Gaps have a way of being filled.
And where you see lots of filling going on, maybe there’s a message and an opportunity.
Clear as mud?
Over the last year, a bunch of so-called intermediary or aggregate sites have sprung up to fulfill a customer-service need that had long been felt by consumers… and ignored by online retailers.
Sites like ePinions.com, ConsumerReview.com and Shopserve.com all enable consumers to post raves and rants about their experiences at stores, both on- and offline.
They’re places where you can get frank opinions about products, services and vendors. And the real value of those opinions is that they are not written by the companies, but by consumers like us. Regular folks who are either disappointed or delighted.
And it looks like there’s a demand.
So how come online retailers left the gap?
How come consumers felt themselves so unheard as to enable so many intermediary sites to spring up?
My guess is that online, we still have that old, offline fear of really listening to our customers. It’s a scary thing. They might say mean things about us and hurt our feelings and our stock prices.
But there’s a lesson here.
If you’re an online retailer, look through the postings on these sites and any others like them that you find.
Wouldn’t it be great to have all the positive comments posted right on your site, where your prospects and customers could find them?
What about the bad stuff? Well, wouldn’t it be great to share all the bad stuff too and show off how quickly and sincerely you can deal with customer complaints and disappointments?
Consider this. If somewhere in that filing drawer you can find the mission statement you scribbled out on the proverbial napkin, I bet part of it reads something like this: “We will stand or fall on the service we provide to our customers. Their satisfaction will always be job number one.”
If that’s how you feel and what you promise, maybe it’s time to bring those frank and open conversations about your products or services onto your site.
Instead of letting the aggregators enjoy the glory and the limelight, bring the discussion to where it can help you the most. To your own place of business.
Take a look at how the likes of ConsumerReview.com handles it. Think about how you could incorporate that kind of open dialogue. Think of the best people in your company to handle the tough complaints and problems.
Scary? Absolutely. But I bet your customers would respect you for it. And I bet you’d create a lot more advocates by being open than you are right now by stifling honest, shared feedback.
The opportunity is there for sure. You can tell. You can tell because consumers have felt a gap, and other entrepreneurs have jumped in to meet the need.
Trouble is, those entrepreneurs are enjoying all the benefits of your customers talking about your site.
Isn’t it time you gave those customers an opportunity to speak where their voices will be valued the most?