Column: The Power of Customer Reviews
Your shop needs to both attract more positive reviews and share the excellent reviews you receive — once again, the answer is in social media.
By David Rogers / For Aftermarket Matters
When I moved into a new home, I needed to buy a refrigerator. After going into a store, I pulled up their website to do a little more research. The first thing I did after pulling up the refrigerator selection was click “Sort by rating.”
At this point, I’m not looking at anything rated less than 4 stars. Which immediately ruled out all but three refrigerators. Next, I look at the number of people leaving reviews. Single digits? Rule it out. Down to two.
Now I’ll look at the actual reviews, starting with the lowest rating. I’m looking for the deal breakers. It doesn’t have a built-in rack for soda? I can live with that. The ice maker is loud and runs all night? Might be a problem. Cheese spoiled because it didn’t stay cold enough? Deal breaker.
When there’s only one left, that’s the one I’ll consider. But I’ll repeat this process for another store or two. I’m not going to spend a few thousand dollars on an appliance without due diligence.
The same is true for our industry.
Cars are expensive. Everything from the initial price tag to filling the gas tank to maintenance and repairs and body work comes with a hefty bill at the end. Which means our customers aren’t going to walk into the shop, hand over the keys and authorize services without their own due diligence.
Which means reviews matter.
Online reviews build your reputation, boost or harm search engine ranking and provide digital “word of mouth” for your business. But for every 100 happy customers, only two will leave a review. So how can you get more positive reviews online?
Here’s the secret: social media!
You have to take control of your online reviews. You can’t just sit back and wait for reviews to come to you. You have to earn them. You have to ask for them. You have to make the most out of the great reviews you receive, and you have to respond quickly and appropriately to the negative reviews. Using social media is one of the best ways to accomplish all of those things.
Blurred Lines Between Reviews and Social Media
Reviews and social media have started to blend together, as consumers have more avenues to reach a company and reviews become part of the social conversation.
Social media is one more channel for you to reach your customers, and for them to reach you. Posts to a brand’s Facebook or Twitter page can carry almost as much weight as a formal review from a customer’s perspective (the search engines might feel differently, but that’s a different topic).
Social media also gives customers another venue to have conversations about their experience.
Back to the refrigerator: I had it narrowed down to three choices from three different stores, but still wanted a little more feedback. So I turned to Facebook.
In a few clicks, I could share the three models I was considering and ask for input from my online connections. Within minutes, I had comments about the brand of refrigerator, opinions on their features and even advice about which branch of the chain store to make the purchase.
I’ve seen people do the same with body work. Posts like:
“Has anyone ever used this shop?”
“What do you know about repairing hail damage?”
“This shop quoted me $XX for a front bumper repair — is that fair, or should I shop around?”
These conversations show that customers want to learn more. They want to hear from real customers with real experiences. And if they can’t find the answers (in the form of official reviews), they’ll seek them out. They trust the opinion of a friend higher than that of a stranger, and the opinion of a stranger higher than the advertising you send.
Reviews Going Viral
Social media has become another channel for customers to communicate with brands and with each other. Reviews are no longer limited to the confines of an online directory or your website. Reviews have the power to spark social conversations, even going viral.
You’ve probably seen at least one customer experience (good or bad) in your own social media channel. Maybe it was the video “United breaks guitars” after the airline broke a musician’s guitar during a flight and refused to pay his claim. Maybe it was a screenshot of an exchange between a customer and a company’s customer service department. Or maybe it was Taylor Swift’s letter publicly shaming Apple for their Music policy (what was her letter, if not a glorified review?).
This online chatter can go both ways. People can share their recommendations and great experiences, but they can also tell about times they felt betrayed, had poor service, and felt ripped off.
If your company doesn’t have a plan in place to deal with negative reviews, you will find yourself 10 steps behind.
But what about the good reviews? Your shop needs to both attract more positive reviews and share the excellent reviews you receive. Once again, the answer is in social media.
Leveraging Social Presence for Reviews
You cannot force someone to like your page or pay attention to your content (you can incentivize them, but that’s a different discussion … ). Chances are, if they don’t like you or your business or your brand, they wouldn’t have followed you online.
If one of your customers takes the time to like your page on Facebook or Twitter, they are self-selecting. They are saying they like you. They want to hear more from you. They are choosing to be part of your audience.
Your social media followers are raising their hands. Why don’t you call on them?
If you have a solid customer base online, whether its Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or an opt-in email list, you can take that success to drive reviews across platforms.
Listen. Pay attention to what your followers are saying. People who like your profiles often will naturally leave positive remarks about your business. Tune in, so that when they do, you can jump in.
Respond. If a customer complains online, don’t ignore it. Respond quickly and try to resolve the issue whenever possible. This is your chance to change the conversation, address their concerns, and win them back upset customers. The same is true for good reviews. Anytime a customer shares a positive experience with your business on social, make sure you say “Thank you” and turn happy customers into lifelong, loyal customers.
Ask. If you need more reviews online, start on social. All you have to do is ask! You’ll have even more success when the customer has already left a positive comment.
Participate. Look beyond just your followers and listen to the general buzz online. When you see a tweet from someone who was just in a car accident, respond and offer to arrange a tow to your shop.
The landscape of online reviews is changing and merging with social media. Reviews are becoming part of the social conversation. Your customers will do their due diligence before coming to your shop — will they find the information you want them to see?
Put your fans to work. Use social media to respond to and ask for reviews. People want to share their experience with others, and they want to learn from the experiences of others. The conversation is happening. Your customers are talking. Will you join them?
David Rogers is chief operating officer of Keller Bros. Inc., president of Auto Profit Masters, Shop4D, and the award-winning Automated Marketing Group. David has a heart for service, a mind for perfecting systems, and an expert at consumer marketing. Reach David via email at email@example.com, toll-free at 1-866-826-7911, or online at https://autoprofitmasters.com.