Or rather are the customers you're not getting, smarter than you?
In case you haven't noticed, a huge shift in consumer awareness has taken place over the last few years. Customers are getting more savvy more skeptical – so get your head out of the sand because if you don't keep up, you could be putting your business at risk.
The reality of today is that an abundance of information is easily accessible via the internet, and consumers are now enthusiastically conducting research online prior to making purchases of all kinds of goods and services. Even if you're not using the internet yourself, rest assured that your customers probably are! In fact, according to the Nielsen Netratings 2006, more than 80% of all purchases for goods and services start with a search on the internet regardless of whether it is for the home or business.
There are two basic types of search your prospective customers might conduct:
- A search on your business name to find out what others are saying about your business, product or service.
- A search for the type of product or service you offer to compare prices, or to find recommendations, reviews or information.
Obviously you should be found when someone searches for your business name (either finding your website or a directory listing). But when someone searches for the types of services or products you offer, they haven't yet got a business in mind so this is your chance to shine. Consumers are looking for information that shows them which businesses are good to deal with (and which are not). Social networking sites, blogs and forums make this form of research simple.
The proliferation of marketing messages bombarding us across all media has made us all much more skeptical and today's consumers generally consider independent customer reviews of a business to be the more honest, impartial and credible than a business' own marketing messages. Beth Harris from Australian Computer Resellers cleverly summed up this trend by saying;
“When you tell people how good you are, it’s bragging;
when other people say it, it’s proof.”
For this reason, good reviews are essential to the health and wellbeing of your business. Adam from ADM Motors recently found this out. He quipped;
“I didn’t realise so many people would be searching online for car services – boy was I wrong! I now get heaps of enquiries from people that have found my customer reviews online.”
Your online reputation is crucial to the ongoing success of your business. Consumers are actively seeking out the best value, the best range and more importantly, the best customer service experience.
It’s only natural that with more choice, expectations surrounding customer service increase. In fact, the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer indicates that when it comes to receiving bad customer service, Australia is one of the least tolerant nations. It reports that almost 9 out of 10 Australians had ceased doing business with a company after being the recipient of bad customer service. Which sounds like bad news, but if you're a business that provides good service, all of those customers are now searching online for a business with a great reputation!
So, if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to embrace this change in consumer awareness and adapt your business to the new reality of transparency. Managing your online presence and providing exceptional customer service will help ensure your business is set up for success. Positive word of mouth marketing (especially reviews) can set you apart from your competitors.
What are your prospective customers discovering about your business online?