About Talk Digital to Me:
A casual interview style show, where each of our team members provides insight into their day-to-day activities at Convince & Convert as well as insights into their professional areas of expertise.
Head of Consulting Daniel Lemin shares his tips for confronting the rising influence of online ratings and reviews on business success.
Welcome back to Talk Digital to Me! Here today is Daniel Lemin, Convince & Convert’s Head of Consulting and author of Manipurated.
As Head of Consulting, Daniel heads up communication with Convince & Convert’s corporate and agency consulting partners, but that’s not all—he’s also an expert on the rising power of online ratings and reviews.
More and more businesses are waking up to the growing number of online review platforms, like Yelp, and the storm of customer feedback they facilitate. As customer experience gains greater and greater influence on business success, marketers need to be ready. Daniel’s here to share his tips for how businesses can prepare.
Watch the video for Daniel’s favorite strategies for soliciting customer feedback, the most common mistakes he sees businesses make, and new ideas for creating unforgettable customer experiences.
Kate: Hey, everyone, welcome to Talk Digital to Me, conversations about marketing and customer service with the pros at Convince & Convert. I am Kate Volman and I am joined today by the awesome Daniel Lemin. He is the head of consulting at Convince & Convert and I’m super excited to chat with him today because we are talking about how to create an experience your customers can’t wait to share online. Daniel, thank you so much for chatting with us.
Daniel: Hey, Kate, thank you for doing this. It’s a privilege to be part of this Talk Digital to, well, to you, to Me, to everyone in the whole series.
Kate: Yes, it’s going to be fun. I’m excited to chat with you about this. Actually, it’s been interesting and it’s been fun talking to everyone on your team about a very specific topic that each of you is really responsible for and, really, the head of. And you and I talked a little bit about this whole idea of creating an experience that your people can’t wait to share online because businesses want to be talked about online. They want to get more reviews and all of that stuff. And we’re going to dive in to reviews and how to really engage your clients a little bit more, to have them talk about you positively.
But before we do that, why don’t you tell us what your role is over at Convince & Convert? What do you do there?
Daniel: Sure, well, I am, among the many hats, we all wear a lot of hats here which is one of the awesome things about the team at Convince & Convert, my primary role is head of consulting. So all of the projects we do with our corporate consulting partners, our agency consulting partners and so forth, I head up all of those projects, make sure we’re delivering stuff to clients that’s truly a sort of innovative, cutting edge, inclusive of all of the sort of brain trust we have at Convince & Convert, so a lot of things we are all good at. We want to make sure we capture all of that in our consulting work, so that’s my primary job.
I do some other things, like a lot of folks, some of the team. I do write for the blog occasionally, less often now than I used to, and do a lot of speaking at different events and workshops about all of the topics we cover, content marketing, online customer service, customer experience, social media, and that whole gamut.
Kate: Cool, and you wrote a book?
Daniel: I did, I did. I wrote a book, came out last year called “Manipurated,” bit of a tongue twister there. It’s about . . .
Kate: Which is awesome.
Daniel: It’s kind of a . . . It’s sort of an expose on the online ratings and reviews industries, so everything from fake reviews to trolls and that whole gamut of things, good and bad, that happen on those online rating and review platforms. The book is all about that so it’s a fun, short read. We’ve done a lot of work since that came out, of course, with Jay’s book, too, “Hug Your Haters.” We’re starting to develop some real expertise in that area. I think it’s an emerging discipline, and it’s really an exciting one because it is very, very much about the customer experience.
Kate: Yes, yeah, I think that this is something that more and more companies are realizing it’s so important because it used to be just, “Okay, get everyone on our social sites, get everyone there,” but now everyone’s, like, freaking out, “Okay, they’re there, but they’re sometimes not saying good things,” or they’re there and then the companies aren’t responding. So first of all, I guess, let’s just talk a little bit about why it’s so important to make this a piece of someone’s digital marketing strategy, that customer experience piece of it. Why it’s so important.
Daniel: That’s a really good question. I think you actually just described it well, so we maybe should have you do this job. But what really happens is, we’ve been so focused in the digital side of marketing, more so than maybe some other aspects. The digital side, just getting customers here, like, “Hey, we’ve got all these people now on Facebook or wherever, and now what? Now, what are we going to do now? We don’t know how to make money off of that or, now we have a crowd and they’ve gone angry. How do we recover from that.” And to some degree, a lot of that comes down to customer experience, and we’ve got, now, crowds of people in places where we may not know how to serve them.
