Today’s digitally savvy, constantly connected customers have high expectations of 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 plenty of opportunities to create personal connections and build lasting relationships with their customers through their search presence, often before they reach out by phone or walk into a store. Over three-quarters of customers (83%) search daily to discover new brands, locate products and services, look up key business information, compare ratings and reviews, and more.
In this post, we’ll dive into actionable tips and strategies for improving the customer experience at every touchpoint. We’ll explore the importance of search engine optimization (SEO), the power of online reviews, and how to leverage technology to enhance the customer experience. These tips will help you create a customer-centric strategy that drives sales and fosters loyalty.
Use online reviews to support positive customer experience
Online reviews can make or break a business’s reputation and ultimately impact sales. They can help businesses build customer loyalty and trust with potential customers, and differentiate themselves from competitors, They are a heavily weighted part of Google’s local ranking algorithm, too.
As part of the customer experience, online reviews are vital. Businesses may not realize how critical reviews are as a feedback and customer service channel, as 19% of consumers recently shared that they prefer writing reviews to communicate with brands when they need support more than any other outreach method. Most expect a response in 48 hours or less when they seek assistance this way.
Responding promptly to those reviews – whether they’re positive experiences from loyal customers or complaints from unhappy ones – 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 combating a negative review. It shows other prospective customers that your company is listening and engaged, and empathetic to customer needs.
Businesses must monitor their online reviews and respond appropriately. By responding to all reviews promptly and professionally, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to customer satisfaction and potentially turn a bad experience into a positive one.
For multi-location brands, this requires a reputation management software solution to monitor for new reviews across all relevant local review sites, send notifications to local responders, simplify response times by integrating with the most popular review platforms, and give brands full insight into online ratings and review sentiment across locations.
Perfect your local customer’s omnichannel experience
The typical customer base interacts with businesses 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. By doing so, businesses can create a cohesive brand identity, improve customer satisfaction, and increase sales.
An omnichannel marketing strategy allows businesses to reach customers where they are throughout the entire customer journey. Customers have different preferences when interacting with businesses; an omnichannel approach ensures businesses meet those preferences. For example, some customers prefer interacting with businesses through social media when they have questions or need support, while others prefer email or phone.
By providing multiple channels, businesses can cater to a broader range of customers and improve their overall digital experience.
Omnichannel marketing can help 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 all channels. This data can then be used to improve local marketing campaigns, personalize interactions, and ultimately create memorable customer experiences.
Tap into employee feedback and insights for improving customer experience
Employee feedback is an often-overlooked aspect of improving the customer experience. However, it’s essential to understand that employees are the frontline of the business, and their satisfaction 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 employees are on the front lines of customer interactions and can provide feedback on what’s working well and what needs improvement. By soliciting employee feedback, businesses can better understand the customer journey and make improvements to enhance the overall customer experience. Furthermore, by involving employees in improving the customer experience, businesses can increase employee engagement and buy-in, leading to better customer service outcomes.
One way to gather employee feedback is through regular surveys or focus groups. These tools can help businesses identify areas where employees feel unsupported, overwhelmed, or disengaged. However, these initiatives can be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive if not carried out properly.
Forsta shares a great guide to creating and improving a Voice of the Employee program here.
Let’s get visual – improve customer experience with rich images
While written descriptions are important, high-quality photos help local customers really picture themselves in your business location and create an emotional connection that can convert them to a booked appointment or in-store visit. Additionally, Google research shows businesses that add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t.
Customers **** sharing photos, too, and 48% of respondents in our most recent local consumer search behavior survey said they had posted a photo within the past week on an online business profile (Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), on a business’s social media, or in a review.
In addition to the rich visual information they provide, local photos can be marked up with schema and optimized metadata to help search engines better understand their contents and relevance to specific searcher queries. See this guide to optimizing photos for Google Business Profile to learn more.
Put your local search insights to work
By analyzing local search data and customer feedback, businesses can gain valuable insights into customer behavior and needs, then tailor their marketing and customer experience strategies accordingly.
One way to use local search insights is to identify popular search terms and keywords related to your business. By understanding what customers are searching for, businesses can better align their products and services with customer needs and preferences. This can also help you identify what terms your competitors are currently ranking for and opportunities to outrank your competition.
For example, if a local restaurant sees customers searching for vegetarian options, they may add more vegetarian dishes to their menu to cater to that demand. Or, if those options are already on the menu, they could feature them more often in Google Posts, add photos to local listings, and mention them in review responses to raise their visibility.
Brands can also find great value in analyzing customer reviews and feedback to identify trends and patterns that help inform their strategy. Online reviews can provide valuable information about customer satisfaction, pain points, and areas for improvement. For example, suppose a local retailer sees customers consistently complaining about long wait times. In that case, they may improve their inventory management and staffing to reduce wait times and improve the customer experience.
Local search insights can help businesses understand the local competitive landscape, too. By analyzing search rankings and local business directories, businesses can gain insights into their competition and identify areas where they can differentiate themselves.
For example, suppose a local salon sees several other salons in the area offering similar services. They may decide to focus on providing exceptional service and prioritize soliciting new online reviews to differentiate themselves and attract customers.
Improving the local experience from search to sale is essential for brands looking to appear and be found in competitive search listings. Remember these key points as you devise new ways to improve your local customer’s experience:
- Online reviews have become a critical part of the customer decision-making process and influence your search visibility. Managing your online reputation and responding to feedback can improve customer experience and increase loyalty.
- Employee feedback is equally as important as customer feedback. It’s a valuable tool for improving the customer experience and can provide great insight into the customer journey and any pain points they’re experiencing.
- Omnichannel marketing is another essential aspect of a seamless and consistent experience across all channels and touchpoints. Learn where your customers prefer to engage for different reasons and show up there ready to serve.
- Incorporating interesting, high-quality images in your local search strategy can make your search listings more visually appealing and accessible to search engines.
- Measuring what matters and activating that customer data is critical in this technologically-charged environment.
Is your brand making the most of available opportunities to appear, connect, and engage with local customers in all the markets you serve? Take advantage of a free local presence audit today, and let’s find out.