They’re Talking About You—But You Can Shape and Benefit From the ‘Conversations’
As little as seven years ago, managing the reputation of your business could be covered using the same techniques that have been used since the invention of the printing press. Communication between a business and consumers was a one-way street: businesses marketed to, and talked at, consumers, who were, by nature, the passive recipients of those messages.
But in the last couple years we’ve seen one of the most radical disruptions in the ways consumers use the Internet in the medium’s history. Whether you call it ‘Web 2.0’ or the user-generated revolution, it’s an overwhelming fact that Internet consumers are no longer solely the recipients of controlled, top-down information, they’re now the creators and ultimate ‘evaluators’ of that information. Online customer reviews are exploding, and they’re having an increasingly powerful impact on how consumers select spas to visit.
Just consider the facts:
* 70% of Americans now consult online consumer reviews before making a product or service purchase. (Business Week, 2009)
* Reading online customer reviews is one of the top 3 reasons spa consumers visit websites (trailing only finding spa deals and viewing spa menus). 48% cite that online reviews are now a primary online destination. (Coyle Hospitality Research, 2010 )
* 72% of wealthy consumers report that when they’re shopping online for luxury goods/services, they search online to read customer reviews. (Luxury Institute, 2010)
* 48% of spa-goers report they’re now likely/very likely to write an online review to share their spa experiences. (Coyle Hospitality Research, 2010)
Today a simple Google search for your spa’s name surrounded by quotes can prove an eye opener. Practically every business located in an even smallish city has been reviewed somewhere online – and many owners don’t even realize it. Sites like Yelp.com, Citysearch.com, and, of course, SpaFinder.com allow your customers to easily post ratings and reviews about your spa.
It’s understandable that businesses might be terrified of all these anonymous consumers posting uncontrolled messages, in these ever-spawning, uncontrolled environments. But of course it’s precisely the raw, unpolished, uncontrolled nature of this content (that makes it so scary to businesses) that makes it so powerfully credible and valuable for consumers. And not only will sticking your head in the sand not make it go away–not forging a Web 2.0 strategy for your spa means you can’t manage as well as profit from these reviews and consumer conversations.
So what to do? While there’s no single, bullet-proof Web 2.0 strategy, there are a few tips your business can take:
- Use these services to your benefit – With online communities, the more reviews about your spa, the more trusted your business becomes. And here’s evidence to quell some anxieties: research shows that 80% of all posted consumer reviews are actually positive. Give a printed card to each customer when they’re checking out that asks them to leave a review of your business on their site of preference.
- Monitor Popular Sites – Make sure to regularly visit SpaFinder.com, Yelp.com, CitySearch and other local forum/review sites where your business is likely to be discussed.
- Respond to negative reviews – Make sure that you and your staff are hyper-responsive and human when addressing complaints or questions. Most sites allow business owners to respond to reviews, and if a site doesn’t, just post a response comment. In most cases, sites will not post particularly slanderous comments or reviews, but if one does slip through, you can usually request its removal.
- Provide Great Customer Service – It sounds like common sense, but it’s amazing how often it’s forgotten. After all, online ratings and reviews are ‘word of mouth’ virtually personified. What was once intangible and hard to measure, is now only one search away. The surefire way to make certain your spa is receiving glowing reviews is by providing terrific service.
While community review sites have undoubtedly created new challenges for business owners everywhere, the upside is that there are now many more places around the Web for potential customers not only to find, but to promote, your business. The user-generated revolution, and consumer ratings and reviews are here to stay, and if managed properly, they represent a tremendously powerful tool to help your spa thrive and grow.