The goal of a direct selling company’s online marketing strategy is building trust through personal relationships with customers.
The direct selling channel is based on the one-to-one interactions between independent consultants and customers. But what about the relationship between the company and the customer? What happens when negative comments appear online about a company’s products or services? And more importantly, what do you do about them to keep building consumer trust?
In the online world, comments and reviews are closely monitored. Millennials, the largest purchasing group, place more weight on word of mouth recommendations, and more than one-third of them prefer to wait until someone they trust has tried a new brand.
Many companies have implemented online chats so that customers can have questions answered in real time and any customer service issues can be resolved immediately. But it’s not just having that capability; it is how you use it to connect with customers. Here’s an example.
Two years ago, LinkedIn shared a hilarious chat between an Amazon customer support rep and a customer who had not received a book. (If you have not read it, click here.) While Thor and Odin (think movie Thor) roleplay was involved, the outcome went well beyond fun and a happy customer—it was the trust built between the brand and that customer as well as the instant sharing of the experience with the online community.
Does this mean you should train your reps in pop culture—Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow (Game of Thrones) speak or Dumbledore and Severus Snape (Harry Potter) talk? No, but making interactions more fun goes a long way in creating a lasting relationship and in helping to diffuse potentially explosive situations. Customers just want you to listen to them and help with issues.
Customers also want you to respond, more so than companies typically do. Uberall, Inc. recently released the results of its “Customer Review Report.” While the report focused on how shoppers evaluate brick-and-mortar store reviews online, the responses can be applied to direct selling, where storefronts are the faces of consultants.
Here are the results that might cause you to pause and reconsider your strategy for responding to online comments posted to your website or social media platforms:
65% of respondents believe brands should respond to every comment, whether the review is positive or negative. In addition, 18% believe they should respond only when the review is negative, while 10% feel they should never respond and 6% think they should only respond when the review is positive.
Takeaway: Have a proactive voice in conversations. Shoppers aren’t just looking for positive online reviews, they’re actually evaluating the quality of the customer experience based on online responsiveness.
More than 3 out of 4 respondents think responses should be personal. When asked how personalized a response should be to a customer review, 78% said that there should be some personalization. Forty-nine percent said responses should be “somewhat personalized,” while 29% said “very personalized.” Just 13% said “not very personalized” and 9% said “not personalized.”
Takeaway: Individualization is required to show that the brand cares about the customer. This is why platforms like Google and Yelp insist that businesses post personal responses versus generic, meaningless ones.
More than 86% are likely to shop at a store that responds to reviews. Of that group, 47% said “somewhat more likely,” while 39% said “more likely.” Only 8% said “somewhat less likely” while 6% said “not likely.”
Takeaway: Consumers prefer businesses who care about them, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that personal responses to reviews show just that to consumers who research a business. Responding to reviews is great for brand perception, which leads to more new customers and repeat business from existing ones.
Importance of reviews
Nearly 75% think online reviews are important. When asked about the importance of online customer reviews for a store, 74% cited them as either “moderately important” (40%) or “very important” (34%). Just 20% said “slightly important” and 6% said they were “not important.”
Takeaway: Customer reviews are important, period. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they were either very or fairly influential. With so many options out there, stores live or die based on their ratings.
You don’t have to bring pop culture into your interactions with customers but be aware that making customer experiences fun and responding on a regular basis with personalization will help build trust and, ultimately, bring new customers.