Monday Mornings with Madison


Some pieces of wisdom are counter-intuitive — at first glance, they contradict what we believe to be true. One example of this type of wisdom is “What other people think of you is none of your business.” This can be a liberating concept if you spend a lot of time worrying about what goes on in other people’s brains. After all, none of us can read minds and even if we could, there is little we can do about the contents of someone else’s thoughts.  So why fret about what other people think?

But when it comes to your business, what people say about you should be something to consider. Word of mouth has always been one of the most powerful forces in the marketplace because we all look to the opinions of others at times when faced with a choice to make. We prefer to get the name of a doctor or contractor from a friend, rather than look through the yellow pages.  We give more weight to a terrible product review that appears in a magazine we trust than to a flashy commercial for that same product. And, in today’s world, word of mouth has become even more important due to the power of the Internet. 

You can get reviews of almost every product, service, pastime or place just by entering it into a search engine.  Want to know what car to buy, what book to read, what dish to cook? There are countless people who are eager to share their experiences with you and they’re all accessible with just a click of the mouse. For a business person, this means that every interaction you have with a client or customer has the potential to reach a limitless audience.  How can you stack the odds in your favor that the reviews people give you, whether it’s on line or across the dinner table, are positive?

According to Roy Ayers of RatePoint, a company that provides customer feedback solutions for businesses, there are a few simple strategies you should use to generate positive reviews of your products or services.  The only thing counter-intuitive about these points is how often they are overlooked, but you ignore them at your peril.

First, and always, be polite. If you treat customers indifferently or as a number, they will see it as a sign of disrespect. Customers have a hard time being mad at someone who is always nice.   They are also more likely to overlook or forgive an error or problem if the person assisting them is genuinely pleasant.

Keep it simple. Complex policies can only lead to miscommunication. A good policy is one that makes things run smoothly for the business and is fair to the customers. Many business owners ignore the latter, creating policies that make transactions more difficult for the consumer.

Answer your e-mails and phone calls. One good way to get a negative review is to keep ducking the customer. Not only are you missing an opportunity to fix a problem, you are looking shadier by the minute. For large companies, add “long on-hold times” to this, which only serves to irritate and make a customer feel that their time is not valued. Remember, problems don’t just go away when you fail to respond to them.

Don’t argue with customers. Telling customers they are wrong will not only guarantee they won’t purchase from you again — it will guarantee they will be on a mission to make sure everyone knows about it.

Be consistent. Do your hours change constantly? Do you often run out of advertised products? Does your business run better at different times of the year? When you build customer expectations and don’t meet them, you can expect a negative review.

Ask for feedback. When you ask for reviews, they will generally be positive. And if there is an issue, you will nail it before it becomes worthy of a negative review.

“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” Socrates

© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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