5 Ways to Build a Culture of Listening and Boost Your Reputation

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5 Ways to Build a Listening Culture to Boost Reputation | SEJ

The line between customer service and business promotion is blurring. Almost every channel you could use in order to talk about your business can be flipped around, allowing consumers to talk to you or about you. And that means anyone working in SEO or online marketing needs to know at least a little bit about customer service.

And it means we need to do more than just talk AT our customers. We also need to learn how to listen to them—and put what they have to say to good use.

Companies that do so can dramatically boost their reputation scores, both online and off, because they’ll look like they really care about their customers. And (bonus!), a good listening game allows you to spot all of the little snags that keep customers from coming back. Fix those issues, and you could boost your company’s bottom line.

So are you ready to build a culture of listening? You can do it in five steps.

1. Dedicate the Staff

5 Ways to Build a Listening Culture to Boost Reputation | SEJ

It’s hard to listen when you’re stretched too thin. It’s even harder to respond in a calm, comprehensive, and compassionate manner. The solution involves staffing. Adding staffers who can monitor social sites, or giving existing marketing staff a few concrete sites to monitor each day, can help to get the coverage you need to keep a situation from escalating.

Can’t get your boss to add to your staff? Consider running a few key reports of the brand mentions you’ve been forced to pass by. Or work up a set of statistics about how long it takes you to respond to common issues, and what happens with each second you delay. Those numbers may help your boss prioritize your efforts, so you can get the help you need in order to do the job right.

2. Monitor Review Sites

Where do customers go in order to talk about your brand? If you thought of review sites like Yelp, you’re on the right track. But unfortunately, many brand managers don’t take online reviews as seriously as they should.

Consider these statistics from SurveyMonkey. Close to 60 percent of customers look at review sites online, but just 33 percent of businesses take online reviews seriously, in terms of customer feedback. And, just 64 percent of businesses that do pay attention to reviews actually respond to them online.

These are dismal numbers, and they highlight just why everyone involved in branding and SEO needs to pay attention to review sites. You should be watching the numbers, responding to complaints and otherwise being an active member of these platforms. It’s a great way to listen to what your customers have to say, and have a hand in the conversation.

3. Keep an Appropriate Eye on Social

Consumers love to talk about brands on social media platforms. And they don’t necessarily want brands jumping in on private conversations. In fact, more than half of consumers approached in a 2013 study said they wanted to discuss companies online without those companies paying any attention to the conversation.

So, you won’t want to listen via eavesdropping. Instead, you’ll want to listen for the messages your customers send you directly, via social channels. And when those messages come in, you’ll need to address the issue quickly.

In a study of the issue, via The Social Habit, researchers found that 42 percent of social media users expect a response from a brand in about an hour. And they don’t cut brands any slack for weekends and holidays. When they reach out, they expect to get noticed. And they get mad if they don’t get noticed.

That anger is perfectly reasonable. After all, these are people who are taking time to give you very valuable feedback about their experiences. If you ignore their comments, they don’t feel appreciated. And they could show their discontent by looking for another vendor.

If a customer gets great service via social, on the other hand, that customer will spend about 21 percent more, per Brandwatch. That’s a stellar number, and it could really boost your reputation with your boss. With listening, you could make it happen.

5 Ways to Build a Listening Culture to Boost Reputation | SEJ

4. Encourage Conversations

Customers may be brief with their comments, especially if they’re not really sure you’re paying attention. Drawing them out could give you a big-picture view of what went wrong and what you’ll need to do to fix it. But you don’t necessarily want to have that conversation on a platform you don’t control.

Look for ways to open up customer service conversations on your website. Live chats, email help desks, and more could help you tap into conversations from your chatty customers, without ruining your reputation in the process.

5. Empower Your Staff

If you’re chatting with a customer who has a problem, your listening skills will be put to the test. But you’ll need to do more than just listen. If you can, you’ll also need to solve that customer’s problem. And you’ll need to do so quickly.

