible? Will your phone be ANSWERED? Are your hours limited to 9 to 5? Your customers don’t live in a 9 to 5 world – it’s a 24/7 landscape in 2015 so how will you meet your customer queries?
  • Spotify, Apple music and Amazon provide digital downloads of music, video or TV to your fingertips immediately. Digital platforms have the technology to deliver. Fingertip control makes a customer’s life easier as mobile devices become a standard part of our morning dress code. What can you do to be present on your customer’s mobile device? An App, a link to a blog or newsletter, photos of your environment, product or services sent out. Be present, be visible and be relevant.

If you haven’t prioritised your journey into the world of the customer, you may be missing the boat and missing the profits. The market place is changing so rapidly you cannot afford to dismiss Facebook or Instagram as a fad. The way information reaches our children is vastly different to our own experience. It’s not a case of being ready, it’s a case of being ready to be ready – to embrace the changes that will emerge over the next decade. Take a walk in your customer’s shoes today, then think about ways to delight, surprise and provide for them – they will reward you with their loyalty