There are a bunch of aspects to SEO that everyone talks about - like on-page, off-page, keywords, backlinks, etc. Despite their importance, these aspects have been talked about so much that the next time someone brings them up in a conversation, you tune them out and your head goes on autopilot mode nodding in all the right places.
Then there are some other, rather obscure, aspects to SEO that no one ever wants to talk about. Not even who we think are veteran SEOs. These obscure aspects may not always be related to the daily tasks we SEOs do behind our desks every day, but they nevertheless serve an important purpose to the success of any business online. One such aspect is customer service.
A lot of local business marketing, particularly on the internet, relies heavily on online reviews. If there's one takeaway about online reviews for anyone interested in promoting local businesses online, it is the fact that negative reviews take off a lot more quickly than positive reviews. Online reviews can make or break businesses.
What influences the online review sentiment?
The answer is obvious, at least on the surface - customer satisfaction. If you keep your customers happy, they'd say good things about you. And we always say, word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool.
But then, customer service is its own vertical in any business. How do you leverage that for your online marketing strategy?
The internet in some respects is a vastly different world where the customer has much more power than you as a business. It provides a level of anonymity and freedom that the real world does not, so your customers express their opinions about your business freely and in detail.
However, that's only a part of the equation. The more important part is that they don't need to come to you with their opinions. They have more than a few places where they can talk about you, and be heard. The most horrible thing about this is, these negative online reviews and ratings can destroy your online marketing, almost single-handedly.
It becomes your job, then, to make sure that:
1. They are satisfied customers and they have good things to say about you
2. If they have a grievance, they find you as the best place to go to resolve it
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The Right Online Presence
Just like when reviewing online about a business, people find the drive to speak up much more quickly when they have a problem or grievance than when they're satisfied. To their credit, though, they'd usually try to get it solved by contacting the business.
This is the most critical point in the process that could tip them in either side of the fence - positive review/silence OR a negative review filled with frustration, detailing their encounter with the customer service.
Consumer complaint forums like Ripoff Report and BBB are filled with accounts of bitter experience with customer service from frustrated customers.
Usually, a lot of these negative reviews could be avoided simply by having the right online presence. Display your phone number and email while designing your website and in all your business listings. Include your business hours so they know when you're available to be contacted. Have a strong presence in social media - Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram - so they have an option to reach out to you with important issues even outside the business hours.
When customer service is done right, your customers will do the marketing for you without them even knowing it, in the form of word-of-mouth and online reviews. Your online success relies on it.