We don’t know necessarily how to do Twitter, customer service on Twitter, we may not know how to do customer service in a quick way or answer complaints and criticisms or even compliments, in some cases. We maybe overlooked some of those fundamental things. And so it’s a customer experience.
But there is some research I had seen somewhat recently that said, “Chief marketing officers expect, by the end of this year, 2016, that customer experience is the primary thing they’ll be competing on, more than price, more than quality,” which is pretty shocking if you think about it, that they even say that word, “customer experience.”
It’s almost like air. I mean, if you don’t have a customer experience, what are you doing in business. You know what I mean?
Kate: Yeah, so let’s kind of talk a little bit about the reviews because I’m sure you get asked this question all the time from companies which is, if you do start getting people that are saying negative things about you, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or whichever platform, how do you recommend they answer that person, or what do they do?
Daniel: Yeah, well, they need to answer them. The fundamental answer is, if you have someone complaining about you, you need to address it. The nuance there is the way in which, I think, that gets done and some businesses are amazing at that and other businesses think they’re amazing at that but are actually quite not amazing. And that’s where, I think, the customer experiencing actually is quite . . . it’s a thing more about psychology and nuance than it is about form and function.
It’s like, “Well, we’re on Twitter and we answer our customers.” Like, okay, yes, but how do you do that, and is that quite meeting their expectations. So that’s what we’re finding with a lot of the work we’re doing is it’s not so much about helping companies use Twitter for customer service or some other channel, Facebook and so forth, that’s sort of the form and the function. It comes down to how they make the most of that interaction opportunity which, in some cases, is where the things get lost in translation.
Kate: So let’s talk about some examples because I feel like if someone’s out there, you made a good point. These companies think that they’re awesome and that they’re talking to their customers or their prospects, or the people that are following them online, and they think they have this amazing customer experience and they pat themselves on the back when really, their clients or customers wouldn’t say the same thing.
I mean, how do you really gauge that? Like, how can a company say, “Okay, I’m going to take myself out of the role of CEO for a second and really look at my company as a consumer, and what would I think of the customer experience?” Like, how can someone get real with their team and figure that out?
Daniel: Well, there’s a funny statistic in Jay’s book, “Hug Your Haters”, and it’s something like 80% of businesses think they give good customer service or good customer experience. So 80% is like, “Yeah, we do a good job,” and in his research he found that 80% say they do a good job providing customer experience. Only 8% of their customers agreed, so there’s obviously a big disconnect.
Kate: That’s so crazy.
Daniel: It is basically like, “We’re amazing,” and everyone’s saying, “No. I mean, no, nope, not so amazing here.” There’s a big disconnect there and what we’re doing right now, we’ve got a number of projects we’re working on. One of them, we’re actually . . . we sent out this huge survey. There was about 1,500 respondents to this survey for a big home improvement company, one of our clients right now, and the idea there was to figure out where their ratings and reviews kind of fit in their buying cycle.
And the interesting thing, we haven’t actually analyzed that data but, the interesting thing, there is the nuance so it’s not this abstract, like, “Well, your customers use ratings and reviews so you should focus on doing that better.”
We’re actually looking at very precise points, like, what do customers look at when they’re making a specific decision. Is it the feature, is it the warranty, is it the thickness of a particular item or element of the product. There’s a lot of very specific nuance there, and that’s where we start to think about customer experience to a degree. It’s how do you reflect the best qualities of your product in that mix, so we’re kind of looking at that.
And then that disconnect between 80% of companies saying, “We do a great job,” and only less than a handful saying, “Yeah, we agree,” how do we solve that gap? And I think some of it’s very, very fine tweaks that get made to how a business might respond to someone on Facebook, how they deal with that interaction. Do they have people sort of empowered to say, “I’m going to fix that for you right now. I’m going to fix this for you right now,” rather than, “Call me or email me. Here’s a 1-800 number. You can call us.”
That’s not actually customer service. That’s just kicking the can down the road. And a lot of companies, when you see in social media, customer service, they’re actually just kicking the can down the road, especially large companies.
