Changing Customer Service Needs in an Increasingly Online World

Throughout the past few years, posting reviews of products and services on social media and online consumer review sites has become increasingly popular for consumers, and particularly homeowners researching their options for home remodeling services. From Angie’s List and Yelp to CitySearch and Google Places, not to mention Facebook and Twitter, there is a growing list of online resources where customers can provide detailed reviews of their personal experiences — good, bad and indifferent — for all the world to see. Likewise, the number of people consulting those reviews and personal accounts before deciding on a major purchase or signing a contract for a service is also growing by the day. In fact, according to a recent Nielsen study, 70 percent of consumers worldwide trust online reviews, an increase of 15 percent during the past four years.

At Power, we’ve found that statistic rings true for the majority of our customers who are “logging on” before selecting a home remodeler, as well as after the project is complete to share their experience with the masses. As that number of customers turning to “friends” and “followers” for advice continues to grow, the inclusion of an online reputation management plan can seem like a no-brainer for home remodeling companies working on their 2013 marketing plans. In our experience, we’ve found that the key to making the most of our customers’ increasing reliance on social media and review sites lies in the development of a robust, relevant and active online presence that serves as an extension of our customer service department. Below are a few essential steps to keep in mind while doing so:

Consider your audience on social media. When it comes to the most popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, a successful social media presence lies in first determining who and where your audience is and how to effectively communicate with them using each site’s unique features and tools. Before launching a profile, determine who you want to reach in the space — the way you speak to your customers may differ greatly from how you interact with employees and partners, and the content you offer will absolutely change depending on the end user. Chances are, a huge percentage of your customer base is active on these sites, and uses them daily to communicate with friends and follow their favorite brands and businesses. Offer those homeowners a blend of useful content, such as relevant research on the housing market and educational tips on ways to maximize their home’s energy efficiency, in addition to more specific offers, coupons and deals to incentivize them to utilize your services. Keep your message and tone of voice consistent in all status updates, photo uploads and Timeline interactions so your brand will be instantly recognizable when popping up in your followers’ news feeds.

Be a proactive participant in online reviews. When customers turn to online review sites or your social media pages to complain or praise your business, don’t just sit back and watch. Monitor these sites consistently through Google Alerts or by appointing a customer service employee or partner to handle the task on a daily basis. Develop a response process that will allow you to react quickly to positive and negative feedback alike by either sending a private message to resolve a complaint or problem, or by posting a public message of thanks or appreciation to a satisfied customer. However you respond, be sure it’s timely but also thoughtful and unique to each situation. To be even more proactive, consider implementing a program that encourages your customers to visit either a designated page on your website or a general review site to share their experience after the job is complete.

Make the most of your website. Don’t let your website become a glorified yellow page listing that features only the most basic listing of services provided and contact information for your business. Take advantage of this real estate by constantly updating your site with fresh and relevant content, such as media hits, company news, awards and accolades. Consider creating an internal review page for customers or even a blog that will help educate homeowners and position your business as a reputable, reliable home remodeling resource. Taking simple steps such as incorporating links to your social media profiles on your home page can make a big difference in establishing a cohesive online presence.

Lastly, understanding that nothing online exists in a bubble is essential when it comes to taking advantage of the many online tools and outlets available in this increasingly online world. Everything is connected, and every homeowner has access to the good, bad and great online content related to your business through a simple search — resulting in countless opportunities for you to communicate with your customers.

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