opinion

Online Reviews Can Impact a Business’ Reputation, Sales

Brian Sofer

A few weeks ago I surprised my lucky special lady with an online purchase. This was to make up for an argument the night before in which she was of course wrong, but I felt the need to make things right nonetheless. Needless to say, time was of the essence, so I opted for the “same day delivery” service. I also upgraded my purchase to include expedited delivery, “guaranteeing” my love bundle would arrive before noon.

I’d been monitoring the delivery status all morning and saw that noon came and went. I got on the horn with their customer service representative and explained the delivery was already an hour late and I had specifically purchased from them because of their same day/expedited service. While extremely friendly and patient, the customer service rep told me she would credit back my expedited delivery fee. I thanked her but also pushed on the “guarantee” delivery time. I politely explained, “that’s your entire service, I can get flowers anywhere — I chose you because you guaranteed delivery by a certain time, and you failed.”

If you have an opportunity to take the sour taste out of a customer’s mouth, go overboard to win back their support and trust.

I got off the phone and continued to follow events on the ground via my online flower-tracker. The package finally arrived — two hours late. I had no problem getting back on the horn and explaining the situation including highlights from the last call and asked what they were going to do to make it right. After a few “hold on please while I check with my supervisor,” time-outs, I was told they’d credit back 10 percent of the order total and give me a gift certificate for $10. I didn’t really care for that as I felt that was just a future sale they were trying to lock me into. I told them they could donate the $10 to their favorite charity and I’d be documenting this experience on many of my favorite social media review apps.

What’s the point of this anecdote? Just that when you screw up, you have one shot to make it right or lose a customer forever — and nowadays, that can easily become more than just a customer. If you have an opportunity to take the sour taste out of a customer’s mouth, go overboard to win back their support and trust. It’s not just good business practice. In 2015, it’s also about protecting your brand’s online reputation.

The Internet has long been a place where people can come together and passionately whine about minutiae and share porn — but social media has given rise to very powerful consumer voices that can influence your existing or potential customers with a single viral post. That can be a post about how awful an experience a shopper had with your business, or it can be a post about how awesome you were in going out of your way to put the service back in customer service. Which would you prefer?

Things have changed. Talk to any member of my favorite new demographic bloc, “millennials” and see how different their shopping practices may be from yours. I don’t know any of them who don’t go to Yelp (or similar) first before deciding on much when it comes to brick and mortar experiences. Whether it’s restaurants, Jesus, especially restaurants — or stores, manufacturers, companies, etc.

This demographic reads the reviews, they look at pictures, they basically audition you online before they ever set foot in your business. So like everything, you want to make the first impression of your brand a positive one. Not, “This place is really seedy and unpleasant. From the moment I walked in I felt queasy for fear I’d contracted a rare, airborne virus. Save yourself a trip and the cost of a sneaker re-soling and get what you need from Amazon instead. Also I’m not sure the store clerk was even conscious.”

I know what some of you may be thinking, “Who cares how millennials shop? That’s not my customer base.” Well, that certainly may be the case, however, you have to remember that non-millennials are — well, dying off — so, it’s important to adapt your business to meet the expectations of newer, younger shoppers. Besides, if you don’t have a decent millennial customer demographic and you’ve got a sex toy shop, you may be doing it wrong.

It’s very true that you cannot satisfy all customers all the time. You have to know when to cut your losses with certain customers if necessary. But, you also have to know when to make the extra effort to keep them or win new ones over.

Everyone has a computer in his or her hands at all times these days. Try to remember that everything you do can be broadcasted to the Internet. That can be an embarrassing hidden cam video of one of your clerks flipping out over a cock ring or it can be a positive story about how your business went above and beyond to take care of a customer.

Always opt for the latter, because one pissed off customer today can quickly multiply into thousands of online jackals trashing your brand tomorrow.

Brian Sofer is the digital marketing director for Pipedream Products. A marketer for over 20 years, Sofer has implemented effective integrated marketing strategies for a diverse range of clients in the adult, music, action sports and smoke industries.

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