This summer, I had the opportunity to take a “once –in-a-lifetime” (I hope not) vacation to Africa. Although I could be accused of confirmation bias, the topic of reviews came up a lot while checking out the lions, tigers and bears. Here is a list of some of the things I learned (or re-learned):
1.Request for feedback is constant
What do a waiter, hotel, tour guide, safari guide, camera retailer, and airline have in common? They all ask for reviews. From South African slums to high-end game camps, I was regularly asked to provide feedback.
Their reason for asking was very familiar: How am I doing? How is my staff doing? Are you going to buy again? Are you going to say good things about us to others? How can we get better? What else can I sell you?
Interestingly, even after being bombarded with countless requests, it never bothered me when people asked me for feedback. In fact, it was comforting to know that they cared about what I thought.
Take away message: Ask everyone for a review. Even if they don’t write a review, it helps your business.
2. Comment cards are very effective at getting feedback
Only 2 of the +25 requests for a review I received came via email. Over 50% came in the form of a comment card. The balance came in the form of a verbal request to go to a website to write a review.
Almost all of the reviews that my wife or I provided came in the form of comment cards. Hmm…sounds like an opportunity! Stay tuned: Customer Lobby will be launching a product with reviews by comment card in the next 60 days – we call them Handwritten Reviews.
Take away message: Ask your customer to provide feedback right then and there while your service is still fresh in their minds. Handwritten reviews from Customer Lobby are on the way to help!
3. Everyone cares about customer feedback
I was having breakfast at the Royal Livingston Hotel next to Victoria Falls in Zambia. There was a comment card on the table next to me that the couple who had just finished breakfast had clearly filled out. With her arms stacked precariously with more plates than I could carry in 5 trips, a waitress stood still for several minutes reading the comment card on the table. If I had not pulled out a camera to take her picture (for this blog post), she might still be there reading.
Everyone wants customer feedback. Any feedback.
Take away message: Share your reviews with all of your staff. Share the good, the bad and the ugly. Photo copy reviews and use them as a motivation tool. Read them at company meetings. The people in your company are working hard trying to keep customers happy – show them it’s working!
4. Using reviews as a marketing tool is a new(ish) idea
Companies spend lots of time and money thinking how to market their business but one of the least expensive, most impactful and easiest ways to market is by using authentic customer feedback. Although I was regularly asked for feedback, almost none of the companies were using customer feedback to market their businesses. Historically this has been difficult because potential customers recognize “testimonials” as cherry-picked comments selected by the business owner. However, now there are 3rd-party review sites covering every industry/product/service everywhere in the world. 3rd party review sites have much greater credibility with prospective customers.
Take away message: Use your online reputation (reviews, Facebook comments, Twitter conversations, etc.) in your marketing. Some ideas: put them on your website; include some (and the link to the 3rd-party source) in your printed marketing material; print the links on the back of your business card.
5. Asking for feedback helps avoid problems before they get broadly distributed
Delta Airlines had a great idea: At the start of a 16 hour flight, the flight attendants announced “We would love to hear your comments, criticisms, suggestions, thoughts or anything else you would like to share. Simply go to Delta.com and someone will get back to you.” Great idea. 16 hours is a long flight and there are bound to be some bad tempers that have internet access at 35,000 feet. By directing issues to delta.com, they can deal with problems before they become expensive PR issues.
Take away message: To catch problems before they are all over the internet, tell everyone where and how to provide feedback. Using Customer Lobby (you can link to it from your web site) and its broad range of dispute resolution and management tools, you can solve problems before they are spread all over the internet.
(to be continued in Part 2 of this post)