Consumers are looking for ways to connect with a brand’s customer service team or solve their problems by reading solutions shared by other customers.

Nearly 90% of today’s online consumers use Google to research brands. Of those consumers, many are trying to research information about products and services they’ve already purchased. On ConsumerAffairs.com, our own audience consists of 7 million monthly visitors. A recent survey revealed 30% of those consumers are looking for ways to connect with a brand’s customer service team or solve their problems by reading solutions shared by other customers. That’s over 2 million customers on one review site alone. Imagine how many other customers are out there, looking for solutions.

A look into the customer’s online research process

A researching consumer enters a query such as “Company + Reviews” or “Company + Complaints.” 91.5% of traffic in search goes to front page results, and third-party review sites are frequently among the first few results available. Consumers use reviews to inform their buying decisions, and after a purchase is made, those same reviews help customers discover possible solutions before reaching out to the brand directly. Crowdsourced product knowledge creates a significant reduction in customer care resource strain by transforming customers into product experts.

Customer service and feedback as learning resources

Accurate feedback makes a difference in your customer care strategy. Allowing negative feedback to go unchecked without joining the conversation won’t help. In fact, failing to manage and effectively populate third-party sites with a balanced selection of quality reviews will hurt your brand by adding to the number of customers trying to reach your customer service team directly. Many support inquiries are easily solved by customers through online learning resources and reading other customer stories. To help customers become product experts, customer feedback resources need to be as robust as possible.

Sharing an authentic picture of the brand experience for best results

Five star and one star reviews contain less valuable learning resources than three or four star reviews. Consumers understand that companies with only one and five star reviews aren’t telling the whole story, and these extreme ends of the feedback spectrum seldom contain the valuable feedback consumers are trying to learn from. Three or four star reviews contain product suggestions or feedback from customers who are satisfied, but have suggestions for improvements on the product or customer experience. Providing customers with an authentic and balanced selection of feedback is vital to creating a helpful knowledge base for customers to access.

One of the greatest challenges in creating a crowdsourced knowledge base is collecting reviews from actual customers. We’ve all heard the stories about fake reviews on Amazon or Yelp, and knowing that fake reviews can populate company profiles only adds to the skepticism of consumers doing online research. Conversely, it’s equally risky for a brand to collect their own reviews directly; this method comes across like grading one’s own homework. Third-party review collection with an unbiased sampling of your brand’s customer base helps level the playing field, providing the most accurate depiction of the customer experience for the benefit of your customers. Customers are more likely to be honest with their feedback knowing a third-party is collecting the information.

Invest wherever there’s a need

While it does require an investment to have a third-party collect reviews for your brand, the cost is recovered quickly by making customer engagement more productive and cost-efficient. Memorializing customer service in the organic search channel helps your researching customers, but also helps your brand connect with more potential customers by demonstrating your efforts to help customers solve their problems. Customer engagement and feedback memorialized in organic search is a valuable piece of SERP real estate that helps boost your PPC efforts by aligning your marketing message with the actual experiences customers have.

Some companies benefit from a focused effort on one third-party accreditation program, but most brands benefit from accreditation and active consumer engagement via multiple third-party consumer resources. Research all of the sites where your customers are speaking out in organic search, and invest wherever your customers are speaking out. All customer voices are impactful, and responding across all channels can help your brand turn customer care into a revenue generator.