Web Marketing Today

Using Customer Reviews to Drive Sales

I recently attended the VIP pre-opening dinner for an upscale restaurant near my home. Estia Taverna, a Greek restaurant in New Jersey, rolled out the red carpet for a variety of “influencers” in the area. I was one of them.

Besides sounding obnoxious, what makes me so darn important, you may ask? Estia Taverna might suggest you ask OpenTable, one of the most widely used websites and applications in my household.

Was it that they know my wife and I dine at fine restaurants weekly? Or that I am a prolific reviewer on OpenTable after each meal — so much so that I’m one of the Top 25 contributors in the nation on the site. Perhaps it knows we spend some money too. Or that we live close by. And maybe it has something to do with knowing we’ll have some kind words for them if the experience is worthwhile. The answer is likely all of the above.

OpenTable review

A recent restaurant review by the author (“MicahB”) on OpenTable.

Good Service Is Universal

As a marketer and purveyor of good client relations for law firms, I often marvel at the components that seem so knee-jerk and elementary, but somehow often get lost in the shuffle. Legal marketing conferences often bring in speakers from brands to speak about customer happiness — Southwest Airlines or Four Seasons Hotels or Tiffany’s — companies known for developing friendly, repeat clientele. The lessons about responsiveness, communication, reputation, staff training and loyalty, price, location or services are told through anecdotes that resonate with the lawyers. On its face, most providers of professional services would likely downplay the correlation. But it is there. The categories are transferable.

And it is that capability that makes the difference between dining at a restaurant once and becoming a repeat customer or recommending it to others. (Our Facebook “friends” know that they will see my check-in from the hottest and latest restaurants in Philadelphia every Saturday night.) The point for the small business owner or professional services provider is that all the information I’ve mentioned is available, if you chose to look. I know the restaurants that recognize I’ve been there before when I walk in. I know those that have called or emailed me to thank them for a compliment or inquire about dissatisfaction, or that make sure something I pointed out online last time is fixed this time. All the data and opportunities to interact with the customer or client are there for the taking. I could tell you a dozen restaurants that clearly study this data and another dozen that seem to ignore it. And it matters to me, the consumer.

Customer Reviews in Context

There are tools and channels besides OpenTable for restaurants. You can read reviews on social media and review sites like Yelp. But a core data component is reading what else I have to say. Am I just a complainer, whiner, or as often noted in some industries, a PITA (Pain in the Ass)? Or is my complaint valid, based on my “body of work?” You can search online to determine the credibility of the voice — and the lengths you might go to improve the relationship.

When I translate this topic directly to a lawyer, what is it we look for? First, I make sure we study Google Analytics on our website. If we use paid online advertising someplace like Facebook or LinkedIn, I’m going to study that data as well. We’ll invite clients to provide the same comment-card type feedback when completing a case or transaction as you get in a hotel — with the key being to actually read it and respond accordingly, positive or negative. There are dozens of websites which can provide responsive data and software in various industries that help with tracking satisfaction. Client satisfaction studies and surveys come in a million models. Figure out what you need to know to be better because that will directly lead to repeat business and referrals.

Adios Priceline

I’m a stickler for good customer service. Priceline will never see another dime from me after a terrible customer service experience where the closest response I could get was from someone in the Philippines reading a script. I eventually gave up my fight to reclaim $125, but Priceline lost thousands in the process. A positive experience at the Phoenician hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz. ensured the opposite result: guaranteed repeat business. Some companies — like many airlines — go back and forth with me, although in most cases I’m captive to the market. Moore Brothers Wine Company has my entire portfolio available to me online and gets 90 percent of my wine buying business. Some companies get it, some don’t.

Priceline won’t topple from my lost business. But for those that rely heavily on reputation in the community — be it a doctor, lawyer, plumber or auto mechanic — negative voices can be destructive. Put yourself in a position to win.

Yes, Estia Taverna, I will be back with friends and family in tow, because you are a smart small business operation. Because the food and service is excellent. Because you treated me well. All information you figured out by taking advantage of the online data in front of you. There is something like an OpenTable for seemingly all businesses. And there’s a prospective client with cash in hand waiting for the right message.

Micah Buchdahl
Micah Buchdahl
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