Online reviews are more than a pat on the back or a testament to your customer experience. They can have a serious impact on the bottom line, new research found.
Positive feedback actually causes increased demand, and in turn, higher prices.
What researchers found
The Boston University Questrom School of Business research focused on online hotel reviews and how they affected price and demand for rooms. However, the research has implications for nearly every industry.
In the study, when ratings jumped just one level on an industry-accepted scale, demand increased 25% and prices grew 9%.
On the flip side, when ratings fell, the companies lost business, researchers found.
Another study out of the Harvard Business School, which looked at how online reviews and ratings affected restaurants, had similar results. Sales rose 5% when the average rating went up one level (or star, on both the restaurant and hotel scales).
One way to get more positive feedback
Of course, the only way to get more positive feedback and increase ratings is to deliver a customer experience better than your competition — and then get customers to share their thoughts.
You don’t have to overhaul your customer experience operation to make it shine or bring it up a notch. Small tweaks to the one-on-one interactions between customers and employees can make a difference.
In fact, small personal encounters are often the situations that have the biggest positive impact on hotel and restaurant customers. Customers typically remember the special things staff members did for them to make their stay more comfortable or special.
Same goes for almost any B2B or B2C operation.
Make it happen
These tips from customer service expert and speaker Shep Hyken can help you focus on the most important areas of personal experiences.
- Manage first and final impressions. They really are the most important. First impressions set the stage, so they need to be welcoming — websites and business entrances tidy, bright, professional and staffed by happy faces and voices. Final impressions last. Employees need to leave the door open for a continued relationship. They should give customers a reason to want to come back. Examples, “Call me directly at …” “I hope I’ll hear from you again.” “Thanks for the opportunity to help. I look forward to doing it again.”
- Be predictable. Consistently tell customers what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Post response times. Explain what you have to do to finish their request or answer their questions, and the time they can expect a final resolution. Have enough people on staff available to respond within minutes during the hours you’re open.
- Be accountable. Take on the role of customers’ advocate in every situation. When they need help, tell them you’re the person to deliver the solution. If you can’t, take them to another person who can. When customers have a problem, take responsibility for fixing it.
- Do more. When customers talk or interact online with an employee, they expect expertise, professionalism, plus answers or solutions. Follow a lagniappe rule: Give them a bonus beyond their basic expectations. Respond faster than promised. Offer to finish a process they’ve started. Share a white paper or a link to a story you’ve found valuable in your industry. Add appropriate humor. Answer the next question.