Corporate Eye

How to use your customer as your sales force

You can use your customers to help future customers find exactly what they want on your site – thus increasing their satisfaction level.

How? By letting them write reviews of your products on your site. This helps future customers select the right product for them, based on the experience of your previous customers.

Why would you do this? After all, Nielsen argued recently that communities and user-generated content often add more complexity than they’re worth, and work better on intranets than on the open Internet.

His argument for this (hugely summarised – do go and read the original article) is that:

  • A company’s employees are an actual community with a crucial shared interest: succeeding in business.
  • Employees are pre-vetted: they’ve been hired and thus presumably have a minimum quality level. In contrast, on the Web, most people are bozos and not worth listening to.
  • Intranet users are accountable for their postings and care about their reputation among colleagues and bosses. As a result, postings aim to be productive instead of destructive or flaming.
  • Small groups of people who know each other are less susceptible to social loafing, so more users contribute to intranet community features. In contrast, Internet communities suffer from participation inequality, where most users never contribute and the most active 1% of people dominate the discussions.

Let’s compare his view with the findings by the Keller Fay Group which (again, very summarised, see more here) show that reviewers are motivated by goodwill and positive sentiment:

  • 90 percent write reviews in order to help others make better buying decisions
  • 70 percent want to help companies improve the products they build and carry
  • 79 percent write reviews in order to reward a company
  • 87 percent of the reviews are generally positive in tone

These people aren’t bozos intent on destructive flaming. Rather, from a potential customer’s point of view, previous customers are very well worth listening to.

How many times have you – as a customer – made up your mind about a product after reading one of the customer reviews at Amazon? Customers do want to know what previous customers have thought about your product or service. And they’d probably rather know what other customers thought than what your employees think about your products. Employees are a pre-selected group, as Nielsen says – and probably don’t match your customers. But not because your customers are bozos.

The new survey also found that:

  • 79% of reviewers are active online participants who post reviews as a way of giving back to the review community
  • 84% of reviewers also purchase products online
  • 77% send more than 10 emails a day
  • 25% engage in social networks
  • 20% of reviewers post messages on other people’s blogs or chat rooms
  • 60% of reviewers have told friends and family about their product experience

I think there is a community of sorts here. Perhaps not a narrow community built around a common workplace, as in an intranet, but a looseknit community of altruistic people who want to help.

Yes, these are people who are active online, and no doubt there are many others who have never left a review of a purchase. But so what? That doesn’t invalidate the information that the active members contribute …

Very significantly, the survey also found that over 65 percent of reviewers have returned to the retailer’s site to leave an online review about an offline purchase. This group clearly have strong feelings about the brand – and, according to the survey, are more likely to be positive than negative.

These people are the influencers of their offline communities, and therefore are exactly the people with whom a company should want to strike up a relationship.

Why wouldn’t you use whatever positive publicity you can get?

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Lucy is Editor at Corporate Eye
 
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