If you didn’t catch our first part in this mini-series then click here to go back and read it through before venturing onwards.
A time-honoured way in which businesses of all sizes and sectors can assume more control over their reputation management is through the strategic use of testimonials. While it may be tempting to simply publish as many testimonials as possible and dash them liberally throughout a business’s website, that approach is less effective than careful, targeted placement. Indeed, a plethora of vague, hyperbolic testimonials can have the opposite effect and make potential consumers skeptical.
A better way of approaching the issue of testimonial placement is to think of buyers or service-users as having a list of questions they need answering before they build up enough confidence to commit to action: Does a business provide good customer service when things go wrong? How quickly are goods despatched? Is the actual item as good as the photograph suggests.
Testimonials Really Do Help
A company website or brochure with three carefully-placed testimonials, each focusing on a single aspect of the customer/supplier relationship is likely to hold more weight than a dozen non-specific recommendations. Particularly powerful testimonials, for example a quote from a customer who is in the public eye, can be included on business cards or on email signatures.
Business owners also need to remember the etiquette surrounding testimonials. Most satisfied customers will be more than happy to include their quotations on a company’s website and marketing materials, but it is polite to ask them first. For obvious reasons, identifying information should normally be limited to name and home town unless the customer is a notable person who has given their permission for their identity to be revealed.
Some businesses are so convinced of the power of this aspect of reputation marketing, that they have gone to the effort of setting up separate files or web pages solely for featuring audio or video testimonials.
The above strategy is all well and good in situations where a business has complete control over their publicity, for example on a company website or in their marketing collateral, but reviews and ratings are often published on third-party sites with limited motivation to censor what appears.
Reviews & Ratings Censorship
Although most companies would like to think that their customer service function is adequate enough to prevent damaging feedback, it is almost inevitable that some disgruntled customers will eventually slip through the net and place negative views and comments on third-party sites. And while most consumers are savvy enough to realise that, given a large enough customer base, a 99 per cent positive rating outweighs the comments of one or two individuals, they will still often read those criticisms and bear them in mind when making their buying decision.
In such cases, conscientious business owners will put a ‘damage limitation’ plan into effect, and will try to contact the unhappy guest and offer them some sort of compensation for their experience in return for removal of (or an edited version of) the initial rating. In some situations, where customers have deliberately posted misleading and abusive feedback, it may be necessary to get in touch with the third-party host to request the feedback be removed.
Regardless of the particular approach that a business takes with regards to how it is perceived on the World Wide Web, it is becoming abundantly clear that rating, ranking and review systems are fast becoming the norm, and ignoring them is a very dangerous game to play. In short, counting stars is becoming increasingly synonymous with counting dollars.