Once, when consumers wanted to buy something, they’d visit a shop or a showroom. They might speak to a salesperson and then, if they were happy with what they’d seen, they’d make a purchase.
These days, buyer behaviour has changed. The Internet has made more information about products and services available to potential customers. Buyers now have access to a large number of online consumer reviews to guide their decisions—many written by customers who have been in the same position themselves. Suddenly, companies find themselves judged publicly on every aspect of their service, including ease of purchase, delivery arrangements, customer service and how well products meet customers’ needs.
One industry that has found itself having to adapt is the car industry. A recent report by eMarketer.com highlights how user-generated online reviews have become critical to the sector; as trust grows in these reviews, they are now rivalling professional reviews in their influence over car buyers.
The report also highlights the importance of online feedback in other sectors. While 22% of car buyers reported posting a review or other comment following their purchase, according to a survey by Performics and ROI Research, the figure was even higher for restaurant-goers (46%), electronics buyers (38%) and household products consumers (30%).
For these businesses, the rise of online reviews can present a challenge, especially if customers’ experiences haven’t met their expectations. In a world where a customer can easily share a negative experience with friends and family online, negative customer feedback travels faster and further.
At the same time, however, such reviews and comments provide companies with valuable opportunities; where customers often used to rely on a single professional review to guide their buying decisions—for example, in a car-buying guide or by a newspaper restaurant critic—it was difficult for a business to improve customer perceptions. These days, by tracking a wide range of reviews, a business can do the following:
- Monitor feedback about its products or services
- Identify and correct problems in its service model
- Engage directly with dissatisfied customers
- Demonstrate its customer focus to potential customers by responding to reviews and taking action to help dissatisfied customers.
Very few businesses can expect to have happy customers all the time. But, with such a wealth of customer feedback and opinion now available online, if your business can show it is willing to listen to customers, own up to any mistakes, and improve your products or services for future buyers, you are more likely to benefit when potential customers search for information about your services online.
In doing so, not only will your products and services improve, but so too will your future buyer feedback. Before long, you may be actively encouraging customers to share their experiences online.
Is your business doing all it can to engage with online reviews? Are you making sure that potential customers know exactly what you can do for them and how you’re developing your products and services?