One Thing You Must Do in 2016

The New Year is upon us, and with it comes the opportunity for a fresh start, to grow, change or improve upon any deficiencies of 2015.

Many people set New Year’s resolutions that address their personal lives, but have you considered setting one for your business? And if so, what would it be?

I posed this question to a group of bridal retailers recently and here are some of their responses: Sell more bridesmaids. Improve overall sales by 10 percent. Boost revenue during the slow months.

These are excellent goals, and I’m hopeful every salon will far exceed them. But have you thought more specifically about how to get there?

Of course, there’s not one right answer to this question, as there are many crucial components. However, there is one thing you absolutely must do to stay ahead of the curve in 2016: ask for customer reviews! 

Here’s why:

In addition to providing considerable SEO benefits, customer reviews have a drastic impact on your business, which will only accelerate in the New Year as digital marketing grows in importance.

According to Dimensional Research, a whopping 90 percent of customers now say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. As well, the BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2015 found that star rating is the number-one factor used to judge a business. Yet, despite these facts, only a small percentage of independent businesses actively solicit reviews.

The most common reason is because storeowners don’t feel like there’s a need. Brides often post on social media and other sites unsolicited, and owners do not want to feel “pushy” by requesting someone “pump up” their business.

And it’s true – there’s definitely a certain percentage of customers who will proactively take to the Internet to express their gratitude or frustration, no prompting necessary. But the majority – even if willing - need encouragement.

Asking for reviews is not a big, expensive task yet it could have a major impact on your business. The key is to make it simple for brides: provide direct links to the site(s) you’d like them to review your salon on at the bottom of e-mails, in e-newsletters, on social media, etc.

As well, display select customer reviews prominently on your website’s homepage, along with a link to a separate page where more reviews and a place for submitting them can be found. Provide a computer or iPad in-store for customers to access their social-media sites. Even if they do not post a formal review, a photo or “check-in” at your salon is still a subtle reinforcement that it’s The Place To Be.

And then, equally as important: monitor what’s being said. With positive reviews, always thank customers for their patronage, comment on any specifics they share, and invite them to return in the future. Be the voice for your business.

When you stumble across the inevitable bad review – and unfortunately, it’s almost certain to happen – it’s crucial not to ignore it. Or panic. Brides understand that no salon is perfect; in fact, an argument can be made that the occasional bad review - when handled properly - is actually good for your store.

Why? Because it gives your business a “human” face. Few consumers trust something that appears too perfect; they care much more about seeing that a business has an overall positive rating and that when problems arise they are proactively addressed. In fact, some of the businesses I’ve been most loyal to over the years are places where something went wrong, yet the owner or manager went out of his/her way to make it right.

So if you stumble across a customer complaint, take these steps: First, apologize for the unpleasant experience. Second, state that you’d like to remedy the situation. Finally, invite that customer to contact you directly at (insert direct number or e-mail).

Your goal is to recognize the complaint publicly and promptly, yet handle to resolution privately. That way other patrons will know you are responsive and caring, but will not have specifics to compare future situations to (You gave her X, now I expect it too!)

So, in short, if there’s one piece of advice I have for kicking off the New Year with a bang, it’s this: Get in the habit of asking your brides for reviews, and then respond to them promptly. This will get the invaluable digital word-of-mouth wheels churning, something that will be increasingly crucial in 2016 and beyond.

All you have to do is ask.

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