The Customer (Or Was it Groupon?) Made Me Do It – Owner Review Responses at Google+ Local

Accepting Responsibility in your owner responses

Some things should just be left unsaid. This Gainsville auto detailing business obviously had troubles keeping their Groupon customers happy. It is unclear exactly who was to blame the business or the customers.

It doesn’t really matter as the customers left a number of bad reviews. This business couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to respond to the bad reviews anyway.

Of course it was the customers fault. What would you have done in this situation?

Here is an example of many:

The moral(s) here are clear.

1)If you insist on doing a Groupon deal, be prepared to make it work no matter what. The long term costs of these sorts of reviews will far outweigh any benefit you may have gotten from doing the deal.

2)Before you start the deal, figure out how you  are going to keep this demanding customer group from leaving a review if they do end up unhappy. A coupon, a future cleaning, their money back, whatever just be prepared and be willing to bend over backwards. If you can’t afford that then you can’t afford to do the Groupon deal.

3)Be sure that you have been getting some reviews right along so that any negative reviews will have less of an impact. Don’t wait for the bad reviews to be asking clients to endorse you online.

4)Be ready for the bad review and have your measured response mostly ready before hand. Be sure that you think about the basics of appropriately responding to reviews.  Remember that prospects will be reading your responses.

5)If you can’t own the problem then you are better off not saying anything, let alone saying it multiple times.

Another “good one”:

Cartoon courtesy of Doug Savage,

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25 thoughts on “The Customer (Or Was it Groupon?) Made Me Do It – Owner Review Responses at Google+ Local”

  1. Mike, your four points are dead on when it comes to Groupon type ‘deals’. What seems like a good idea at first can backfire big time if the vendor isn’t properly prepared. Vendors often end up wishing the to be finally done with the deal buyers. However as you’ve pointed out, one still has to deal with them, and it’s much better to be prepared for the worst, then having to be faced with all the hassles and the negative reviews.

  2. Do you think the Deal Sites should prep people for the volume and make sure they can handle it… or is the SMB’s problem to figure out. Kinda makes them both look bad. I’d think if I ran Groupon I’d want to educate SMB’s before they run a deal… the pros and cons. So they are prepared for all scenarios.

    I have a feeling if the Deal Sites survive, then like there are Local SEO’ers, there may be room for local Deal site consults to help SMB’s make a successful Groupon campaign.

    I am sure there is a bit of an art to it.

  3. Craziness.

    Agreed Matthew, everyone looks bad when the finger pointing starts. Good points on local deals consults, art, science, and savvy for sure. Another tool in the smb belt, all depends on how its applied.

    Great 7Ps Groupon/ORM points!

  4. Interesting example, Mike. thanks. I went to the page for the business in question. a number of reviews including bad ones connected to the groupon and positive reviews.

    Gainsville Auto is on the top of a 3 pac for a search for auto detailing gainsville, florida. The other two operators have a mix of reviews also. The one ranked 2nd in the pac got a positive comment in one of the other negative reviews for gainsville, but that one had the overall lowest score of the 3.

    Ahhhhhhh… What a tricky situation.

    Reviews are the ultimate weapon of dissatisfied customers and the ultimate answer to poor service. Reviews are also spammed with positive reviews generated by owners and attack negative reviews generated by competitors. No matter how you look at it, its tricky.

    Giving great customer service all the time is the best antidote…though in a competitive environment it could generate faked attack reviews from the competition.

    Bad reviews can occur with or without groupons and other deals.

    I would think if I purchased a groupon with great savings I’d be more lenient on a review…though in this case we have entirely different scenarios with expired groupons, etc.

    BTW: one interesting tidbit. One of the reviewers that slammed this particular detailing operation has written a total of 4 reviews; one of which was a glowing review of one of the other competitors.

    Give good service….with or without groupons. It ends up resulting in better reviews.

  5. @Andy

    What is surprising about this fellow is that he did Groupon once and then went back and did it again… Either he is desperate for cash flow or the 70% is off a very inflated price.