Zendesk reports that 69 percent of people tie a good customer service to speed. The faster their problem can be solved, the more likely they are to think fondly of the whole experience.

Think of ways you could work to speed up a conflict-resolution issue. How many steps do your customer service reps need to follow before they can handle a problem for a customer? Can they issue discounts? Trigger free shipping? Solve the problem in some other way? Look for ways to help your staff respond to the comments they get, and you could make your listening really worthwhile.

If I’ve missed any steps you find really empowering in your own companies, shoot me a note in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas.

 

Image Credits

Featured image: ed-davad/Pixabay.com
In-post Photo #1: huyquynh0/Pixabay.com
In-post Photo #2: Unsplash/Pixabay.com

Jean Dion

Jean Dion

Senior Journalist at InternetReputation.com
Jean Dion is a writer, editor, avid blogger and obsessed pet owner. She's a senior journalist with InternetReputation.com, and writes frequently on the intersection of private indiscretion and public embarrassment. Follow her on Google+ or Twitter.
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  • R.Rogerson

    Far to few pay attention to this side of business and the net.
    The internet has provided us with a fast, easy to use and accessible method to communicate. Better yet, there are various platforms and methods to use.
    Yet far to few use it for listening, communicationg or researching. The focus goes on impersonal data and figures, stats and graphs … rather than staff and consumers, real people and real issues.
    Good write up!

    It’s not just “reviews” and “social”.
    Facebook and Twitter etc. are good, but there are far “older” platforms out there. Look to Forums and Bulletin Boards for posts that are often more insightful and meaningful.
    Look at blogs and blog comments, as you may find particularly verbose and potentially more influential mentions.

    Public posts have risks … and benefits.
    I’m personally not a fan of airing dirty laundry in public. It’s far to open to abuse, blowing out of proportion, press coverage etc.
    But, being “seen” to respond, and responding in both a timely and caring fashion can win you a lot of points in both the loyalty and trust columns. Sure, the origin may be negative, but people reading up on a negative and seeing professionalism and correction can work out better.

    Speed is utmost.
    Think about it … you don’t like hanging around on hold on the phone. Drives you nuts after 5 minutes. A very similar mentality happens when people email or raise a ticket or post a social complaint. They’ve initiated, and are waiting on you.
    Yes, a % will be polite, civil, understanding that it takes time. Many won’t. To their mind, seeing it “live” means you are seeing it at the same time.
    If you know you can act rapidly, have a stock of “auto-responses” you can customise, and post one within 30 minutes. This simply acknowledges and lets them know you know. By yourself some time, and ask a couple of relevant questions (put the onus back on them :D). (WARNING! Responding rapidly but lamely will only make things worse! If you cannot reply thoughtfully and with relevant content, then don’t say anything.)

    Read it twice before you touch that keyboard.
    It’s amazing how often we can misread something, or misunderstand what we have read. At othertimes, we may miss a pertinent/important piece of the puzzle and not realise it.
    Take your time to read it through at least twice, and then sit back and think of a reply before you start typing.
    Remember – you may not be able to undo what you send … do you really want something half-baked (and potentially fully stupid!) posted, crawled and forever on the net?

    Structure and planning.
    I think one of the best things I’ve seen so far is a tiered system (with examples).
    The staff can look through a list to fathom the severity. From that rating, they know what they can say/do, who to report to etc.
    It won’t cover all situations, but it can rapidly speed up most issues, give them some freedom and guidance at the same time.
    Having some semi-formed responses/suggestions can go a long way to speeding things up and providing staff with good pointers. A list of “don’t touch” and “flag immediately” can also help avoid issues.
    It can take a little getting used to, but the end results are smoother, faster, safer and leaves more people satisfied (inc. consumers, staff and directors :D).

  • http://pureelegancephotos.com.au Kam

    Just came accross your article and plan to put some of the tips into action. Thank you for taking your time to share this.

  • http://capitalbankcardtgccalifornia.com/ Roman

    Thank you “Jean Dion” for this post.
    This article is really helpful for me.

    keep writing and sharing .
    Thank you
    Roman