Reputations Live and Die by Word of Mouth

What people say about you matters. Give customers every reason to give your business glowing recommendations.
Photo Credit: ATA

Author: Jackie Holbrook

How did you discover your favorite restaurant? Where did you learn about the best park or hiking trail? How did you find your barber or hairstylist? You probably learned these important things from friends, colleagues or family members.

When someone you trust recommends products or services, you’re more likely to act. “Word-of-mouth” is original advertising, and remains the most effective, trustworthy information source for most people. In fact, 84 percent of consumers completely or somewhat trust family and friends’ recommendations, according to Nielsen’s 2013 Trust in Advertising report.

Consider these powerful facts about WOM’s effectiveness:

– 74 percent of consumers identify WOM as a key influencer in buying decisions, according to a study by Google, TNS Global and Ogilvy & Mather.
– 91 percent of B2B buyers are influenced by WOM when deciding what to buy, according to David Howell of com.
– 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family, according to a BrightLocal survey.

In other words, beware! WOM works both ways. People aren’t shy about sharing negative experiences, and grumps are more outspoken than satisfied customers. Unhappy customers typically tell nine to 15 people about a bad experience, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

WOM spreads rapidly in the digital era. Websites like Yelp, Google and Facebook encourage customers to rate their experiences and post reviews. That can generate great WOM because 93 percent of consumers read local reviews to make shopping decisions, according to BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey.

Unfortunately, negative reviews carry the most weight. Negativity convinced 94 percent of consumers to avoid a particular business, according to a 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey. One businessman’s theory is that a business needs 40 positive reviews to overcome one bad review.

With WOM so vital to your business’ success, let’s ensure you provide customers something positive to report.

Positive interactions with staff go a long way in boosting your store's reputation. Photo Credit: ATA

Service with a Smile

Most WOM is rooted in customer service. Remind staff that good customer service skills drive your company’s success. That starts with your leadership, and includes everyone in the shop. Greet everyone with a smile. Answer the phone promptly. Be helpful and approachable. Make sure the shop is clean and creates a welcoming environment.

WOM also reflects reliability. If you make a promise, keep it. Make sure your bow technicians have the support to complete repairs on time. Plan ahead and stock your shop with the right inventory for each season. As spring bear and turkey seasons approach, stock the right calls, camouflage and broadheads. You must be the shop customers count on. You want their referrals when other shops fail them.


Online Reviews: Monitor and Respond

What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? Not so with online reviews. Routinely review what people say about you online. The most popular online sites include Yelp, Google, Facebook, Yellow Pages and the Better Business Bureau.

Customers who post online are looking to engage. If someone takes the time to rate and review your business, respond by thanking them. A sincere response proves you care about your customers’ experiences.

It’s not easy or pleasant to respond to negative reviews, but it’s important to do so. Yes, it’s painful to be criticized in writing, but don’t remove the bad review. Most sites won’t let you remove bad reviews, of course, unless the comments are racist or threatening, or the critic created a false profile. In those cases, petition the site to remove the offensive entries.

You can respond several ways to bad reviews. First, try to understand the customer’s point of view. Is there truth in their critiques? Did they find your shop unclean, or was staff unfriendly? Or maybe they thought the wait time was too long? Reviews provide opportunities to study what’s going on, and to see if you must make adjustments or improvements.

Some negative reviews give you opportunities explore the positive. For example, maybe some customers wrote bad reviews because you don’t carry the bow they hoped to buy. You could explain that you only work with specific manufacturers to develop personal relationships and, in turn, give customers your best prices and service. Encourage customers to come in and test-shoot several bows.


Ask for Reviews

Most businesses don’t seek positive reviews. That’s a mistake. Every archery shop has loyal customers who would be thrilled to spread the word if they knew its importance to you and your shop’s success. Ask fans to take a minute to post honest reviews.

Encourage staff to solicit customer reviews. Politely ask customers to review their experience online. Tell them which platform most helps your business. When you notice people leaving reviews, thank them when they next visit the shop.

Hosting lessons gives the customers a chance to bond with the staff on a personal level, creating stronger ties. Photo Credit: ATA

Host Lessons, Events, Seminars

Show customers you offer more than products. Archery lessons can help develop personal relationships. Beginners-only classes are welcoming get-togethers, and encourage new faces to visit the shop. Hosting archery shoots and tournaments can boost your shop’s community profile. And seminars are great ways to engage current customers. Ask someone from your state’s fish and wildlife agency to come in to discuss the seasons and regulations.

When you offer great products and customer service, you’ll have no problem creating customers who happily recommend your shop. If you have questions about how to improve your WOM, please contact Kurt Smith, ATA’s director of industry relations, at (717) 578-0736, or

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