Kate: Yeah, I like that. I like that analogy. Do you know of people, or who are you either working with or there are companies that you just really like, that you would give as a good . . . someone to follow who is really on point when it comes to their customer experience?
Daniel: Yeah, I mean, the interesting thing is a lot of smaller businesses do this really, really well, and part of the reason for that, I think, is the people who are on their social media accounts actually work for that business. They might even be the business owner in some cases. So when someone says, “Hey, your restaurant was way too cold. I was freezing during my entire meal,” they can go over and turn the air conditioner down when there’s something as specific as that.
And so you look at some cases, smaller businesses do that really well and then larger companies, the customer service people are so disconnected from what’s actually going on. They’re sort of like, “Just give us a call at 1-800-Complaint here and here’s your case number.” There’s such a cognitive disconnect there.
There was one company in my book, actually, that are a moving company in Texas called Square Cow Movers. They don’t move square cows, it’s just the name of their business, Square Cow Movers. The owner of that company, it’s not a big company, it’s definitely a small business. The lesson he really learned is, number one, in the moving business things always go wrong. You break stuff or chip paint or whatever. Stuff always goes wrong, and it’s not so much that you can stop doing those things, it’s just the nature of being in the moving business. But for him, the lesson he learned was empathy and to actually slow down a little bit.
He was answering complaints so quickly that he was having kind of a knee-jerk reaction, like, “No, we didn’t do that,” you know, and that caused things to inflame even further. So he slowed down and asked his family members and friends to review a response before he posted it, and could’ve infused a little bit more empathy there because you can’t always fix the things that go wrong. That’s just the nature of business. You’re not perfect all the time. But you can reflect the best parts of your business, and that’s sort of the lesson that he learned.
So that was, I thought, a really interesting example. A very, very practical application of crafting a good customer experience.
Kate: Cool, I like that. So I know that online reviews is huge for a lot of local businesses. I know I work with some and they are always just, “How can we get more reviews? We want to get more reviews. Our business is so great,” and one of them is a local spa and there are people that walk out and they do, they’re calm, they’re relaxed, they had a great time. And yet I know not all of them are going to run home and go on Yelp and write a review.
So is there a good strategy to put in place to get more reviews without begging people for them?
Daniel: Yeah, the interesting thing about this, in some cases it’s context, it really is context. So one of the examples I talk about a lot is, and for no particular reason, I just sort of latched on to, this doctor in Toronto, his name is Dr. Motakis. He’s a plastic surgeon in Toronto, and he has a profile on Rate M.D. which is a doctor rating and review site. And I mean, he’s the kind of doctor, you see his picture, you’re like, “Hmm, I want to go see that doctor. He’s pretty good looking,” like, I would go see him just based on his profile picture.
But the crazy thing is, he has, like, a five-star rating on that site and he has like 50-60 reviews. That’s a lot for a doctor. You wouldn’t think that a doctor’s not, probably at any point during the patient encounter, going to say, “Hey, by the way, looks like your whatever cosmetic issue is healed. Would you give me a good review?” I mean, that’s just weird. A doctor’s not going to say that to you, right?
Daniel: So what is the context there? It’s probably someone in his office, maybe when they’re stamping the parking validation or doing something like that they mention it at that point, or perhaps he has an email program where maybe he has a weekly or monthly newsletter and he’s sending out requests for reviews that way.
So the when-to-ask for a review question is, in many cases, about context. Like, when should you ask for a review? Maybe that’s the harder part, right? The actual ask can be pretty straightforward. There’s any number of ways to ask for a review.
Kate: Yeah, I was just going to ask is there a better way to ask for one other than, “Go on to the review site of choice and review us”?
Daniel: Yeah, I mean, if you’re smart about your customer database and you know who your most loyal and loving customers are, you want to go ask them first. I mean, that’s your low-hanging fruit for reviews is people who already love you. So of course, if they already love you they’re probably going to write you a great review even if you just say, “I’m on Yelp,” or, “I’m on TripAdvisor. Would you be willing to write a review there?” So that’s just sort of one way to go about it.
Of course, there are all kinds of software platforms that allow you to capture reviews and do all that kind of stuff, and those are great, too. But the fundamental principle comes down to when do you ask customers for reviews, how, and what are you expecting them to do in exchange for giving that to you.
