Over the past decade or so review sites have become part of our daily lives. If you want to find a nice holiday resort and hotel, you visit Tripadvisor.
If you want to track down a good restaurant, search on Yelp. If you want to check out how a potential future employer treats its employees, you go to Glassdoor. And if you want to find a plumber who isn’t going to rip you off you pay a visit to Trustpilot.
Although engaging with these different platforms is a daunting prospect for business owners, they can ill afford to ignore them because like it or not your company could feature on them and the reviews left about your service offering might not be complimentary. The good news is that while a derogatory write-up on a review site can be incredibly damaging, on the flipside a glowing report can be great for your business. As can customer testimonials in general.
So how can printing companies attract positive reviews and testimonials and use this feedback to their advantage?
The importance of customer reviews is underlined by research published by Avanade, a global professional services company, created in 2000 as a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft, which provides IT consulting and services.
It found that 61% of buyers consult third-party sources before contacting a company’s salesforce. These sources included third-party sites and social media as well as personal recommendations from business contacts. And that’s not all. After purchasing a product or service for their company, 42% of buyers say they review the provider on a third-party website; 32% posted reviews on social media channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
That’s why delivering a good quality product and service to customer should be top of mind for all businesses, says Sam Neal, chief executive of Geoff Neal Group.
“My father always lived by the phrase that you are only as good as your last job,” says Neal. “The printing industry is a small and well connected community and so good news travels fast – as does bad news. Positive recommendations, referrals and feedback from clients are very powerful in developing existing relationships and also as a way of meeting new people.”
It’s a view shared by Matthew Hodgkinson, head of customer experience at Rotherham-based Route One Print, who explains this isn’t just about profiting from feedback.
“We think the value of feedback from our customers goes beyond profit, especially when it comes to the relationships we build with our clients,” he says. “However, profit does come as a by-product of this.”
Hodgkinson adds that having reviews that are publicly accessible allows potential customers to get an understanding of the products and level of service the company provides. Customer feedback also informs the company about what products and features it might consider implementing in the future.
“This can be anything from simply being able to pay VAT online via the account area, to introducing a Kraft stock,” he says. “All of these changes help build our customer relationship and improve that customer journey, therefore increasing their lifetime value and reducing our operating costs.”
This insight and transparency is one of the things that makes review sites like Trustpilot particularly compelling for potential customers, says Tom Hardy, operations manager at Crown Labels in South Yorkshire.
“Trustpilot can provide more transparency to potential customers who are considering a new supplier,” says Hardy. “If a customer has had a particularly negative experience then customers can use Trustpilot as a way of expressing discontent in the same way people go on Tripadvisor and vent their frustration after an awful holiday.”
This candid feedback can be informative and alert companies to problems that they are not aware exist. That’s one of the reasons why Crown Labels has recently started sending out invitations on Trustpilot to new customers to “try and understand how we can improve as a business,” says Hardy.
As well as giving potential customers a feel for how a business operates before placing an order it also offers businesses themselves an opportunity to address any negative feedback and improve its offer accordingly, says Hodgkinson.
His company uses ‘Trustboxes’ on its website to display its current Trustpilot rating; Route One also reaches out to its customers and asks them to submit Trustpilot reviews or provide a Net Promoter Score each month.
While Trustpilot has many merits and is the first port of call for many potential customers seeking out a product or service, another effective online feedback and referral channel is LinkedIn, which Hardy is particularly keen on.
“I think LinkedIn is a great way to keep in touch with existing customers and to showcase other work that you do – if you post in the right way,” he adds. “We are focusing more marketing efforts through this social media platform than any other in 2018/2019.”
Another feedback option that can be incredibly powerful in terms of winning new business is customer testimonials that can be used on company websites, emails and printed marketing collateral.
Matthew Parker, director at Profitable Print Relationships says: “People dealing with bigger business clients are more likely to want testimonials that are a bit more in-depth from relevant customers.”
Hodgkinson agrees. He says that his business uses Trustpilot reviews for its Route One Print brand “however, for our integration side, Route One Connect, we use testimonials to get a full understanding of the integration side and how it can benefit potential clients”.
Whereas reviews on channels like Trustpilot, LinkedIn or indeed other social media platforms will usually be unsolicited and not require much legwork, getting a testimonial from a company requires some forethought.
“There is a technique to getting the right testimonials,” says Parker, who offers companies advice on how they should go about this as part of his training package. “When I work with clients I give them six questions they should ask. It starts with potential objections. So a good testimonial will deal with potential objections another customer might have, show some specific results and be very specific about the type of service or product the testimonials giver received. It is very important that it goes into detail, rather than just saying ‘oh yeah this is a great print company, I would recommend them anytime’.”
Devil in the detail
He adds that, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the detail. “If a testimonial just says ‘XYZ print company is great’ then it means nothing,” says Parker. “But if it goes into detail and explains how that company works and why the person giving the testimonial likes working with them so much and what kind of results they delivered, then it becomes much more useful information. So for example, ‘the new online ordering system XYZ implemented with us allowed us to save seven hours of purchasing time a week’. That’s the sort of thing that another company at the very least will go to a sales person and say ‘that’s interesting, tell me how you did that’. It’s much better than someone just saying ‘my print is a bit cheaper’.”
Once the testimonial has been received from a client the company needs to shout about this endorsement from the rooftops, according to Parker.
“The testimonial should be used everywhere. On social media, on the company website, on brochures, email marketing, direct mail sent out to people and also on email footers,” he explains.
While the importance of this kind of feedback should not be underestimated, it is also crucial that companies bear in mind that despite the best efforts of the platform owners reviews can be manipulated.
There have been instances in the past where companies have been systematically attacked by rival businesses that have paid people to submit a flurry of reviews about a company’s service offering to lower their star rating and damage their brand. This might not sound like such a big deal, but research undertaken by a Harvard Business School professor found that a one star increase in a Yelp rating led to a 5%-9% increase in revenue.
The other issue with some review sites is that companies can also either submit positive reviews about their own services using fake accounts or pay others to do this for them, to boost their star rating.
That’s why Crown Label’s Hardy thinks that people should be careful and take these websites with a “big” pinch of salt.
“I can’t speak for Feefo, but you can quite easily create a fake review on Trustpilot,” he says. “I’ve also heard of a web-to-print label company paying customers to remove their negative reviews on Trustpilot. I think if there is a large enough sample size, though, you can probably get a decent feel for the reputation of the company – unless they are paying somebody full-time to constantly submit fake reviews!”
The review platforms say they are doing their best to clamp down on this sort of unruly activity, but given the sheer volume of submissions they receive it’s impossible to say with 100% certainty that fake reviews won’t slip through the net.
That’s why it’s so important that printing companies make sure that when one of their customers is pleased with the quality of product and service they received they encourage them to submit their own glowing endorsement via the company’s review platform of choice so that they can capitalise on this positivity.