Build stronger relationships with your winery and tasting room customers through reading and responding to online reviews

By: Kathy Kelley and Dana Ollendyke

The number of forums, bulletin and message boards, and social networking sites that allow consumers to comment, rant, or rave about a business is continuing to grow. I’m sure that many of you who are reading this post have evaluated a product, restaurant, hotel, etc. based on what you read online, or heard from friends and family, so you understand the power of just one poster’s voice. Regardless of whether you post reviews or comments online, it is important to:

  • Know how reviews impact customers (both good and bad).
  • Where to look for reviews posted about your winery or tasting room.
  • The benefit of having a place for consumers to post reviews on your website.
  • How to respond to reviews.

Keep in mind that consumers are not the only group that can post about your business. Former vendors, competitors, partners, or others who have ill feelings toward your business may also use this avenue to negatively affect your business.

How Reviews, Both Good and Bad, Impact Customers

According to ReviewTrackers, a review management software company, in 2014, “88% of Internet users now read reviews in order to determine the quality of a local business” (http://bit.ly/1HDi7on).  Does knowing that the content (nearly) 9 out of 10 consumers read online about your business cause you concern?

Hopefully, what they read is positive and will encourage them to visit your tasting room, but it may also be possible that the comments, reviews, etc. are less than flattering.  Talk is Sheep Marketing, a wine marketing and design firm, indicates that only 8% of consumers “go online and write positive reviews” (http://bit.ly/1MZfRdA), while Street Fight, a firm focused on local marketing, indicates that 16.8% of consumers will write a review “after a pleasant” experience (http://bit.ly/1ONfyTa).

One review might not be enough for some potential customers.  According to data from BrightLocal, a search agency providing local search services, in 2014, 24% of the U.S. and Canadian survey participants “needed” to read two to three reviews before they felt they could trust the business, 32% needed to read four to six, and 18% needed to read seven to 10 reviews (http://bit.ly/1K2o9vB).

Infinit Contact, a contact center outsourcing service, reports that 35% of customers post a review online after they have a “poor experience” (http://bit.ly/1j3rPEP).  While the White House Office of Consumer Affairs indicates that “news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience” (http://bit.ly/1z66ZI4).

Nov 2015_Kathy_consumer

Where to Look for Reviews Posted about your Winery and Tasting Room

Online Monitoring Tools and Websites

You can’t address messages, good or bad, if you don’t monitor what consumers are saying about your business. Fortunately, tools are available to make this task less daunting. Consider using third-party websites to monitor messages and posts that include your business’s name, and correctly acknowledging and addressing both favorable and unfavorable reviews.

Nov 2015_Kathy_image of apps

By using a website like socialmention.com, you can type keywords or phrases into the search box and access a list of previously published entries. The site uses your keywords to search through blogs, microblogs (such as Twitter), networks, images, video, Q&A, and other information posted online. Because results may be from social networking tools such as Facebook, you may need an active social media account to see that review.

Another option is Google Alerts (google.com/alerts). This tool is similar to socialmentions.com, but without a Twitter alert search feature. In addition, Google Alerts allows Gmail users to sign up for email alerts based on a keyword(s) of their choosing and also how often alerts should be sent (e.g., weekly or “as-it-happens”).

To receive alerts for Twitter, consider using a tool such as IceRocket.com, as well as and subscribe to RSS feeds (news aggregators) to receive alerts when new blogs containing keyword/phrases and/or your Twitter handle are posted.

The blog post “Top 10 Online Reputation Monitoring Tools—2015” lists several monitoring tools (some are free, some you’ll pay a fee to use).  Just as you would research a new piece of equipment or accounting software package, you should do the same for third-party websites. Regardless of which tools you use, it is important to use them weekly, if not daily, to learn what is being posted about your business.

Popular Consumer Review Websites

While you may be most familiar with Yelp (yelp.com) as a consumer review website, there are a few others that you should review to see what is said about your business.

Google Local Guides (google.com)

Consumers sign up for an account and get points for sharing reviews, listing new businesses, photos, and/or answering other consumers’ questions.  The more points a consumer earns, the higher the level that he or she achieves, each with its own set of benefits (https://www.google.com//local/guides/benefits/index.html).

Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Level 1 members (0 or more points) get access to Local Guides monthly newsletters.
  • Level 4 members (200 or more points) can upgrade their Google Drive storage for free.
  • Level 5 members (500 or more points) can test new Google products before they are released.

Foursquare and Swarm

As of 2014, the Foursquare you might have known has changed.  Previously, Foursquare’s primary function was to “check-in” at businesses to earn badges and become mayor (person with the highest number of “check-ins” at a business). The app now includes “location discovery” and bases suggestions on the user’s preferences (users select the type of food, atmosphere, etc. they enjoy), on past visits, and those recommended by other Foursquare users that the consumers “follows.”  Foursquare also added a related app called Swarm.  Swarm focuses on the social and game features of the previous Foursquare.

These two apps were designed to “work in tandem, splitting the functionality of the former Foursquare app into complementary parts” (http://bit.ly/1ORjkez).  The following article provides information on how Foursquare has evolved: http://tcrn.ch/1sfwdjs.

TripAdvisor

While once a site that was primarily a source for lodging reviews, consumers can now use the site to search for reviews of area attractions.  For example, you can read reviews for wineries and tasting rooms, tours/tour groups, gardens, and arboretums.  HubSpot, a marketing software company, indicates that “over 225 million reviews, opinions, and photos taken by travelers” are posted on the site (http://bit.ly/1ccDNEL).