Kate: So I mean, are you saying if you give some kind of an incentive for a review, is that what you mean by what you expect?
Daniel: I wouldn’t know. Definitely not incentives, that’s almost . . .
Kate: Right, I was like, that’s illegal.
Daniel: Yeah, and that’s almost universally banned. But actually one of the things Yelp does, it’s a thing they offer for free to businesses is they call it a “Check-In Offer” and you can sign up for a year of Yelp small business account, or your emergent account, and run an offer on there that if people check in on Yelp to your location, you can give them, right there, something, 15% off, free ice cream, free parking, whatever it might be. And the funny thing about that is the people who check in to a location on Yelp tend to be Yelp’s most active people. I mean, that’s a pretty logical thread to weave.
So you’re sort of capturing their most loyal users already and, of course, they’re getting something in return. They’re probably going to give you a review too. That’s part of the exchange there. It’s not implicit or explicit, but it’s sort of in the ask. It’s kind of assuming that some of them will give you reviews.
Kate: Yeah, it’s so funny, I feel like you get some that are just . . . they review everything. I mean, everywhere they go they’re reviewing regardless of if they get anything out of it. They just really like to review stuff, and then others who, they could have a 10 out of 10 experience and they still would be like, “I don’t want to write a review.” And then you have a lot of the people that are, hey, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. So we need to find all those, like, super-fans.
So are there certain tools that you recommend people use just as far as some of the review sites, or any tips that you can share with some of these review sites that they may not know, just it’s something like the Yelp one?
Daniel: Yeah, I mean, it depends on the business. There’s a whole bunch of different ways you can manage your reviews but you can just do it the old-fashioned way with elbow grease and an internet connection and you could hop around to different sites and deal with it that way. And then there’s some inexpensive options and some really expensive options. We have a lot of clients using Sprout Social, for example, and it’s actually pretty good at doing review management, customer experience, or customer response kind of stuff, so that’s great. It’s kind of built into your social media work flow so it works nicely.
There are other platforms, too. Review Trackers is one company. There’s, I don’t know, probably several hundred in total that do differing forms of tool sets for that kind of stuff and, like everything in social media, it’s kind of the same thing. There’s tons of platforms, many of which do the same thing, but it comes down to what do you need them to do, is sometimes something you can do yourself without even spending money.
Kate: Yeah, there are so many apps and tools that businesses can use. And it’s interesting, too, because a lot of them are getting super niche-specific as well, so to be able to find the right ones to be on so people can find you. So for some of those businesses that are watching, I want people to walk away with some examples, some things that might inspire some ideas so that when they’re online, again, we don’t go back to the “pat ourselves on the back, we’re doing everything right.” We always can better with our businesses.
So what are some things that you think people can do, just kind of starting the week and when they’re looking at their social strategy, they should implement or put in place, or have someone be responsible for that you think would kind of help this experience for their customers? Even people with small audiences. Even those ones that just have100 fans or something on Facebook.
Daniel: Yeah, in some cases that’s easier. You’ve got 100 fans, maybe you know who they are. Literally, you know all 100 of those people in a very real sense. That’s pretty easy. I stayed at a hotel recently. I was really surprised. It wasn’t the first time I had stayed there. I actually stayed there somewhat often in New York.
It’s not a very big hotel, and I had written a review the last time I was there on TripAdvisor because it is a nice hotel. I was happy to review them on TripAdvisor, gave them a great review. And the general manager put actually a note in my room that said, you know, “Daniel, welcome back. Thanks for staying with us again. I saw your review on TripAdvisor and really appreciate your feedback.” I thought, whoa, that’s crazy. I mean, it was like a whole . . .
Kate: That’s awesome.
Daniel: And it’s not because I’m some big-wig on TripAdvisor. It’s just, he knows his customers. He’s very, very dialed in to his business and that, to me, was a very important lesson because I didn’t ever expect them to do something like that. They didn’t give me anything for free. It was just a card, but the gesture was like, wow, that was amazing. And they had also answered my review on TripAdvisor, but in a much less specific way. That was a nice little surprise.
