It's no secret: In the golden era of online commerce, consumers double as product investigators.
Just think about it: When was the last time you asked friends for advice or browsed reviews to find the best product or service to buy? Probably recently.
More than 80% of consumers research a product online prior to making a purchasing decision. While consumers are researching, brands are striving to make sense of the shift.
In addition, 79% of businesses believe that online reviews play an important role in influencing customer decision-making, and 62% of online consumers claim they are more likely to do business with a company after reading a positive review.
Traditionally, customer relationship management began only after purchase. Now, it has become a vital part of acquiring customers and building brands online.
How can companies embrace customer feedback and turn it into a bonafide branding machine? What are the tools and processes you need to start feeding your communications with audience-led content?
This article will take you through the steps by covering the following topics:
- Understanding the link between brand perception and customer feedback
- Building a continuous feedback loop through efficient processes and tools
- Decoding feedback to build a feedback-to-action machine for marketing
Read on to uncover concrete steps you can take today to mirror your customers' needs, concerns, and interests in your marketing efforts.
Brand Is in the Eye of the Beholder
According to author and business influencer Seth Godin, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Let’s break this quote down to relate it to customer research and feedback:
- Expectations: Customer researches the product to see what others are saying about you
- Memories and stories: Customer relates and recounts the experience once realized
- Relationship: Every single transaction (purchase, communication, in-store, or online experiences) between your company and the customer
As you can see, the democratization of communication (read: the internet) has made every step of brand building susceptible to customer perception. You as a marketer have all the means to influence the process and change your brand for the better.
Academic research suggests that brand image not only influences purchasing decisions but has a direct correlation to how consumers perceive the quality of any given product or service. In other words, your product is only as good as people say it is – so pay close attention to your reviews online.
Building a Feedback-to-Action Machine
Before we dig into the “how” part of gathering and listening to feedback, let’s map out where your customers prefer to communicate with you:
- Social media: 34.5%
- Website/live chat: 24.7%
- Email: 19.4%
- 1-800 number: 16.1%
- In-store: 5.3%
Source: Sprout Social
Looking at the breakdown (in-store excluded), the ways your customers wish to interact with you are split between social media, over the phone, email, and website/live chat.
If you’re serious about becoming a feedback-fueled marketer, it is a great idea to cover most bases by planning and implementing strategies for each of them.
Let’s take a look at the most popular solutions to each.
Online Solutions: Social, Email, and Chat
Tap into software that allows you to answer and solve tickets across customer care channels as a team. Today, there are several solutions that help consolidate feedback and questions across email, social media, and customer care chats.
Before you commit to a product, take a look at your target audience: Where are they currently engaging with you online and how often? What is natural to their demographic? This way, you’ll be able to prioritize support solutions that best fit your customer profile.
Have you heard of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)? Think of these online phone services as good old landline phones in overdrive.
VoIP helps marketing efforts through customer relationship management integrations.
You’ll be able to enhance the experience with features such as auto-attendants and voicemail services, bringing efficiencies and cost savings by automating repetitive customer care tasks.
Decoding Feedback: Don’t Ignore Negative Reviews
According to the research conducted by marketing firm Moz, online reviews influence 67% of consumers. What's more, the same research points out that just one negative review can drive a 22% customer loss.
Here's the good news: Negative reviews are a treasure trove for businesses. Although it may be lucrative to focus on the good stuff, negative feedback can help you steer your company toward success. In fact, thriving brands are obsessed with aligning their core offering with their customers' wishes.
For example, the Instagram-born beauty company Glossier often polls audiences on social media to influence its product development. Glossier understands the importance of customer feedback.
- Action Point: Look for discrepancies between how you define your brand and how customers perceive it.
- Case Example: Your brand guidelines and messaging define your company as easily approachable, but your customers are complaining that it is hard to get ahold of you. This where you would begin to flip the status quo by reimagining your customer service and then communicating about it.
- Action Point: Read every single product review.
- Case Example: You might define your product or offering as high-quality, but your customer reviews tell a different story. As a marketer, you need to relay this information to your product development and fix it. Otherwise, you might as well be throwing money down the drain with other marketing activities.
Listening Builds Tangible Value
The data, research, and trends in consumer behavior all tell the same story: When it comes to customer care, consumers need and want instant gratification. They want their realities reflected in brand narratives. This is where you can make an impact even if you don’t have huge marketing budgets to spend.
Once consumers feel that what you put out there is in tune with what they are saying about you, you’ll be on the path to build a customer-first brand that drives real revenue online and offline.
To succeed, make sure that you have the following bases covered:
- Presence in channels where your customers interact with you
- Technology to listen and serve at scale
- People and strategies to process feedback
- An action plan to feed the learnings to marketing and product departments
Good luck with your customer care journey.
About the Author
Christine Soeun Choi is an SEO associate at Fit Small Business specializing in digital marketing. Currently based in NYC, she has a background in business studies and math with a passion for business development. When not helping small business owners, Christine enjoys taking photos, exploring artwork, traveling, and spending time with her family.