While 83% of business owners think that the economic conditions have made delivering a good customer experience more important, the survey of 1,200 SMEs conducted by the business software company Sage UK, highlighted that only 1% believed that engaging with customers on social media by responding to comments or criticisms is a key part to delivering this.
Online comments and opinion have a significant impact upon purchasing decisions. More than half of consumers have decided against making a purchase based on an online recommendation and half indicated that online reviews and ratings influenced their buying decisions more than any other form of online advertising.
“The past two years have been characterised by a highly challenging and competitive landscape, but firms that are not listening to their customers are putting themselves at serious disadvantage. Making the time to get regular feedback from customers and check satisfaction levels is an essential mechanism for understanding what is working well and identifying areas for improvement from the customers’ perspective,” explained Matthew Forrest, Head of Commercial Marketing for the Small Business Division at Sage UK.
“Social media offers a fantastic array of free platforms that are ideal for small business owners to not just promote themselves, but to gain a better understanding of their customers and deeper insight into how their own firm and services are perceived. With social networking dominating the time people spend online a few negative comments on these sites can really damage a brand. In today’s information age, where the majority of consumers conduct research online before making a purchasing decision, no business can simply afford to ignore this channel or their customers’ feedback any more.”
Social media provides an important way for small businesses to ‘listen in’ to online conversations and gauge people’s perceptions. It also offers a vital conduit for engaging and educating existing or prospective customers and helping to build and maintain a company’s online brand.