Customer Experience News & Trends

How small businesses should manage the online experience

Popular thinking suggests you need to have a big online presence if you want customers to know and love you — and the logistics of that can be overwhelming to small businesses. Here’s help in managing the online experience.

Small businesses would like to spend less time dealing with social media, a Vertical Response survey found. But they recognize that it’s a channel more and more customers want to use. So someone must manage the online experience consistently.

“Reputation management is even more important for small businesses than it is for large ones,” says Jessica Sanford, SEO at Consumer Affairs, “because with less overall feedback your brand can suffer from a single negative review.”

Here are five ways you can manage and get more out of your online customer experience efforts:

1. Manage only what you can

Most small businesses can’t be everything to everyone in what they produce and who they help. The same goes for social media and the online experience. Take on and control only what you can.

If you can successfully manage a Facebook page — making daily posts and responding quickly to anything customers post — then do it. Adding a Twitter account just because that’s what everyone else does won’t be effective if you can’t give it immediate, round-the-clock attention, which is what customers expect.

2. Monitor more

You’ll hear a lot of feedback directly from happy and dissatisfied customers. But there’s a faction that gets upset and takes their feelings to social media rather than straight to you.

You can stay on top of negative feedback that doesn’t come straight to you by searching your company name regularly on Twitter, Facebook and review sites such as Yelp. Add a negative word in your searches such as “complaint,” “scam” or “sucks” after your name or signature product, and the worst will likely bubble to the top.

The good news: You can reach out and turn those negative situations into positive endings.

3. Respond

Most customers who resort to posting negative comments online don’t expect the company will reach out to them. That’s why any efforts to make things right will likely turn the situation around.

You can respond in social media, telling customers that you’d like the opportunity to make things right. Invite the customer to take the issue off-line and then, if possible, send a personal email or make a phone call.

4. Showcase what’s positive

Almost 90 % of customers put as much trust in online reviews as they do in personal recommendations, according to a Search Engine Land survey. They aren’t just listening to and believing in what their friends and family say about businesses: They put a lot of stock in what total strangers have to say, too.

You don’t want to ever manufacture positive social media. But you do want to capitalize on positive feedback. Put comments at the top of your social media and website pages — with customers’ permission, of course — so they’re seen first.

5. Spotlight your fans

Nurture relationships with customers who are active on social media. They can do some of the work shaping other customers’ opinions of your online experience.

Almost 70% of customers are more likely to buy from a local business if they can find information about it through their social media site. The more your loyal, outspoken customers post on your social media and online in general, the more likely it is you’ll get attention for positive experiences.

You might want to surprise your “super users” — the customers who talk positively about you on social media — with coupons or other special promos periodically.

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