Today’s B2C products live and die by customer ratings. If we are looking for Italian restaurants in a new city, we read the reviews. When we order a new set of sheets on Amazon, we filter by 4+ stars.
Thanks to the increased availability of this feedback—to say nothing of its volume—customers can efficiently access products they perceive to be higher in quality. For companies, that means managing your online reputation is critical to driving sustained sales volume. Many businesses ask how they can get a higher rating for their products. A more useful question is how to earn higher ratings. If you take the right steps towards becoming a customer-centric business, the ratings will follow.
Here are five ways to become a five-star business.
1. Get the basics right, every time
People often imagine that 5-star companies are flashy—that they go above and beyond with a game-changing product or service. In reality, what unites them is far less flashy: a commitment to getting the operating basics right. Without solid SOPs, procedures, and operating principles, it’s inevitable that you’ll disappoint at least a few vocal customers and receive those dreaded one-star reviews. What’s more, because people tend to pay more attention to negative reviews than positive ones, a few loud dissenters can offset all your hard work and drown out any 5-star reviews you’ve received.
This is the unsexy part of business. In football terms, it’s blocking and tackling. It’s meeting expectations every time, delivering on service/quality expectations, and being kind to customers every day. Before you layer on value-add components, you must perfect the day-to-day basics.
2. Implement a wow factor
Wow factors are the hallmark of 5-star companies. Think about the handful of companies that you brag about to friends when you get nothing in return. They are the companies like Zappos and USAA, with rabid fans in random industries. They all exceed expectations, do something extra, and brighten your day.
Some 5-star companies wow customers with a wildly differentiated product or service. For the most part, however, implementing a wow factor simply means doing a few key things to add more value. How could you make someone’s day better, their experience more potent, or their life more efficient? As it turns out, the answer may be closely tied with the next point.
3. Empower your front-line team members by focusing on WHY
As Simon Sinek pointed out, ”People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” When your team members are empowered to deliver on your company’s vision, the results will roll in. This applies to both implementing a wow factor as well as to fixing mistakes.
Many managers are reluctant to give junior team members permission to veer off script, especially in zero-defect industries. This risk is easier to mitigate than we think. The easiest way to encourage this duality without exposure is to provide a clear vision, establish spending limits for exceptions, and conduct regular discussions with managers to review the prior week. The fundamental questions that every team member should be able to ask are the following:
- Is this action in line with our stated vision, mission, and WHY we exist as a company?
- Is this action within my authorized spending/decision-making constraints?
- It this action moral, ethical, and legal?
In over 4 years running The Pet Loss Center, we had countless team members do something exceptional to assist a customer, and I don’t regret a single action. This system empowered our team members, created a better customer experience, and solidified our company culture.
4. Turn fans into advocates
Most mission-driven leaders have trouble ASKING for a review. That’s understandable: it can be daunting to put your company and your reputation on the line. In the death care industry, we rarely encouraged or asked for reviews, due to the sensitivity of the topic. Even so, this was probably a bit of a mistake.
As business leaders, our role is to provide value to as many customers as possible. If someone wants to tell our story, shouldn’t we encourage them? I’m not talking about incentives and bullying, but rather, making it easy for someone to share their experiences and opinions. Whenever we solicited reviews at The Pet Loss Center, we did so from all customers, because we felt that it was better to have both good and bad reviews. If one review happened to be negative, it enabled us to get feedback that could help us improve for the next customer.
5. Own your mistakes—then fix them
Mistakes will happen. Bad ones. Mistakes that are due to uncontrollable forces. Mistakes that are your fault. And yes, you’ll have customers who are angry for no legitimate reason. But 5-star companies shine in how they handle these important moments.
First, they own their mistakes. They don’t deflect, and they don’t try to diminish what the customer is experiencing. Your company’s mission is to delight your customers. If someone is complaining, then they aren’t delighted, and that means you haven’t delivered. Dismissing that person’s feelings will only escalate the ill-will. By reaching out, the person has given you an additional chance that you may not have had otherwise—a final opportunity to make it right and deliver on your promise. They opened the door; all you have to do is walk through.
Second, 5-star companies escalate customer complaints as needed. While you can and should empower your front-line associates to handle complaints, you also want to show your customers that senior management cares about their experience. This lets them know that you are committed to listening, making change, and evolving into a better company for future customers.
Becoming a 5-star company
In a world of reviews and easily accessible information, every customer interaction matters. If you focus every day on delivering operationally, going above and beyond, empowering your team, encouraging net promoters, and caring about complaints, then your performance as a company will reflect in your online reputation. You will be the 5-star company that customers want to choose.
Nick Padlo is an independent strategy consultant and the co-founder and former CEO of The Pet Loss Center, a disruptive pet death care platform. A former Case Team Leader at Bain, he helps clients create effective growth strategies and manage the organizational changes that are needed to implement those strategies.