As a wise man, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, once said: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Actually, the original French quote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” translates literally to “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing,” which applies perfectly to the relationship between businesses and customers.
A study recently published by Small Business Trends found that, despite the technology revolution and untold millions spent on newspaper advertising, direct mail marketing, Yellow Pages ads and social media campaigns, 85 percent of customers find businesses through good, old-fashioned word of mouth.
According to the publication, the results are nearly identical to those from a similar study conducted nearly 10 years ago. In fact, the word-of-mouth response was up slightly from then.
In a sense, perhaps that’s not surprising, because it’s easier than ever to share your opinions about a business, whether that’s on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. Word-of-mouth is louder now and gaining in power.
The underlying message for businesses is that it’s more important than ever to keep a close eye on what customers think and say, whether it’s a corner shop, restaurant, fitness center, beauty salon or.
What Businesses Can Do to Foster Word-of-Mouth
Small Business Trends recommends taking some regular actions, including:
- Staying in the loop – Check search listings for your business (Google, Bing, etc.) at least once a month and respond to comments left there. We’d add Yelp and other ratings sites to that list.
- Asking customers to spread the good word – Businesses should specifically ask happy customers to recommend them, perhaps through “refer-a-friend” links on electronic newsletters or asking them to like you or leave a comment on your Facebook page.
- Asking customers what they think – Regular surveys, via online tools or other methods, can help businesses pick up on patterns in customer thought.
Those suggestions are all well and good, but we’ve got a couple of better ideas. Especially today, when it’s so easy for unhappy customers to rake your business over the coals on an online review site, a good strategy is to get real-time intelligence into consumer opinions. That way, you can intercept unhappy customers – and make them happy – before they can hurt you on Yelp or Google+.
Today’s survey tablet technology makes it possible for businesses to ask customers for feedback while they’re still on the premises, perhaps while they’re waiting to check out or finishing up their dessert. Built in survey builder tools allow you to craft questions that fit specific business needs.
Tablet Surveys Allow Immediate Response
Any negative feedback immediately triggers a text message to a manager, who can respond on the spot, before an angry customer leaves the premises.
Later, tablet survey systems allow business owners to analyze all survey responses together to look for patterns and measure customer satisfaction over time. The data can be used to level-set and benchmark goals and expectations for employees at multiple locations, for example.
Studies have indicated far higher response rates to tablet surveys – upwards of 70 percent – as compared to other methods, such as online surveys or comment cards.
The result is a far more scientific approach to keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment toward your business – and a better chance that word-of-mouth recommendations will treat your business well.
Find Out More About Gathering Customer Feedback
Complete the form below to download the free eBook, The Power of Instant Customer Feedback, for more detail about why it matters what customers think about you.
Jason Barge is a marketing manager at LRS and an expert in communications for the hospitality industry.