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Are You Listening To Your Customers?

February 13, 2010

I recently read an article in a trendy business magazine about yelp.com and the business owners that have grown to hate the site, its reviewers and its business practices. The critics went on to say that the ratings are too harsh, uncensored, biased and permanent. They hated mostly everything about the site and the fact that a business could be brought to its knees by a few negative reviews. After all isn’t everyone allowed to have their off day?

My reply to the naysayers is simply. Get over it. This is your business’s image in the eyes of your customers. Despite whether or not you choose to accept it; it’s finally out in the open for the entire world to see. The issue businesses have with sites like yelp is that they have no control over their public image. Any average Joe can get on the site and run the business’s image into the ground with the stroke of the keys. On the flip side to that the average Joe can also sing your praises with a solid 5 star review. Businesses cannot alter reviews, or choose what order reviews are displayed, but they can use the manager tools to reach out to reviewers and have a conversation.

Sites like yelp have empowered the consumer and given a level of transparency to the business world like never before seen. You want to know where to eat in Boca Raton? Simply check the site for solid reviews and great feedback. The reviewers are usually average people like you and me who want to voice their concerns or praises for their local businesses. The owners can sit back and see how their staff or even they are viewed by the general public. It’s amazing to see some of the harsh or very solid feedback given on the site. Never before would you know the waitress “looked like she was on meth”, or “it appears they only employ the dumb and deaf.” While harsh, these are real, raw, honest reviews. This is how your business and staff are perceived in the eyes of the people you reply on to pay the bills. You’d better listen to them because if you choose not to you will find your quarterly earnings falling short of your projections.

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What do you do?

After climbing down off the ceiling from the last 2 star rating you received think long and hard about what was said. Were the comments valid or justified? Did you provide your service or product in a manner deemed reasonable by your customers? Did you do what you promised? I know it can be tough to be impartial when reviewing your business or yourself, but it’s critical in today’s market place. Consumers will not tolerate incompetence, unreliable products or poor service. They don’t have to and it won’t take long before the local community and the world knows that you can’t deliver. Address the issues. You’d address the issues if the person was speaking to you face to face, so why act any differently? The messaging option is a very powerful and underutilized tool that I’ve only seen the best businesses harness. It’s so simple, transparent and effective I just don’t see why anyone wouldn’t take advantage of it.

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Put the egos down.

It’s human nature for our egos to get in the way when listening to feedback or criticisms. Entrepreneurs and managers are especially guilty of this, and rightfully so. They are doing something that most dare not attempt. It takes a certain amount of ego and strength to build, manage and maintain a business. You may not want to hear that your “rockstar” receptionist is rude on the phone, or the 18 year old cashier is better with customers than you are or your store is “messy and disorganized”, but these are things that you can work on. No one expects a business to be perfect, but they definitely expect you to fix or address any issues. More often than not people dismiss feedback as “invalid” or “irrelevant” when in fact it’s very valid and relevant. Stop creating excuses for ignoring feedback. You’re not doing yourself, your bottom line or your customers any justice.

Friend or foe?

Sites like yelp may be your best friend or worst enemy. It’s really up to you to choose what to do with the information. It’s there for the entire world to see so why ignore it? The businesses that embrace feedback and provide exactly what they promise are constantly rewarded with strong reviews, great feedback and loyal customers. Why not be that business?

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User generated review sites like yelp are not a passing fad, and they are quickly gaining in popularity. Accepting feedback and working to improve your image, business or product is as important in today’s marketplace as selecting good real estate. If you listen to your customers and embrace sites like yelp you’ll be rewarded with years of continued business success and customer loyalty like you never imagined. The choice is yours.

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From → Business Musings

One Comment
  1. Jeramie permalink

    Great blog. You are 100% correct. It is often so hard for managers/owners to admit something is wrong or needs fixing, but that is the only way you can make yourself or your brand better. Nothing will ever be perfect, there will always be something you can improve on. If not, life would be boring. You have to be willing to make changes when something is not right, and it usually takes some outside perspective to notice things that are wrong.

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