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Your Online Reputation And Your Bottom Line

They are more connected than you think.

The Automotive Recycling Magazine
By Dusty Dunkle

By now, you’ve realized that your business is on full display – 24/7 – online. Forward-thinking businesses capitalize on increased revenue from a positive online reputation. Who’s peeking in your large online storefront window, and how much does this really impact your bottom line?

Over 150 million people are now familiar with musician Dave Carroll’s story. As his touring band was on a layover in Chicago, he actually saw the baggage handlers roughing up the luggage, including his $2,500 guitar. Sure enough, they broke his guitar to pieces. The fact that United Airlines would not compensate him for his broken guitar, after nearly a year of trying, is where this story really takes off.

Dave promised the last representative he spoke with that he and his band would tell the world about his experience. Soon Dave fulfilled his promise and his song -- “United Breaks Guitars” – went viral on YouTube. By the end of the first week, the video was up to 2.5 million views. In the first four days, the stock price of United dropped 10%, costing shareholders $180 million. This video now has over 13.5 million views. In addition, Dave’s added two more videos, wrote his first book, and is currently speaking globally.

The book is titled The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media, and that sums it up nicely.

Dave’s story is one of the best examples of how one individual’s voice can be louder than an actual brand (a very large brand at that). This was, and still is, an ugly situation for United. However, consumers are not going to completely abandon this airline as a result of Dave’s story. It takes a series of similar incidents, in most cases, to affect a brand permanently.

Marshall Goldsmith, business author and speaker, says it well: “Reputations are formed by a sequence of actions that resemble one another. When other people see a pattern of resemblance in your behavior, that’s when they start formulating your reputation. A negative reputation is rarely formed due to a one-time catastrophic event.”

It’s never been more important to keep customers satisfied and to address any problems as soon as they occur. You’ve seen the statistics on how one upset customer tells a certain number of others of their dissatisfaction. Harvard Business Review took this a step further.

According to their study, when a customer is dissatisfied and nothing is done to resolve their problem, that person tells 14 people, on average, how unhappy he or she is. If the business just listens to the problem without taking any action to resolve it, they will only tell 7 people of their dissatisfaction. If the business listens and unsuccessfully attempts to solve the problem, they tell no one of their dissatisfaction. And finally, if the business listens and actively solves the customer's problem, they will tell 5 people how effective they were. This compares favorably even with the clients who never had a problem in the first place, who only tell 3 people on average how happy they are with a good service experience!

This is all great information, but the study results were published before the age of social media. These numbers should now be multiplied several times over. Today, “the ants have megaphones.” Through Dave’s story, we learned that one customer has the ability to tell millions of people of their dissatisfaction, in a very short period of time.

Word-of-mouth has taken on a completely different meaning (think “word of mouse”). The exponential growth and impact of social media is nothing short of stunning. Take a look at these statistics:

  • There are over 1 trillion Google searches per year
  • 6 billion hours of YouTube are watched each month (50% more than last year)
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world 
  • There are over 1 billion Facebook users (the average user has 200 friends)
  • There are over 225 million LinkedIn users (a new user joins every second)
  • There are over 200 million blogs
  • 1 billion Tweets are sent every 5 days (the average user has 30 followers)
  • 55 million Twitter users log in from their phone every month
Disclaimer: these facts will be completely outdated within days of this publication.

The experience you deliver to your customers every day, through every transaction, either builds value for your brand or destroys it. We no longer control our own brand, we share our brand with customers.

I’ve been in my business for 22 years, and it does seem like things used to be a heck of a lot easier. We didn’t need to worry about customers doing what Dave Carroll did. WE controlled our brand and what was said about our brand. Who’s behind this madness? Enter Generation Y.

Who are these “Millennials”? They are Justin Bieber, who has over 46 million Twitter followers. They are Lady Gaga, who has over 60 million Facebook likes. Did I mention madness? Gen Y is 80 million members strong, and they value transparency. They were born into the digital age and are experts at deflecting the thousands of marketing messages that strike us daily. Unfortunately, they are often not buying into what we are selling.

