Today’s entrepreneur builds their business in an environment where nearly every move they make is fodder for public consumption. Consumers are better connected to you, with access that the aggrieved customer of just a few decades ago could only dream of. It used to take days, or even months for customer feedback to make an impact on company decisions. Now, it can happen within minutes. What does this mean for your business?
For one thing, don’t give in to the temptation to curse this relatively new development. This isn’t a problem, and a good entrepreneur wouldn’t think of it that way. This highly connected world is an opportunity for you to say more about your company and your brand than ever before, to capture minds and make a statement on what you and your organization stands for. Businesses now can take advantage of a higher level of connectivity, a sort of “superconnectivity” that allows for constant feedback from customers, and your company to make lightning-fast changes in response.
Of course, this quick feedback can often come as an unwelcome surprise. Companies like The Gap have undone major decisions in a matter of days after strong opposition from the empowered public. While it may have been painful to toss away a brand reimaging that cost several millions of dollars and a great deal of time and effort, in the long run the company suffered little damage and continues to sit among the giants of retail. If anything, one poor move ultimately led to a (highly public) demonstration of how well they understood the needs of their customers.
Superconnectivity is about more than just social media outrage. While services like Twitter and Instagram are certainly essential for promoting your brand and engaging with your customers, there’s also a wealth of review services where you can be evaluated, whether fairly or unfairly. There’s Google, Amazon, Glassdoor, and Yelp, to mention just the biggest names. Once you make a name for yourself, there’s a potentially massive conversation about you and your business happening that’s mostly out of your control.
And this conversation is a pivotal one. Studies show that online customer reviews are the new word-of-mouth, with a reported 85 percent of consumers telling researchers that they trust an online review equally as much as a recommendation from a friend. Empowerment of customers means they can reach out to you and let you know what they think of you, or they can tell the world all about their experience with you on a third party site.
So what can a 21st century entrepreneur do to guide that conversation? While you can’t tell people what to say or think about you, you can respond thoughtfully to legitimate complaints, while letting your product speak for itself in response to the false ones. Numerous services exist to help you generate thoughtful responses, or simply DIY and carve out a piece of your day to address unhappy customers on sites like Yelp and Glassdoor. You don’t want their negative word to be the last one.
Even as business communications continue to evolve, one fact remains the same: the ultimate customer relations boon is selling a quality product. Meeting or exceeding their expectations when using your services will do the lion’s share of work in distinguishing your business from the competition. So, keep those lines of communication open, be honest, and always remember job number one. That’s serving your customers, and it originates with you and the product you put out, not in an anonymous online review.