Metropolitan Furnishings: Getting comfortable with online reviews
Imagine a world where customers patronize a business, write feedback about their experience in bold letters on a big poster, and then put it on the storefront window for all to see. That’s not some far-flung idea. It’s the world we live in today, where customers shape how people view a business by their feedback on review sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook — the new digital storefronts for local businesses.
This might seem like a scary prospect for small business owners, but what if you could hand out Sharpies and poster boards to all your best customers to make sure they have a voice, too? Their positive feedback would not only encourage more customers to visit your shop, but it would also help you pinpoint what people love most about your business — information companies spend hundreds of millions to obtain each year.
That’s exactly what Karl Berry, owner of Metropolitan American Furnishings in Duncanville, Texas, has done. Instead of letting online reviews by random customers dictate how people view his business, he’s proactively encouraging his best customers to publish positive reviews. Then, he uses that feedback to close more sales in the store.
For 18 years, Karl has been running various furniture shops in semi-retirement. He started by selling mattresses out of his garage, which became a big business. When one of his retail partners offered to let him take over his furniture store, Karl jumped at the opportunity.
Three years ago, Karl opened Metropolitan American Furnishings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to experiment with a low-inventory store. Keeping less furniture on hand reduced costs, but it also meant he had to overcome the inevitable customer objection of a light showroom. His solution: head off those concerns by emphasizing the things happy customers loved most about their experience.
“We’re not trying to sell furniture to everybody. We’re targeting shoppers who want quality, longevity, and good value,” Karl says. “When we get positive customer testimonials, we can emphasize the things that make our customers highly satisfied to overcome the objection of our limited inventory.”
Karl’s formula for success relies on understanding what drives satisfaction with his best customers and then emphasizing those benefits to would-be buyers. The first step in that process is collecting more feedback, which Karl accomplishes with Womply, small business software for online reputation management. With Womply, Karl can send a simple email request for customer feedback — rating their experience from 1-5 stars — that stays between him and the patron to build engagement and improve satisfaction.
To get started, Karl sent 50 email requests for feedback, and 41 customers responded by reporting very positive experiences (4-5 stars). From there, Womply automatically prompted those happy customers to publish positive reviews on popular consumer sites. Karl started seeing more positive reviews show up on his company’s online reputation sites within a week or two of sending his initial request for customer feedback.
“People who saw those reviews decided to check us out. Customers came into the store and mentioned they’d read good things about us online,” Karl says. “Online reviews and social media are huge these days, and Womply helps me manage my business reputation and connect with my customers online without spending time I don’t have.”
Those responses — and the resulting online reviews — revealed some patterns in what prompted Karl’s happiest customers to buy: friendliness, product knowledge, and flexibility. Emphasizing those aspects of the customer experience helps Karl appeal to more patrons and counter their concerns over a light selection by offering value in other areas.
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