Why Customers Want a Say (and Why You Should Let Them Have One)

Gone are the days when a company was the only resource for information on its own products. These days, everyone’s an expert, and everyone’s got an opinion, whether it’s on the cheesesteak at the restaurant down the street, or the next dress a brand is considering producing.

This era of opinions and reviews is a good thing for businesses. By giving customers the chance to weigh in about your company’s products, you’re effectively helping make customers feel like they have ownership in your brand. You’re helping build a lifelong customer, and trust me, she’ll bring friends.

The Voting Phenomenon

We’ve become familiar with voting up (or down) blog posts and articles on sites like BizSugar and Digg. We read a lot of content online, and we like telling our network what we think is better than the rest.

Then there’s the voting that some companies are using to get customer buy-in on products. Take ModCloth. The online retailer for vintage-inspired clothing gets its customers’ opinions…before it brings on new designers. Through its BetheBuyer platform, customers can “Pick It” or “Skip It” for clothing items the retailer is considering adding to its line. The smartest part? Once a customer votes for an article of clothing, she’ll get an email letting her know it’s been added, and giving her first dibs on buying it. Genius.

Rave for Reviews

Amazon perfected the customer review. Others are now following. Where only a few years ago, customers didn’t know what to do with reviews, they now turn to them before making purchases, on everything from home repair services to restaurants to books. Customers no longer want to hear how great your product is from you, the brand; they now want to hear that from other customers.

I can’t tell you how many times I have (or haven’t) bought a book, visited a restaurant or chosen a service provider based on what others are saying online. I try to do my part by leaving reviews to help others make the same decisions.

How to Democratize Your Brand

Before you start sweating at the idea of having negative reviews affect your sales, consider that if your product is genuinely good, a few bad reviews won’t affect overall opinion of it. Embrace customer opinion. Ask for it.

If you don’t already have an automated email set up to go out to customers post-purchase, create one that offers a URL to rate their purchase on your site, leave a review on Yelp or similar site, or share their purchase on social media. All of the above is good, too!

If you’re brick-and-mortar, bring the review option into the conversation with a purchase. Simply invite customers to review their experience, or hand them a business card with the URL on it.

In the event you do get bad reviews, address them publicly on the channel where there were published. Work to convert that unhappy customer into one that is satisfied and will return to buy from you again.

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Susan Guillory
Susan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a marketing firm specializing in content writing and social media management. She's written three business books, including How to Get More Customers With Press Releases, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, and Tweak Your Biz. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

2 comments

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  1. I agree that the “era of opinions and reviews is a good thing for businesses.”A good review is the best type of promotion for a smallbiz, while a not-so-great but constructive review can alert entrepreneurs of what they’re doing wrong and strive to do better.

  2. This is a great article which only touches upon the tip of what can be done. What really works great is to open up a communication channel between you and your customers. To be able to engage in them in conversation. One needs to figure out what works and does not work.

    In many ways, modern technology has put a bit of a barrier in B2C communications. Very much being a one way (flowing in one way) methods of communication. Many people desire the touch of one-on-one communication.

    Often there are things missing from online “polls”, simply hitting a “like” or “dislike” button is not enough. At times, people leave comments which businesses will be left with wondering more about. Sure, it’s always nice to know what somebody is getting wrong. However, what is it the business is getting “right”?

    Now days, it seems like most “sale calls” are scripted, with very little room for discovery of getting feedback from customers. It’s a shame really.

    Some of the best opportunities to get feedback are lost during sales calls, technical support calls and etc.. Because the focus and scope of these calls is too limited or hyper focused.

    Some people are not comfortable with publicly posting negative comments nor making them. They tend to become more reserved when angry or upset. They will decide to silently disengage from doing anymore business. The customers which will quietly leave in the dark.

    There are also people which are generally satisfied with the products and services. However, they made hold onto key bits of information as to what make things even better. They are not really don’t Back Flips about everything, however they are not angry and upset. This group of indifferent customers feedback is equally important.

    Most communication systems seem cater to those which can’t contain themselves with giving either positive or negative feedback. Not everybody is so emotional. So it sort of excludes the feedback of more logical (less emotional) customers.

    I hope this comment I’m leaving, makes sense to somebody.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that so many complain of not being able to interact with a real human being when it comes to B2C. Perhaps if people thought more in terms of C2B the world would be a better place for both customers and business.

    This is my two cents worth on this topic.

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