In good old days, one would show off its prized possession to people around like neighbors, relatives and even family members to make then envious, jealous or feel inferior. Children would showcase their toys, teenagers would showcase their clothes and adults would showoff their high value items like jewelry etc. etc.. This would inspire others to look into same direction and seriously think of owning those products. Once people started using services, they shared the experience and that made other people wanting to have similar experience. People would talk about their experience at a dinner, hotel, resort etc. and others would get inspired to go thru the same experience. This was called the word of mouth publicity then. People who had good experience, would repeat it for a brand or for a retailer or for a service or for its provider. A happy customer would proudly share their experience about the products & services and hence others were getting inspired/influenced to buy them. Meanwhile, people who shared would go back and buy more! Sounds familiar! That what people do even today except that medium of sharing is changing fast form person to person to online or via social media and word of mouth is now a review. So if their customers don't share about the product and services they consume, it would imply that their satisfaction level is too low for them to share & to tell others. Result, they ain't buying anymore!
Review is all about sharing customers’ experience from various products and services they bought and consumed. A happy customer shall tell people about it, if not to all, they will tell selected friends or may be only to family members. Hence, the product and service providers should be watching customer’s reaction very closely. Every new product sold should get a customer to mention the product online at least once. Hence the marketeers have to focus on getting customers to share their experience irrespective of whether it is good, bad or ugly! Important is to make them react, positively or negatively, doesn’t matter! What matter is that they respond, privately or publicly, as each time a customer respond, its an opportunity to connect, engage and gratify! Since we experienced this everyday, here are some suggested ways to explore these opportunities:
- Customer before consumer. Focus higher on customer than consumer. It is unfortunate that the marketeers care more about the consumers than the customers. Here I must clarify that I categories consumers as may be customers while customers are the people who have bought or is a user in some way of any product or services offered. My observation is that there too much focus is on consumers and converting them in customers rather than focusing on customers. By applying simple math one can see what is more beneficial. To convert a consumer to a customer, there is certain customer acquisition cost. However if the focus is on customer happiness, their sharing of this happiness will influence consumers to become customers at “zero” cost. Hence it is logical to focus more on Customer than Consumer. In other words, ‘one in hand is better than two in bushes’! So marketeers, focus on what is in hand and get them to share!
- Get connected & stay connected- Marketeers should always be connected. Any online mention, of their product, brand or services, is an opportunity to connect with the customer one-on-one and start a online relationship. Once connected, encourage the customer to stay connected so that they can be served better. Remember it has to be give & take relationship, not one way connect. It has to be conversational and hence do not bombard customers with offers, discounts and communication that is just transnational in nature. Stay connected to let the customer feel that that one is always around and shall be there in their time of need! After all this is a relationship and you need the person on opposite side not to choke! Give it some space! In time to come, connected customers will converse more and that is an opportunity to learn, improve, customize and provide better! Once that happens, this shall lead to more mentions that shall influence more consumers about product & services offered.
- Stay engaged - If the mention is about satisfaction towards ones products & services , it's a positive start of relationship. This provides an opportunity for products and service providers to engage in more meaningful way. No products can survive in isolation and hence it has to have an ecosystem around it. Once a customer mentions something positive, it is time to include them in ecosystem and start exposing them to other ecosystem partners. A phone manufacturer can start introducing carefully selected apps, services and other similar ecosystem benefits. This would create engagement and provide more value to the phone. A restaurant can start providing more knowledge about the cuisine, ingredients and recipes’. Similarly clothing brand can start providing styling tips for seasons and latest trends. A positive mention is an opportunity to engage with customer with a meaningful conversation and retain them for as long as it can. after all, in a relationship, it is also about appreciating each other and not have a monologue. More importantly, it is also an opportunity to get into their circle of influence and engage more people, again thru meaningful conversation.
- Encourage via gratification- Every positive mention shall results in other people appreciating it too, should be an opportunity to gratify a customer. There are more than one reason to gratify, however, the biggest and strongest reason is that it results in “zero cost” customer acquisition! If so, it makes sense to pass some of that savings to existing customer by the way of some gratification! It would not only create more appreciation but encourage the customers to do it more often which will get more “Zero cost” customers. We all know what a bunch of flowers rather than a expensive gift can do in a relationship! Brands listening to their customers and gratifying them for their appreciation would mean encouraging more such mentions & sharing which would lead more people connected to the customer getting influenced/inspired to evaluate same or similar products.
- Customer sharing is always an opportunity: Bad reviews are even better! Don't misunderstand as what it means is that it is an opportunity to get connected, stay connected and gratify. It is also an opportunity to deeper your understanding of the customer form relevance of your product, its value proposition, and their unmet needs that is causing dissatisfaction, This is extremely important, tricky and should take highest priority. My observation is that many companies take it seriously but handle it as an isolated problem However in reality, it could a problem of many such customers. Hence once discovered, listen & understand the issue from each and every customer point of view and not only from the one voicing it. Now, it would be amazing opportunity to connect & engage with the entire customer base to check on them for similar issue. This is like double jackpot where in one gets to learn about an issue from one customer and also that it provides an opportunity with a reason to connect with the entire customers base at one go. Now if they are in hundreds of thousands or millions, this could be potentially the biggest customer engagement program one can undertake. Once engaged and resolved, it could result in each customer sharing with many consumers and thus influencing those consumers to become customers. That could be many times of the existing customer base! Further, It would be a huge opportunity and achievement from learning point of view. Compare this to staying disconnected and solving for only dissatisfied voice, as others would face the same issue and voice it too at some stage. This could become a problem of epidemic proportion if not discovered, analyzed and resolved proactively. By connecting with them online, one can resolve the issue and then engage and gratify the customers for their response. Sooner than later, it would get positive reviews for the proactive action taken and that would get more positive mentions for consumers to evaluating the products & services offered and even start buying.
I have experienced this many times and see it happening around me all the time. By focusing on connecting, engaging and gratifying existing customers for their online responses, it makes them feel attended too and that is what you want in a relationship, heard, engaged and taken care of! This keep them interested and sharing with others so as to put it out in open. Others appreciate it and become interested too. So, as they say, sharing in new buying!