You can write – and pay for – advertising that will try to convince prospective customers to give you a call. Or, for free, you can get satisfied customers who are far more believable to write it for you.
Consumer reviews represent, perhaps, the most powerful advertising messages you can develop. The good news is you don’t even have to pay to get them published.
A few bad apples have made the consuming public wary of tire dealers and auto repair shops in general. Regardless of your pristine reputation and golden heart, there are still some people who are afraid to trust those who know about a subject of which they know little. And, all the promises you can make in advertising – which you have to pay for – will still result in them looking online to see what perfect strangers have to say before they believe you.
So, what could be a more logical marketing strategy be than to get those who know and trust you to tell your story to those who don’t? The amazing thing is that such a strategy costs a tiny fraction of any advertising you can buy. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost a penny. But it does take a conscientious effort.
There are programs like Podium or Sedgefield Systems that make it dramatically easier to get reviews by using software tools. But with a committed team and cooperative customers, you may not need tools to be able to capture reviews. That said, software makes it far easier for your team – and it makes you less reliant on customer cooperation.
Why Should You Care?
There are many reasons. First, over 80% of people will look up a business they haven’t been to before calling it up. This is the average. For higher-ticket items (like tires), the percentage is even higher.
Over half (55%) will avoid businesses with negative reviews. The good news is that a few negative reviews seen in the context of dozens of positive ones is actually a good credibility builder. No one realistically expects you to be able to please everyone all the time. If you had all five-star reviews, the consumer would be suspect that they were not legitimate. After all, some people just don’t trust tire dealers, you know. Your answer is to simply generate a large volume of reviews consistently over time. Getting a bunch all at once makes Google suspicious.
Also bad is having too few reviews. A lack of information leaves the prospective customer wondering what is missing. Are you too new? Do your customers just not care about you one way or the other? With little online feedback, the customer will move to other choices, especially those with more information to work with.
MORE COVERAGE: Take a Look at Tire Review’s latest issue!
Some consumers will leave reviews on their own, both positive and negative. But, beware. A higher percentage of those self-motivated individuals tend to have an axe to grind. Their self-worth stems from warning others about an experience that they did not like. In fact, the average rating of an unprompted review is 3.89 stars (out of 5) where a prompted review averages 4.34 stars, according to Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center.
The problem with happy customers is that they expect to be happy. Doing your job well is not an “event” for them. They may appreciate your professionalism and courtesy, but rarely go out of their way to say so. It takes a bit of encouragement for them to do this.
This becomes your task.
The process can be as simple as drilling it into your counter staff to suggest people leave reviews. Realize, however, that of every 100 people that agree to go home and leave a review, fewer than one will actually do it. Life intervenes and, in the big picture, their tire or auto service experience simply does not rank right up there with being on time for soccer practice.
That is where software built into your POS system can automate the process, which can help further free up a busy staff member and automatically remind customers to provide feedback on their experince.
The mere fact that you’re asking a customer to leave a review demonstrates that you care about their opinions,owhich can lead to a strong continuing relationship with that customer.
But, There Are More Reasons
A continuing flow of current reviews can significantly improve your search engine performance. This, of course, is vital to attracting more customers. Reviews often represent a significant amount of the fresh content on your website (search engine spiders love this) and are one of the top seven factors in Google rankings.
Catching that customer in the moment – the one that is less than happy – can also be a very valuable experience. People generally only vent once and get it out of their system. Give them that chance first, preferably face-to-face. If you know about it, you can do something about it. At a minimum, you may keep them from spreading their negative opinions to their closest friends and prevent them from feeling the need to broadcast it online to thousands of people they don’t even know. Internally, it can create those “teachable moments” for your team.
Advertising used to be expensive and broadly aimed. Today, using the words of your own customers can be virtually free and very tightly focused. The cost is simply a whole-team commitment to achieving the objective. It pays true dividends.
Beyond Hope: Tips on Getting People to Leave Reviews
How do you get people to leave you reviews? Below is a hierarchy of actions you can take that range from analog “hope” to digital sophistication.
1. Do as good a job as you can and hope they will be motivated to say something nice. Nothing proactive. (Just hope.)
2. Do a good job and ask the customer to go to Google when they get home and say so. (More than just hope.)
3. Do a good job, and when a customer acknowledges it verbally, seize that opportunity by enthusiastically appreciating the customer’s acknowledgment and engaging them to share it with others by writing a review. (Enhanced hope.)
4. Capture the customer’s email and send a follow-up note with a direct link to your Google (or other) review page, asking the customer to take the next step and write a review. (Engineered hope.*)
5. Before the happy customer who has expressed him or herself even leaves the store, send the link to the customer’s cell phone and ask them to “repeat what they just said” in the form of a review right then and there. (No need to hope.*)