Today’s digitally savvy, always-connected customers have high expectations for their interactions with local businesses. From the moment they search for a product or service, customers want a seamless and personalized experience.
Local businesses have numerous opportunities to use their search presence to make personal connections and build lasting relationships with their customers, often before they call or walk into a store. Over three quarters of customers (83%) search every day to discover new brands, find products and services, look up important business information, compare ratings and reviews, and more.
In this post, we dive into actionable tips and strategies for improving the customer experience at every touchpoint. We explore the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the power of online reviews, and how to use technology to improve the customer experience. These tips will help you create a customer-centric strategy that increases sales and fosters loyalty.
Use online reviews to support a positive customer experience
Online reviews can make or break a company’s reputation and ultimately impact sales. They can help companies build customer loyalty and trust with potential customers and differentiate themselves from the competition. They are also an important part of Google’s local ranking algorithm.
As part of the customer experience, online reviews are vital. Businesses may not realize the importance of reviews as a feedback and customer service channel, as 19% of consumers recently said they prefer writing reviews to communicate with brands when they need support, more so than anyone other contact method. Most expect a response in 48 hours or less when seeking help this way.
A quick response to these reviews—whether they’re positive experiences from loyal customers or complaints from dissatisfied customers—can be a powerful marketing tool for local businesses. The average person reads six reviews before visiting a business, and a professional response goes a long way in fighting a negative review. It shows other potential customers that your company is listening, engaging, and empathetic to customers’ needs.
Businesses need to monitor their online reviews and respond appropriately. By responding to all reviews in a timely and professional manner, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to customer satisfaction and potentially turn a bad experience into a positive one.
For brands with multiple locations, this requires a reputation management software solution that checks all relevant local review sites for new reviews, sends notifications to local answerers, improves response times by integrating with the most popular review platforms, and gives brands a complete insight into online business reviews and review sentiment at all locations.
Perfect the omnichannel experience for your local customers
The typical customer base interacts with companies through multiple channels. Some of these channels may include social media, email, website, phone, and in-person visits. An omnichannel approach means providing a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels and touchpoints. In this way, companies can create a cohesive brand identity, improve customer satisfaction and increase sales.
An omnichannel marketing strategy enables companies to reach customers where they are throughout the customer journey. Customers have different preferences when interacting with companies; An omnichannel approach ensures companies meet these preferences. For example, some customers prefer interacting with businesses via social media when they have questions or need assistance, while others prefer email or phone.
By providing multiple channels, businesses can target a broader range of customers and enhance their overall digital experience.
Omnichannel marketing can also help brands collect and analyze valuable customer data. Businesses can gain insights into customer behavior, preferences and pain points by tracking customer interactions across channels. This data can then be used to improve local marketing campaigns, personalize interactions and ultimately create memorable customer experiences.
Use employee feedback and insights to improve the customer experience
Employee feedback is an often overlooked aspect of improving the customer experience. However, it is important to understand that employees are at the forefront of the business and that their happiness directly impacts the customer experience. Employees who are engaged, happy, and motivated are more likely to provide exceptional customer service, resulting in loyal and happy customers.
Customer service team members are at the forefront of customer interactions and can provide feedback on what’s working well and what needs improvement. By gathering employee feedback, companies can better understand the customer journey and make improvements to improve the overall customer experience. Additionally, by engaging their employees in improving the customer experience, companies can increase employee engagement and acceptance, leading to better customer service outcomes.
One way to get employee feedback is through regular surveys or focus groups. These tools can help organizations identify areas where employees feel unsupported, overwhelmed, or disinterested. However, these initiatives can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive if not done properly.
Forsta provides a great guide to creating and improving a Voice of the Employee program here.
Let’s get visual – enhance the customer experience with rich images
While written descriptions are important, high-quality photos help on-site customers get a real picture of your business location and create an emotional bond that can lead them to a booked appointment or a store visit. Additionally, research from Google shows that businesses that add photos to their business profiles receive 42% more directions requests on Google Maps and 35% more clicks to their websites than businesses that don’t.
Customers also love to share photos, and 48% of respondents to our recent Consumer Local Search Survey said they’d shared a photo on an online business profile (Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.) or on the Posted a business profile on social media or in a review.
In addition to the rich visual information they provide, local photos can be tagged with schemas and optimized metadata to help search engines better understand their content and relevance to specific searches. For more information, see this guide to optimizing photos for Google Business Profile.
Leverage your local search insights
By analyzing local search data and customer feedback, businesses can gain valuable insights into their customers’ behavior and needs, and then adjust their marketing and customer experience strategies accordingly.
One way to leverage local search insights is to identify popular search terms and keywords related to your business. By understanding what customers are looking for, companies can better tailor their products and services to customer needs and preferences. This can also help you find out what terms your competitors are currently ranking for and what opportunities there are to outperform your competition.
For example, if a local restaurant sees customers looking for vegetarian options, they may add more vegetarian dishes to their menu to meet that demand. If these options are already on the menu, they could also mention them more often on Google Posts, add photos to local listings, and mention them in review replies to increase their visibility.
Brands can also derive great benefit from analyzing customer reviews and feedback to identify trends and patterns, which they use as a basis for their strategy. Online reviews can provide valuable information about customer satisfaction, pain points and areas for improvement. Suppose a local retailer sees customers constantly complaining about long wait times. If so, they can improve their inventory management and staffing to reduce wait times and improve the customer experience.
Local search insights can also help businesses understand the local competitive landscape. By analyzing search rankings and local business directories, businesses can gain insight into their competition and identify areas where they can differentiate themselves.
Suppose a local salon sees several other salons in the area offering similar services. They may choose to focus on providing exceptional service and prioritize gathering fresh online reviews to differentiate themselves and attract customers.
The central theses
Improving the local experience from search to sale is critical for brands that want to appear in competitive search results and be found. Keep these key points in mind as you develop new ways to enhance your customers’ on-site experience:
- Online reviews have become a crucial part of the customer decision-making process and affect your visibility in search. By managing your online reputation and responding to feedback, you can improve customer experience and increase loyalty.
- Employee feedback is just as important as customer feedback. It’s a valuable tool for improving the customer experience and can provide great insights into the customer journey and any pain points they face.
- Omnichannel marketing is another essential aspect of a seamless and consistent experience across all channels and touchpoints. Find out where your customers prefer to get involved for different reasons and show up there willing to serve.
- Incorporating interesting, quality images into your local search strategy can make your search listings more visually appealing and more accessible to search engines.
- In this tech-charged environment, measuring what matters and activating that customer data is critical.
Is your brand taking advantage of the opportunities available to appear in all of the markets you serve, engaging and connecting with local customers? Take advantage of a free local presence audit today and let’s find out.