Customer experience is what drives business, and nowhere is that more clear – painfully or otherwise – than when evaluating the power of customer and peer reviews, and their impact on your brand. That trend will continue as customers themselves take control of the messaging through social media and online review platforms, and the drumbeat of industry statistics on CX reflects it. Companies must leverage the power of customer reviews while planning tomorrow’s products and services too; in fact, firms ahead of the curve are planning to compete on experience, rather than price and product detail.
A forward-looking Gartner (News - Alert) survey found that by 2016, 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience. By next year, 50 percent of consumer product investment, half of all spend, will be allocated to innovations in customer experience. The Gartner forecasts are consistent with complementary data from Forrester (News - Alert) that looks at the customer journey – and that journey is 70 to 90 percent complete before vendor contact, because consumers in both the B2B and B2C spheres have access to so much content, including customer reviews. When companies truly embrace the idea that CX really is the new marketing, they need to know those reviews are reliable.
It’s still difficult to determine how credible any single review is, whether positive or otherwise. There are plenty of smart content experts and community managers who are still working to solve the puzzle that is CX in a connected environment of mobility and immediacy, where a quick social media post or an angry tweet happens in a matter of seconds, or a lengthy but true diatribe about disappointment is forever.
Managing performance and brand reputation is obviously critical, because any loss of loyalty is a loss to profitability. At least 60 percent of customers overall will never return following a negative experience, and that’s more than half among all B2B buyers. That loss is magnified when dissatisfaction is the topic of the storytelling they do – and nearly half of them recommend that others avoid the same experience.
The good news is that customers are even more likely to share information about a good experience. That’s why verifying the validity of reviews, and the quality of the sources they come from, is the top question that marketing departments, working in communication across their firms, need to answer.
Fortunately, there are quality solutions – based on sophisticated algorithms and data analytics – that refine the process of collecting and vetting online reviews that impact your brand. In our work with client reviews and business listings, we found that the transparency in the process of how user reviews are weighted and vetted creates a sense of proportion and trust in their impact. Companies that list their businesses in detail are able to establish a CX presence that’s focused solely on CX, rather than positioning that within the range of other channels they’re using to connect with clients.
There’s plenty of value in social media and other CX strategies, but a dedicated and accessible platform for review and rating creates a go-to source that serves businesses well when they invite their users and even competitors to share their experiences. It’s a win-win for your customers, whose CX opinions are valued within a scientific framework that takes them seriously – and takes them beyond that annoying wait on hold with the call center, or that statistically likely failure to follow up on Facebook with them. The social media mismatch is even worse on Twitter (News - Alert), since 80 percent of customers who reach out for customer service via Twitter expect a response, but 56 percent of those tweets are just being ignored!
Businesses looking at CX and the bottom line already know that optimizing CX is a smart investment in brand, but optimizing how they’re doing customer reviews can inform an entire range of business processes because they’re based on better data. Leaders who understand how data is changing the game – particularly in customer-facing operations, or in real-time conversion efforts driven by mobile – can easily grasp how data-driven user reviews provide insight that extends beyond the complaint calls.
For example, clients and customers blame failures on people, even when their complaints are really about services or processes. For CX expert Amas Tenumah, author of “The Curated Experience,” it’s the investment you make in those people, who amount to about 4 percent of the American workforce, that directly leads to better CX outcomes. When the data you’ve discovered is reliable, it’s also actionable, so user reviews based on a platform committed to quality data and transparency make a case for training, or for scheduling flexibility, or a range of insights the reviews might reveal to support smart investment.
The same customer reviews may help them to plan a product launch that’s set up for success. The user information they’ve gleaned about timing, geography, existing customer expectations and preferences may complement what they already know from their forecasting analytics and their logistics models. Certainly, reliable customer reviews, free of any review fraud, can help them to understand more about their competition and how to enter into a new market, or to see a new use case for an existing service.
Crowd reviews tell them if the tone and content of a marketing message has gone awry – much like what happens in real time during the Super Bowl ads, as social media lights up with offended or confused viewers. Sometimes, it may help them know if those messages have resonance and reach, if strategic communications lead to perceptions and expectations that were matched by the reality.
But ultimately, customers rely on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they seek, and those reviews are second only to word-of-mouth recommendations now. When your company’s reviews involve messages with more impact than your advertising, your customers need to trust the reviews they’re getting are accurate, and so do you. Companies need reviews to be visible and factual, located in a place that all parties trust, because customer reviews mean conversions and more – more insights and more power to affect the bottom line.
Jeev Trika is CEO and founder of CrowdReviews.com.
Edited by Alicia Young