So we sometimes talk about surprising and delighting customers, and the thing is, it’s not that difficult to do that. It is not that hard to surprise your customers, and it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture like a free car or something. You can do little things to make your customer think, “They’re just so dialed in to me. They get me,” and those are the kind of things, we call them “talk triggers.” I mean, the things that make you so thrilled you just can’t help but want to talk about them, tell your friends, like, “Hey, this happened.” I’ve told that hotel story a few times. Now people are always like, “Whoa, that’s crazy.”
Kate: That’s awesome.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s just those tiny little things that you can do, and it is delightful. It is surprising, but it’s not in the category of, like, you know, “We gave you a case of Frappuccinos.” I don’t really know how useful that is. It’s a small but mighty gesture, and so we kind of talk about those talk triggers. That’s a really, really important thing to think about in customer experiences. How do I create those because I’ll tell you, the link between a talk trigger and a great review isn’t a very long gap to make. That’s not a very illogical connection. It actually is a very logical connection.
If you do things that make people happy, they’re probably going to review you and think about those things when they do. So we always encourage our clients to think about that and whether they’re huge clients or smaller businesses, that is basically the magic. That’s the magic formula right there.
Kate: I love the magic formula, make people happy. I love it. That’s it. Super simple, just done. Actually, I think it’s that Maya Angelou quote that says, “People will . . . they’ll forget what you say, they’ll forget what you do, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”
Kate: And so I love that, and one example, kind of a local business here, it was my birthday, randomly, and I got a message from someone. I forget how we got connected on Facebook, but from a local restaurant, like, a local smoothie shop. Oh, and I do yoga and all that and they post on my page, “Hey, happy birthday. Come in and we’ll give you a free smoothie.” And that, to me, that just meant so much that they even, like, thought . . . I didn’t even know this person and we just had, like, friends in common. And so now, obviously, I refer and talk about that business to other people because I thought that was so cool.
Daniel: Yeah, I mean, that’s a talk trigger for you. And it doesn’t have to be . . . like, the big companies do it all the time, too, right? Airlines will pretend to take care of their customers, and all of those things are true, but it’s those little gestures that really, like, wow, they just really understand my plight as a customer. They understand how to make my day, and that makes me very happy as a consumer when I see it. Makes me thrilled when I see it as a consultant or on the consulting side, like, finally people are understanding this.
Kate: That’s awesome. And before we get into our little last minute bonus questions, the little bonus round, do you have any other tips or things that you want to share, just stuff that you seem to be talking about a lot with your clients or that things that come up that you think that people would find really useful as they’re putting together this whole customer experience?
Daniel: Yeah, one of the things is specific in the ratings and reviews space. We’re starting to do more and more work in that realm because it’s where a lot of this, kind of the rubber meets the road on this customer experience stuff, ratings and reviews, and in part because they become so important. The thing about it is a lot of companies see ratings and reviews as a defensive thing.
They respond to them, they have a protocol for responding to them. They’ve got people assigned to answering those complaints and those compliments, and that’s all great. But there’s also a huge opportunity on an offensive strategy to get more reviews. Before you get bad reviews, get more reviews.
That’s kind of one of the things we talk about is creating opportunities to get more review activity that sort of serves a whole bunch of different outcomes. But one of the important ones is it puts you in that offensive strategy where you are ahead of the bad things that will happen to every business. I mean, we can’t escape them. If you’re in business, eventually you’re going to do something to upset people. That’s just the nature of it.
But if you had been really focused on the offense rather than waiting for the stuff to hit the fan, so to speak, if you get in front of that then you’ll be in a much, much better position when the stuff does hit the fan. And that’s really an important thing we’re talking about right now.
Kate: Awesome, yes. So I like that idea, so that should definitely be something that, on the digital side, to be incorporated, that strategy of whatever it is that you can put in place to get those additional reviews. Then you won’t freak out so much when you get the negative ones.
Daniel: Yeah, well, that’s another important one is to avoid panic when the inevitable bad thing happens and you get those nasty reviews, wherever they may be, is to avoid that panic reaction, that knee-jerk panic reaction that we so often get. There is no good reason to panic. You just deal with the issue and move on. No business is perfect. But if people see that interaction, if they see that you’ve been fair and rational, they’ll be very likely to appreciate that. So panic is definitely not an emotion that you need to bring to that.
Kate: Do you recommend for a company when they do get a bad review, obviously you can’t take it down or anything, but do you recommend they reach out to that person or try to fix that and see if they would remove the review? What do you recommend to some people about that?
