Top-Shelf Tip No. 104:

"Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room."

Jeff Bezos

Three Ways Customer Reviews Can Benefit You

We are quickly becoming a review-driven society. Any time I make plans to travel, try a new restaurant, hire a repairman or even buy a car, I immediately turn to online reviews. And I've learned to average out what I read in those reviews. There is typically at least one outlier review, so I take that one with a grain of salt, and make a decision based on an average of the other reviews.

Adrienne Weissman, a sales and marketing executive, says this same decision-making process is now extending to the B2B professional audience as well for purchases relating to technology, professional services and more. And these reviews will expose the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to your products and services.

Many companies are not prepared to handle the world of online reviews. Some ignore it—not giving this channel credit for the power and weight it carries. Others try to manage the reviews with PR strategies, stripping way the sense of authenticity that comes with third-party referrals.

Today, Promotional Consultant Today shares these three strategies that Weissman recommends when it comes to online reviews.

1. Empower your customers to share. Proactively ask for feedback. We see restaurants and retail stores doing this all the time. They'll ask you to call a toll-free number or go to a website to provide your feedback. In return, you receive a free appetizer, a discount or other small token of appreciation.

By requesting your customers' feedback once they've used your product or service, not only does it reinforce your brand, it allows customers to share their emotional response to your product or service. As Weissman says, regardless of what type of company your is, capturing feedback allows you a learning opportunity: your users are transparently sharing your product's strengths and weaknesses for you—and everyone else—to see. It's this type of feedback that can drive strategic innovation and set you apart from your competitors.

2. Accept the good … and the not-so-good. Be respectful of your customers' opinions about their experiences. You asked … so take in the feedback, even if it's negative. Potential customers can easily find good and bad reviews of your product. It's the nature of business, and makes your product more credible. Keep in mind, as your number of customers increases, so should the total number of reviews and the number of new reviews. When your number of reviews is relative to your number of customers, in a buyer's mind, your product and company become more relevant in their search. Believe it or not, critical reviews can be a good thing. Not all customers are happy. Take in their responses and work to fix the issues.

3. Engage with your customers—the reviewers. Yes, customers shape the story of your product with their reviews, but your response is just as important. While it's easy to respond to glowing praise, make it a point to also respond to negative or tepid reviews.

A key to responding is being agile enough to respond. If every response has to go through your legal team or three layers of executive approval, then you'll miss the opportunity. Be sure your team is empowered to respond to your customers and train them on how to respond. Publicly acknowledge that you hear the customer's complaint and follow up with an offer for private resolution via email or phone. Showing a willingness to listen and engage with your customers helps you as a company to control client outcomes and shape your product's narrative. How you manage your response is a way to give future customers a sneak peek into what it's like to work with your company.

Source: Adrienne Weissman is a sales and marketing executive who has built, led and managed a variety of digital businesses for more than 18 years. She helped build Google's search, display and video businesses for almost seven years. At LinkedIn, she helped global enterprise brands engage with and market to the world's professionals. Most recently, she led LinkedIn's Marketing Solutions Brand vertical team supporting all three of the U.S. sales offices. Now, at G2 Crowd, she is responsible for leading the sales and marketing teams in strategy, implementation and execution.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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