If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s this: as businesses embrace a digital-first world, they also need to adapt to the feedback economy.
We’ve always known that customer feedback influences whether people choose to do business with you. According to a consumer survey conducted by Fan & Fuel, 97% of participants said customer reviews factor into their buying decisions, and 92% of consumers hesitate to make a purchase when there are no customer reviews.
But something else is going on. Consumers are making decisions based on how they perceive a business in Google search results. Consider, for example:
- Nearly 75% of consumers lose trust in a business due to inaccurate business listings on destinations such as Google My Business (GMB).
- That erosion of trust affects not only a business’s reputation – it can also influence how Google itself perceives the business. How? Because consumers are leaving reviews on GMB listings. And those reviews affect a business’s ranking in Google. In other words, consumer feedback, both negative and positive, affects more than consideration. It affects visibility.
This reality rang true in 2020, as Google attempted to respond to the reality that the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused massive disruptions in service beyond the control of businesses — including automotive dealers, restaurants, and retailers with GMB listings.
Google knew that in most cases businesses lacked the tools to properly update their listings with information on temporary hours, temporary closures, and the addition of workaround services such as curbside pickup (which would become permanent services). Google responded by quickly offering new features to help businesses properly manage their listings. And during a transition period, Google suspended customer reviews to protect businesses from being criticized for problems beyond their control.
Google knew negative customer feedback could do more than hurt ratings/reviews on GMB. The feedback could cause serious damage to a business.
Rethinking the role of reviews and ratings in customer experience
Going forward, businesses need to think of the relationship between marketing (including SEO) and customer experience differently. They need to think in terms of reputation experience management. With reputation experience management, businesses think of customer feedback in three crucial, interconnected ways that influence their entire operations:
- Getting found: Google says that high-quality, positive customer reviews will improve a brand’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit you. Because of this relationship between customer perception and visibility in search, it’s all the more important that businesses elevate and follow SEO best practices to make their GMB listings accurate, complete, and optimized for search. Better GMB listings affect the entire customer experience – even more so now when customer experiences are largely digital first in nature.
- Getting chosen: Ratings and reviews are the top factor consumers use when choosing between local businesses, and more than half of consumers pass up locations with less than a 4-star rating. And at a time when more than half of all Google searches stay on Google, that feedback looms even larger. Consider also where people are making those decisions about doing business with you. Facebook now has more than 3 billion monthly average users on all its apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Facebook has become a more influential review amplifier along with Google in 2020.
- Getting better: this is where many businesses are falling short. Too many aren’t taking both ratings/reviews and unstructured feedback on social media and messaging apps to ask how they can actually get better from one location to the next. Why? Because marketing and customer experience are disconnected. The marketing team, which owns social media, focuses on responding to people, promoting products and services, and building their brands on social. But the insight they gain from customer feedback too often stays with the marketing team. It does not get shared with the customer experience team to identify problem areas that need to be addressed before they hurt a company’s reputation.
Marketing and customer experience alignment
Here’s something else many business are overlooking: when you use both customer ratings/reviews and unstructured feedback to get better, you:
- Get more positive reviews, which makes you more likely to get chosen.
- In turn, those reviews also improve your visibility on Google — a virtuous cycle that can make or break a business as online usage continues to climb at a time when visiting a brick-and-mortar business literally creates a health risk.
But you cannot wave a magic wand to get the benefits from this virtuous cycle. Businesses need to:
- Get marketing and customer experience to collaborate on sharing customer feedback data that has a far-ranging impact on visibility, consideration, and operations.
- Elevate the importance of SEO. SEO does more than help a business get found. Good SEO affects a company’s reputation.
- Invest in better tools to track and report customer feedback, including AI platforms that collect and make sense of unstructured data faster than any human being could.
Reputation experience management recognizes that the customer experience is intertwined with all phases of the marketing funnel. And customer feedback is the common thread.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.