In today’s technology-driven and highly-transparent society, reviews have become a powerful tool used by customers to share their experiences. Websites like Yelp and Google provide a platform that give convenience stores an opportunity to right their wrongs, deliver stellar customer service, and communicate their brand online — where potential customers can see it.
Word of mouth travels fast when written down, especially if spread across social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. It’s important for convenience stores to think of reviews as part of the customer experience — one that requires attention and a response. If a customer review praises a particular employee, great! If an upset customer shares their disdain for a store, do not worry, there is an opportunity to right the ship.
A 2018 consumer survey report by GasBuddy found stations with above-average ratings captured 25% more visits than their counterparts with below-average ratings. The survey report, which captured more than 10.2 million individual user submitted ratings, also found less than 5% of customer reviews are neutral.
Whether the review is good, bad, or just plain ugly, one thing is certain — customers expect a reply and convenience stores should acknowledge their request. According the RevLocal, a nationwide digital marketing firm, 52% of customers expect a reply to their review within 7 days.
Submitting an online review is a relatively easy process. Within minutes accounts can be established and ratings submitted for multiple businesses using a variety of online platforms.
So, how should businesses respond to reviews?
When a customer leaves a positive review, a reply shows their business is appreciated and that great care is being taken to ensure their experience is one that will be passed on to others.
Responses to neutral reviews are often dismissed; however, provide an opportunity to let the customer know that nothing short of a perfect rating is what you strive for. It’s important to thank the reviewer for their visit, repeat positive aspects of the visit, explain any negatives, and invite them to come back.
Negative reviews require immediate action — especially If your business has few reviews to begin with. Negative reviews are without a doubt the most difficult to respond to, and to make matters worse, responding in itself sometimes is not enough to change the customers perception of a convenience store. That being said, a negative review does not always equal a lost customer.
When responding to a negative review, don’t make it personal — regardless of how negative the review might make you feel, convenience stores should respond to the criticism gracefully. Consumer research firm HelpScout reports that 70% of unhappy customers will purchase from a business again if they fix the problem that attributed to the negative experience.
A convenience stores online reputation is critical for business, and because 90% of consumers only make purchases from businesses who have a 3+ star rating, encouraging customer feedback is just as important as addressing reviews that dissuade potential customers from visiting your store.
That being said, star ratings do not always tell the full story when it comes to reviews. Digging a little deeper, there are keywords and and phrases to look out for that can help businesses develop an online response plan that builds rapport with customers.
As it relates to convenience stores, a few common phrases for positive reviews include great location, friendly staff, good service, and helpful. While commonly used phrases for negative reviews include: poor service, rude staff, and attitude.
Knowing words and phrases most associated with positive reviews within a given industry helps companies gain trust and business by focusing on the experiences that stood out to the reviewer.
The easiest way for a convenience store to increase positive reviews is to ask! People love sharing opinions, and if the request for a review is timed properly with the release of a new product or service, it can be extremely powerful in cultivating a strong online presence. Ask for reviews in person by the checkout counter using a comment box, include an online survey link on receipts, or create a marketing campaign that rewards customers who submit feedback on your companies Facebook page.
Part of managing reviews, whether they are good, bad or ugly, is leveraging online and offline conversations to focus on your company's strengths and weaknesses. If a particular review on Yelp, Google, or Facebook is offensive or fake, ask the reviewer to remove the review into an offline conversation. If that doesn’t work, flagging the review will alert the platform administrator who will determine whether or not the review violates guidelines. Every review platform will have its own set of rules for replying to reviews — read those rules before responding.
Ultimately, perfection is a goal worth chasing, but not a reality. Convenience stores should take into account the importance reviews play in how current and prospective customers view their business.
Having professionals in your corner to manage this increasingly important part of a business can position a convenience store as a destination that cares about its customers. The resources it takes and ability to fund a comprehensive review response strategy will vary for each convenience store, but there are options available. Small operators might consider outsourcing a trustworthy PR agency while large operators may be in a position to hire a full-time communications staff member. Either way, the investment is one that will pay off and have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.
As CEO of PWM Electronic Price Signs, I take pride in our company’s efforts to gather feedback so that we can continue to evolve and provide our customers with positive experiences. Our advanced technology and impeccable track record are due in part because we listen to our customers. That being said, progress does not come easy.
As a global company, PWM has worked tirelessly to make the customer its #1 priority by providing a consistent product and high-quality customer service. Whether you’re in California or Germany, our ability to deliver ontime and on-budget is key to ensuring our customers are satisfied. As the convenience store industry continues to expand to meet the needs of changing customer demands, so too will PWM.
Responding to the diverse global needs of convenience stores will always be as important as responding to customer reviews — regardless if they are good, bad, or ugly.
About PWM Electronic Price Signs
For more than 35 years, we have been on the forefront of the electronic price sign industry, working solely with convenience store owners, just like you. As a privately owned, global player we have led the industry in the use of SMD technology since 2006. To ensure we deliver on our promise, we produce our own sign components at our headquarters in Germany, therefore controlling all aspects of sign quality. With a variety of sign types and designs to choose from, we back our signs and our customers 100% with the industry's best warranties and customer service. www.pwm-usa.com