The Key Component to Protect Your Reputation – Online and Off

Successfully managing your online reputation can mean the difference between winning the sale or allowing your competitor to take it away from you. 85% of consumers are searching for local businesses online (Yelp.com). 7 out of 10 consumers refer to online reviews before they make their purchase decision (autorevo.com). Your business cannot afford to ignore what’s being said about you – online or off.

Your customers and prospects’ experience starts during these conversations. Whether it’s in real life or online, Social Media or review sites, people are already forming their opinions about your business by talking about it with their friends, family and network. The sum total of the early interactions a person has with your brand is contained in these conversations. You need to be listening, responding and interacting to ensure you close the sale.

I had a very negative experience at a local “discount designer retailer” recently. I’ve been in the car business all my life and I consider every retail operation the same – it should be customer centric. I’ve been shopping with this company for over 15 years and we all know the routine with these types of stores: no frills in exchange for lower prices. I’ve never thought this was a smart business plan because why not treat people the same no matter what price they’re paying? In any event, this company has not realized the key component to protecting their reputation – Listen.

On this particular day, I was the only person standing near the desk waiting to pay. There was a gal behind the counter who I anticipated would be happily ready to take my money. I waited patiently for her to cheerfully wave me on but alas, it was not to be. I noticed there were six other employees congregating around the check out desk and I made eye contact with each one of them. Not one acknowledged me. For a second, I thought I was invisible. Finally I asked if someone would like to “take my money” and the gal behind the counter said, “Yes, just a minute.” I’ll save you the laundry list of things that happened next but suffice to say I left feeling like I had just done business with the devil.

I’ve recently shopped the competition and at one store, you don’t need to wait at the counter or in line. All you have to do is look for the associate’s green shirt and tell them you’d like to pay. They use their iPhone and email you the receipt. There was such a contrast between these two retailers that I felt compelled to write online reviews for both (and share this with you here on my blog).

Every retail business must impart the customer-centric experience. Your reputation depends on it. If you suck in real life, you suck harder online. Employees need to be conscious that they are on stage – they are giving a customer service performance. Some will get rave reviews. Some will not. In today’s economy, there’s no room for error. It is the details that make your store memorable – positive or negative.

This concept is as old as dirt and with online ratings sites it’s become exponentially more important. The subtle differences between a business that understands customer experience and those that pay no attention to it, or have substandard management processes, are the differences that win the competitive advantage. Anyone can sell from price but when everyone is, where do you go from there?

Listen in all the ways you’re able to listen. In real life and online. Software to monitor conversations always helps but don’t get lazy. Implement proactive internal processes such as training employees to listen to the customer and recognize customer behavior. Listen, respond and interact so customers know that you’re interested in what they have to say. When employees spot opportunities to delight they can act on them. If they’re not trained on what to look and listen for then you never get your chance to be memorable.

In real life or online, when employees are oblivious to their performance, your customer’s experience turns negative. It gets broadcasted on every channel available. Think about it – you’d want to broadcast it, right?

 

Kathi Kruse

Automotive Social Media & Online Reputation Coaching/Training. Blogger, Speaker. I've spent my life in the car business. Founder & CEO Kruse Control Inc.