Monday, June 21, 2010

Our Customers Don't Talk about our services but we still benefit from Word-of-Mouth

Melissa Whalen runs an interesting business that's thriving - yet no-one talks about it! Jeune provides a mobile cosmetic medicine service, providing their injectable treatments and hair removal services at beauty therapists salons across Victoria. And yes, amongst other treatments, that means Botox, dermal fillers and IPL.

Think you don't know anyone that uses Botox? Melissa says that's probably not true as it's actually a lot more common than most people think. The thing is that most people don't like talking about the cosmetic medicine treatments they use. Which could be a bit of a problem for a business that relies on word-of-mouth for referrals!

Melissa says that "most people find us either by doing online research, or by discussing their needs with a trusted professional. Our business model of working through beauty therapists captures the second group, and WOMOW helps us capture the people that are Googling around looking for services and recommendations online."

She says that their main focus is on providing a great service that people will be happy with, and the word-of-mouth virtually looks after itself. "We particularly focus on giving people a very honest opinion of what we can achieve. If their expectations are realistic, then we're very confident that we'll end up with a very happy client. In some cases, people actually need fewer treatments or get a better result than we'd quoted - which of course delights them."

It's a simple strategy but one that certainly seems to be working as a scan of some of Jeune's customer reviews makes it clear how much people trust in their services. In a relatively short time, Jeune has built up an incredibly loyal client base - some of whom have moved interstate and even come back to Jeune for their treatments! "Our prices are reasonable and we offer a consistent and reliable service - extremely important when you're dealing with something as personal and sensitive as cosmetic medicines."

"Sometimes we'll get a 70 year old with a very limited budget asking to look young again. While we could offer some help, they're not going to be happy with the outcome - so we'll tell them they'd get a better result by using their money to buy a new outfit! We'd rather turn a customer away than have someone less than overjoyed with our service."

You can see customer reviews for Jeune's services here:

Proactive word-of-mouth - is it possible?

Yes, it's true - just as some people are natural athletes, some businesses seem to generate lots of positive attention because of their product or market. But in reality, these people and businesses are very few and far between. For the most part, like great athletes, great businesses WORK REALLY HARD to get positive word-of-mouth. (Think the hype surrounding every new Apple product release is accidental? Nope! That's a well-oiled PR machine working it's bum off.)

Great businesses don't sit around waiting for people to start talking about them. They ask their customers for referrals, request online reviews, keep top-of-mind with customers through interesting and relevant ticklers, and above all, they do everything in their power to provide every customer with the best experience possible.

Sounds too much like hard work? Of course it's easier to provide mediocre service, never bother keeping in touch with customers, and sit around blaming the state of the economy for the lack in enquiries - much easier! But that's not the road to a successful business that's buzzing. It does take a bit of effort and thought - but it's also worth it's weight in gold. Why? Because...
  1. People don't believe your advertising anymore
    That's right, we've become a cynical bunch and we all know how marketing works. We won't take anything at face value anymore. Advertising is still great for building awareness but it's really tricky to build trust, preference or a real connection with advertising alone.

  2. Word-of-mouth is now permanent, searchable and pervasive
    While we might not chat to our neighbours as much as in times gone by, the internet actually makes word-of-mouth much more powerful because the comments, reviews and mentions that your business gets today, can be found by people searching next week, but also next year. They can also be seen by people nearby, and people anywhere in the world looking for a business in your location (which is great for web businesses or those that service people that travel). Most importantly, thanks to the magic of search, your feedback is seen mostly by people that are actually looking for a service just like yours. People that value good quality and good service, and in some cases, will pay extra for it.

  3. You might need to call on your positive reputation one day
    No matter how good a business you run, one day you'll get some negative feedback online. Warranted or not, someone will put a ridiculously bad comment up on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, or some other online forum. If that's the only feedback about your business on the web, it's going to look really bad - whenever someone searches for your business, that's all they'll find. But if you've already built up a great bank of positive feedback, one negative comment is almost irrelevant (of course, you should still address it, but on it's own it's unlikely to do any real damage).
Some business owners are hesitant to ask customers for reviews or mentions online, but ironically, most people actually think more highly of businesses that ask for feedback and feel flattered to be singled out. If they're happy with the service they've experienced and feel that you've gone out of your way for them, most are more than happy to return the favour. In fact, they'll probably be a happier customer, just because of the fact that you've asked them for honest feedback (seems weird but you'll see for yourself).

Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing there is and if you're passionate about creating buzz for your business, you need to get this working. So don't be shy and don't be lazy, hand your customers a MEGAPHONE and start building up your online reputation!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

“Our service is paying off with the Happy Customers Program”

...that’s what Mairead Carstens from MetroMovers (furniture removals company) tells us – and it’s the same story we get from other businesses in the program. Mairead explains that “in an industry that’s not exactly known for its customer service, our focus has been on setting a new standard and doing things differently. But while this constant striving for service excellence has always been our passion, it was often difficult to convince customers of the MetroMovers point of difference. With WOMOW, we now have a tool to really demonstrate to customers that we’re serious about service every step of the way.”

MetroMovers joined WOMOW’s Happy Customers Program only a couple of months ago but has already had at least 10 new clients book after seeing their WOMOW listing (possibly more when they include the ones that say they searched online). Mairead says that “when people see our WOMOW listing, they’ve already decided to use us – so they’re definitely easier to sell to”. Plus, the enquiries tend to come from quality-oriented customers who value good service – “so they’re not going to shop around for the cheapest price”.

It’s not just about short-term client acquisition though as Mairead views their ratings as the reputation the business is building for the long-term; “we know that the feedback we get today will be a huge advantage – both now and in the future. The more reviews we can get, the stronger our web presence becomes.”

Mairead says that a side-effect has been the impact that customer feedback has on staff. “Whenever we get a positive review, we print it off and put it up in the staff room for all to see – it really motivates our people and everyone’s hoping one of their customers will mention them!”

When asked if they had any doubts about being reviewed, Mairead explained that “Like any business, sometimes things do go wrong along the way, but we’re confident in our ability to fix things up and end up with another happy customer – and we’re more than happy to be transparent about it and let everyone see how we operate”.