Daniel: Yeah, for sure. There are obviously two reasons you want to do that. One is to try to fix the problem and prevent losing that customer. But even if you lose that customer, which is possible, the thing is, other people are going to see that interaction so they see, “That business was super quick to reply. It seems like they tried to fix the issue. They just seem like decent people,” so it kind of creates a story, and that story will stay on your Yelp profile or your Google My Business profile for, pretty much, forever.
It’s going to be there for a very long time, and so you want that sort of story to reflect, really, the best parts of your business. So responding quickly serves those two outcomes, and it is important to kind of think about those two things when you are responding. Sort of attack the issue, not the person, that kind of stuff.
Kate: Right, okay, cool.
Daniel: But there is a case that we made, Jay talks about this a lot, not letting things go too far. I mean, if an issue is complex enough that it requires a couple of back and forth tweets or Facebook posts, something like that, then you really do need to take that thing offline and fix it. We would always say, when you’re done doing that, when you fix the problem, go back and thank the customer again and acknowledge the fact that you resolved it online.
Say, “It was nice speaking with you earlier and I think we got that thing fixed for you. Can’t wait to see you again,” just to kind of close that or basically round out or finish that story. But you don’t want to necessarily have the whole narrative laid out there. It’s a bit much.
Kate: Yeah, I could see that. All right, cool, and I know Jay has a lot of stuff in his book around what people are expecting now as far as, like, timeliness and how people expect a response back pretty quickly when you do write a review or something negative happens, so to be really aware of that. Okay, awesome, love it. Okay, are you ready for your bonus round question?
Daniel: Hit me.
Kate: All right. So Daniel, what is your marketing superpower?
Daniel: Marketing superpower. I actually think empathy is probably the one that I . . . that’s the first one that comes to mind. Thinking kind of customer-first, why did this issue happen, why did this situation happen, or why is this employee behaving the way they are. Empathy is an important skill and it’s particularly important now. We’re sort of in a complex era of marketing right now and I think empathy’s an important skill to have right now.
Kate: Awesome, and what digital marketing trend are you most excited about?
Daniel: I’m really keen on sort of the merger of social media and customer care. So kind of the Facebook Messenger stuff, being able to message to Delta Airlines that my flight is broken and I need help. Before you could do that it was a bit step-removed. You had to maybe go to Twitter and direct message the airline or the hotel or whatever the situation might be. And those steps are being removed from that equation so it’s becoming a direct sort of relationship as you would have with any person. It’s kind of, like, your flight is canceled and you need to fix it for me, or can you help me get it fixed.
So I think that is a really exciting thing for businesses, huge opportunity for consumers, too. It’s going to help us live life a little more seamlessly, but great opportunity for businesses.
Kate: And if you could only have one app on your phone, what would it be? This one is tough.
Daniel: I mean, my phone is kind of the app on my phone, right? I don’t have . . .
Kate: I know, right?
Daniel: I’ll tell you what, I have gotten to a point where my email . . . My phone is the way I best deal with my email, and I use Gmail so I use the Gmail app on my phone, that’s kind of the thing I use because it kind of helps me manage a whole bunch of aspects of my life. I don’t even necessarily use email on my desktop as much as on my phone. It’s kind of my first device for email, so I would say my Gmail app, as weird as that is. Email, woo-hoo, that’s exciting.
Kate: Very exciting, email, funny. All right, cool. Well, Daniel, thank you so much. It was so fun chatting with you. You definitely shared a lot of great tips for everyone out there. Where can people connect with you if they want to engage with you? There’s a lot of places.
Daniel: I’m pretty easy to find. I am on Twitter, Daniel Lemin, L-E-M-I-N is my last name, Daniel Lemin, and that’s pretty much the easiest way to find me. I’m there. I’m anywhere you can find the Convince & Convert team. Daniel@ConvinceandConvert.com, too, if you want to email me. I’ve got my phone so I’ll be right on top of it.
Kate: Yeah, right? I’m like, if anyone needs to reach Daniel, just send him an email, he’ll get it.
Daniel: I’ll look at it on my phone.
Kate: Awesome, well, thank you so much, and thank you everyone for watching. We will see you next time on Talk Digital to Me.
Daniel: Thank you. Bye-bye.