  6. @Mathew

    While I don’t doubt that their is a need for a Groupon advisor I am not sure that there is a market. It would be a tough sell to someone that thought they already knew enough to do this…

  7. @Earl
    These kinds of deals put incredible stresses of volume and pricing onto an SMB. Assuming that he had plenty of margin even after the 65% off or had slave labor, he might still have been profitable… who knows. Obviously though he thought the Groupon’s terms were the customer’s terms. Just because its in the contract doesn’t mean you are protected.

    I looked at the reviewer that left the bad review for Gainsville and not for the other detailer. They were about a month apart… and this owner responded so specifically to Bernadette that she was in fact a customer. It doesn’t look to me that doesn’t look like competitor review spam.

  8. On reading it I didn’t see it as review spam either, Mike.

    Maybe a new category of review though…subtle deliberate spite reviews because the other guy stunk. 😉

  9. Its hard to imagine that the cost of agreeing to offer a service for a +60% discount extends beyond the discount itself but it clearly does. Offering deals often results in lower ratings.

    That noted, deals can be a real win for businesses that are prepared to use it a marketing tool that begins a long-term customer relationship. Viewing a Groupon deal-redeemer as the first encounter in a multi-year relationship is the right mindset to have.

    Be prepared to make it work no matter what – great advice Mike.

  10. The anecdotal article, your comments about volume and pressure generated by the high volume of a groupon, Ted’s link, all point to issues that businesses must deal with when running groupons and striving for high levels of customer service.

    Getting great customer service across the board in businesses large and small is not easy, in fact often difficult. We run a group of smbs, all with different personnel skilled in one or more facets, in all cases with one person taking the majority lead position, having autonomy, and effecting most decisions.

    People may have great skills in one area, but are lacking in overall customer service awareness. Once gained, they then have to disseminate it and see it effected across the board by a lot of staff, from those answering the phones to those driving to a customers house to clean a car, while having a bunch of appointments to the myriads of staffers in a hotel doing lots of relatively “small tasks” any which of one could be performed at a less than great level…thereby generating one crummy review from one dissatisfied customer.

    Its interesting to see the correlation between groupons….higher volumes of business, and lower review ratings. A stark reminder to operators of businesses.

  11. I can’t see the sense in discount offer websites, here’s why.

    1) For a company to survive and grow it needs to build a long-term relationship with its customers. If say your offering 60% discount the first time your customers use your services how the hell are you going to avoid upsetting them next time they use you when you actually want to make money and not running the discount!!!

    2) Offering a discount may overload the SMB’s capacity and therefore lead to upset customers who are then a danger to your business as not only potentially people who write a bad reviews but also leave bad word of mouth.

    3) Running a discount campaign also seems to indicate that your normal prices where over the top in the first place.

    4) Running a discount campaign also makes it look like you’re desperate for customers.

    5) If you offer a good sensibly priced business in the first place you should not have to stoop so low as to devalue your company’s brand in the first place.

    I’m very fortunate that I own a company that has always focused on ultimate customer satisfaction and this has been rewarded by great customer retention and referral / word of mouth.

  12. Graham
    Your assessment is true for your business but it may not be true for every business. If you are looking to grow your business and you have the margins and capacity to handle a Groupon deal you are essentially paying for the the privelege of having potential customers experience your business. Certainly not all of them but some of them could become long term customers.

    It works when it works and that is for a small percentage of businesses that have the structure and understanding of the nitty gritty of how to assess the future value of these “prospect”, how to turn them into customers, and how to avoid the kind of service disasters noted above. Its not for everyone that is for sure but it can work if your business fits the right profile.

  13. Sorry, but I have to agree somewhat with Graham Johnson here. It would be a cold day in you know where before I would even consider Groupon.
    It is my experience that customers wanting a deal scream the loudest when they do not get their way.