Only 14% of consumers trust advertising, according to a study conducted by National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) University. The same study found what they do trust (at 78%), is recommendations from their peers.

As business owners, we’re all marketing the fact that we’re the best.

Unfortunately, the Millennials don’t really care to hear what we have to say. They don’t learn about our business through the traditional process. Instead, they value the opinions of others. They feel that a company’s expression is muted by the assumption of self-interest and marketing intent. An individual’s rant carries far more power.

According to Alterian (a supplier of content management systems):
  • 54% of consumers sampled felt that “companies are only interested in selling products and services to me, not necessarily the product or service that is right for me.”
  • Only 10% trust companies to “always act in [my] best interest.
  • Only 6% trust “what the company says about itself.”
According to Nielsen (a global information and measurement company):
  • Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising at 70% trusting the platform, an increase of 15% in 4 years. (The most trusted form of advertising, at 92%, is recommendations from friends and family.)
  • Only 58% of global online consumers trust “owned media,” such as messages on company websites.
The emerging Generation Y wants “earned media” and they will get it. They want ratings and reviews. This is why online ratings and reviews are everywhere, and they will continue to trend up in popularity. Did you know that 92% of your potential customers research businesses online before actually going to the business (BIGresearch)? That 65% of shoppers use reviews “always” or “most of the time” before making a decision to buy (The E-Tailing Group, Inc.)? There’s more!
  • 84% of Americans say online evaluations have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service (Opinion Research Corporation).
  • 80% of consumers have changed their minds about purchasing a recommended product or service based solely on negative information they found online (Cone Inc.).
  • 10.3% are less likely to purchase from a business with no reviews (emarketer.com).
We know that consumers are seeking ratings and reviews, and this information plays a large role in influencing purchasing decisions.

So what’s your reputation?

Let’s start with the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google is by far the most frequently used search engine, accounting for over 65% of all online search. Yahoo and Bing each account for approximately 15%.

When you Google the name of your business, do you like what you see? Consumers rarely look past the first page of search results. Do you look great on this first page? How many review sites are there?

What are their star ratings?

Diving deeper, analyze “Google Suggest.” This is Google’s attempt at completing your search phrase, as you type it. It’s a great tool that provides insight as to what people are looking for online. Type the name of your business one letter at a time, and see how Google Suggest completes your phrase. We’ve recognized over years of watching closely that more and more consumers are specifically searching for reviews on specific businesses (e.g., ABC Auto Parts Reviews).

Next, type your business name along with “reviews” at the end in order to capture more review sites on your business. Do you like what you see? Keep in mind that an impression is created before anyone even reads an actual review. The images of the Google stars jump off the page and often create the decision moment-of-truth for your prospects.

Understand that having no online reputation – no reviews – is a negative. This makes your business look small, and does not give consumers the information and security they need to engage with you. It’s easy for them to find another business with a good reputation.

Online reputation impacts nearly all businesses. Certain businesses in the automotive industry, like franchised auto dealers, put a large amount of emphasis on online reputation and social media strategies. Collision centers and service centers are moving in that direction nicely. The industry leaders make these strategies a fundamental part of their day-to-day operations. Other industries are just getting started, and everyone will be there soon.

I’ve referred to online reputation often, but understand that today your “online” reputation IS your reputation. Not participating doesn’t make people stop talking about you. It just means you aren’t part of the conversation.

Stay tuned for another article on Online Reputation in the next issue of Automotive Recycling.

Dusty Dunkle is President of Customer Research, Inc. (CRI), and is the co-founder and Vice-President of SureCritic. Dusty graduated from Washington State University, and then joined CRI in 1992. He evolved CRI, a regional company with a single service offering, into an international multi-channel marketing company specializing in customer loyalty and customer satisfaction measurement services. CRI currently serves thousands of clients. Dusty also co-founded SureCritic, a corporation that offers a comprehensive reputation enhancement and social sharing platform, by applying this knowledge and experience in the current social media space. SureCritic currently serves over 3000 automotive businesses.
To learn more about CRI and SureCritic services, contact Dusty Dunkle at 800-886-3472 X502, by email at DDunkle@CustomerResearch.com, or visit www.CustomerResearch.com.