User-generated content is affecting your business – it’s time to act!

Reviews are playing an increasingly important role in purchasing decisions. Many people who shop online look for positive social proof before making a purchase and in today’s digital age, more and more websites enable reviews of products and customer service to be shared.

Whilst reviews have been present for some time on sites like Amazon, a new generation of websites that gather user-generated contentbarcode relating to products are emerging that use barcode scanning with smart phones, enabling users access to content on just about any product that contains a barcode. A good example of this is ‘OpenLabel’ (currently growing in popularity in the US and set to come to the UK). ‘OpenLabel’ is an application that enables anyone with a smart phone to scan a product barcode and leave comments. When a user scans the barcode, they can access comments left by others as well as leave comments themselves. They can also ask questions about particular products and follow organisations and brands that they trust.

This new generation of review sites combined with our increasing interest in social media websites is an indication of the way in which things are heading; it is therefore a good time for your company to consider the role that reviews are likely to play in your customer’s purchasing decisions in the future. Additionally, now is the time to think about how you can utilise user-generated content in your marketing strategy.

Encouraging reviews is a good idea for any business. You can use positive reviews as marketing collateral, and by learning from any negative reviews that you accrue, you can improve customer service and ensure that your products and services reinforce your brand values. It’s also worth considering that for local searches and SEO purposes, by accumulating Google reviews, you will rank much higher on Google Places and ultimately, in Google’s organic search results.

So how do you avoid or limit the number of bad reviews your company gets?

Communication is the key. Be transparent during the sales process and if any problems do occur, be sure to keep your customer informed. Follow up immediately after the sale and again a few weeks later to ensure that every aspect of the customer journey was at the very least, satisfactory.

If a customer does feel the need to make a complaint, make the process as simple as possible and give lots of options as to how they can do it. Telephone, email, contact us forms and social media sites such as Facebook are all options that should be included, and the process for dealing with any complaints should be understood by all members of staff (and pre-defined). Any complaint should be handled quickly and a resolution which leaves the customer satisfied should always be the desired outcome.

If you do come across a negative review relating to your company, product or service you sell, be sure to respond to it and attempt to resolve it using your standard complaints handling process. In many cases, if a customer has left a complaint or bad review that you then resolve, they will go back to the review and state that you have resolved it, limiting the effect of any negative publicity. You should never leave a bad review without having given your side of the story. If you try to resolve a problem and the customer is unresponsive, go back to the negative review and post the actions that you have taken to resolve the situation and if it is your fault, publicly apologise (a free gift or discount code can always help!).

In this article we’ve covered the basics of managing customer reviews. For help with managing your online reputation and using customer reviews across your marketing materials, please get in touch with M4 Marketing where we will be happy to go through these points in more detail, enabling you get the most from your online presence