Other review sites that you might want to use include Yahoo! Local (www.local.yahoo.com), a business directory with reviews and ratings, and Glassdoor, a site where past and current employees post information about the business (www.glassdoor.com).  Even more resources can be found in the blog post “19 Online Review Sites for Collecting Business & Product Reviews” (http://bit.ly/1ccDNEL)

Providing a Place for Consumers to Post Reviews

Posting and reading reviews will not likely end anytime soon. According to research conducted by Forrester Research, consumers who shop on the Internet “rank reviews as the most desired feature of a website” (http://cnnmon.ie/1WVPxFD).  So where do consumers look for reviews?  In the 2014 report “Power of Persuasion: Online Reviews and the Influence on Sales,” 60% of female consumers who have Internet access “rely on reviews straight from the retailer’s website” and “37% value professional sites with expert reviews” (http://bit.ly/20Pg7Qn).

Consumers like to tell others about problems and issues that they have, both good and bad. If consumers are likely to post reviews and critiques online, what better place than on your business’s website? A variety of tools are available for you to add a review and comment section to your website. Consider enlisting a service that emails customers who have made online purchases and then invites them to provide a review. Or, include an option where consumers can provide ratings and reviews directly on your website. PowerReviews (powerreviews.com) and Bazaarvoice (bazaarvoice.com) are two such companies that provide a mix of tools for capturing customer input.  Also, check with your website designer or with the company who provided you with your website template to learn if adding product rating capabilities is an option.

Suggestions for soliciting reviews include posting a link on every product page for customers to write a review, sending customers thank you emails with links to review/comment pages, and offering customers an incentive, such as a free item or discounts/points applied toward a future purchase, for providing reviews – regardless if they are positive or negative.

As you work through the process of asking for and posting reviews on your website, you will certainly find some reviews with spelling errors, grammatical issues, and missing or incorrect product details. You may correct spelling, capitalization, and/or punctuation, but avoid editing much more of the review.

Responding to Customer Reviews

Whether posted on your website or elsewhere, it is in your best interest as a business owner to respond to what has been published online. Your response to negative posts can help reverse some of the ill feelings that the poster and other readers might have toward your business.  “What [people] are looking for is humanity and a genuine response” (http://onforb.es/1eXIhNz).”

According to Phil Lempert (http://bit.ly/1X334WV), the “Supermarket Guru”:

  • “60% [of those who post] would welcome a company’s response to a negative comment to resolve the issue.”
  • “66% want the company to contact them after they post a positive comment.”
  • “75% believe their comments deserve corporate attention and response.”

Based on this data, and if the customer has a valid issue that needs to be addressed, you need to do the following:

  • Post a reply to the negative comment as soon as possible.
  • Acknowledge that there was a problem and that it will be corrected.
  • Provide an explanation for the problem.
  • Apologize for the problem.
  • Thank the customer for informing you about the issue.

Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group (http://marketingzen.com), suggests, “Even if you do get negative feedback, you can turn it into a positive by engaging in a constructive way and showing that you’re a genuine business… People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers.”

For example, Schloss Communications, a hospitality consulting company, recommends “a reply such as ‘My name is X and I am the owner of [insert name.] We were sorry to hear about your mixed experience the other night, and want to invite you back on us to show you we’re serious about good customer service.’ Include any specifics about their complaint and any ways you are going to fix the issues…including your name and phone number in the response and invite the reviewer to give you a call to discuss further” (http://amex.co/1MVJVQS).

Nov 2015_Kathy_no sign

You will need to take a slightly different approach on Twitter since you only have 140 characters:

  • Respond quickly in one or two tweets.
  • Continue the conversation offline.
  • If the situation becomes worse and you are harassed or feel the tweet was purposely published to interrupt your business, contact Twitter for assistance.

If you are looking for some examples of retailers and service providers who are recognized as quickly and efficiently responding to customers’ questions, rants, and raves, you may want to consider following or searching for responses these businesses post (http://bit.ly/1MVL4Ie):

  • AirAsia “responds to customer inquiries with helpful Web pages and advice, and is always friendly and personal in its replies.”
  • JetBlue “is likely tracking and monitoring keywords and relevant hashtags” as they not only respond to consumers who mention them by using their Twitter handle, @JetBlue, in tweets, but they also find and respond to posts where the consumer didn’t “tag [them] in the post.”
  • Shutterstock not only responds quickly to negative and positive reviews but they also let “users know what department the company is sending their feedback to so they know they’re contributing to change”.

It is possible that if you reply and correct the situation, your customer may delete the initial negative review or post a new positive one indicating satisfaction with how he/she has been appeased.

It is important to respond to positive reviews as well. Thanking customers for publishing these positive views, feelings, and experiences is a way to give your business a personality and increases your presence on the Internet. A simple thank you is usually all that is necessary.  Responding to favorable reviews demonstrates to your fans that you care about what they have to say. Having positive conversation with your customers (online, on the telephone, or in your store) is such a great opportunity to learn why they purchase from you and what else you could do to serve their needs.

Taking the necessary steps to monitor what others are saying online about your business is an essential component of building and protecting your business’s reputation. You probably never anticipated having to spend so much time protecting your business’s reputation. As consumers find new ways to communicate with one another, businesses must be aware and participate in these exchanges. By monitoring what is posted online about your business—both the good, which can be used to bolster your reputation, and the bad, which you can take steps to defuse—you are creating relationships with your customers which affects your business’s economical sustainability and profitability.

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