    Mike, a bit off topic, but does Centroid matter anymore ? I know it did, then I read here that Google relaxed it’s Centroid requirements for service businesses.
    But now all my local results only display people who are actually IN Tampa, or the many who are lying about it!

  14. @Chris
    I don’t disagree with Graham. I am just saying “never say never”. There are business types where it makes sense as a business acquisition model, not many but some… its a treacherous method but can be useful for some % of businesses.

    The algo has gotten very complicated and with the top two or three listings being ranked on both location prominence AND web prominence. But below those top listings, the rankings are based on the location ranking algo which can rank on either prominence OR proximity or both.

    Proximity is a touch subtler than centroid. It is a function of both the device and the industry market segment you are searching. For example in the case of mobile, the center of the search radius is the searcher. Also the calculation is in relation to the area where there is the highest density of businesses in any given industry. For historical reasons that has always been closer to the center of the city than not but it doesn’t have to.

    Also Google doesn’t know if you are looking for the most visible business or the closest one thus sometimes the results will include businesses that are close as well as those that are prominent.

    It is always best to be located in the center of the of any given search geography close to the others in the same industry if for no other reason than the statistical odds of a being in a given search radius is higher.

    So the answer to your question is yes, no, maybe depending on the very rich context that is the searcher and the businesses that are being searched for.

  15. Really good examples, Mike. Customer service is never easy!

    Earl – I wonder if other people feel this way:

    “I would think if I purchased a groupon with great savings I’d be more lenient on a review”.

    Or, if participating in Groupon might even actually raise their expectations because of the ‘effort’ the customer has gone to.

    Hmm…interesting thoughts.

  16. @MiriamEllis:

    I guess I did say that Miriam. That was off the top of my head. I’m thinking if I got a groupon and a lot of savings, and if I could perceive customer service might be more difficult, due to being busier, I would generally respond more leniently to the difficulty of serving many more customers than the norm.

    I believe I would generally respond in that fashion. Would everyone…I don’t know, though.

    As to some of the other comments above, with regard to NEVER using Groupon…well, cross your fingers and continue to do a great job of servicing customers, driving business and making money.

    We’ve run a good number of smb’s for a fairly long time. Conditions go up and down over the long haul.

    To date we have avoided groupons for a number of reasons: In some cases we don’t need them. In other cases, we definitely don’t want to sacrifice the margins.

    But it isn’t the case all the time. And of great note, I’ve watched certain competitors run groupons.

    Here is an interesting observation. For our smb’s we run pretty extensive adwords ppc, including exact phrase and broad phrase matches. We don’t exact phrase target a competitor’s name but our ads show up on various broad match phrases, including name or recovery searches for certain competitors.

    Some are more visible over time with significant name searches showing up via a review of broad match impressions.

    Some though have very little visibility. When they have run groupons their name awareness relatively shoots up in search.

    Groupons and LivingSocial do create significant awareness. They are powerful marketing/email tools with relatively immense reach.

    If an smb is running slow and weak, and it runs a groupon or livingsocial and gets a lot of response, it will be stressed relative to normal operations.

    It is something to consider. Its a reality. For a longer term impact from the increased activity from a groupon/livingsocial it is a lesson to learn. One probably has to beef up customer service response to handle the increased business, especially if one doesn’t operate at those higher levels of activity.

    I’d never say never. Things happen. Business goes up and down.

    Consider yourself fortunate if you don’t have to run a groupon/livingsocial but you better keep working hard to ensure that status remains status quo.

  17. I never was a big fan of Groupon. My business is in promotional products, I’m much more interested in bringing interested customers through your doors though personal connections through these giveaway products. It’s a much more meaningful relationship than that of a Groupon customer, who is just acting on a deal.. Don’t expect that customer to come in on a standard price basis.

  18. Customers are far more prompt to leave reviews when they are upset about a service or a product than when they are happy. So to combat these negative reviews a good tactic would be for this business to take an approach asking customers to leave positive reviews or to have satisfied customers leave their reviews so this action will hopefully help bury some of these bad reviews.

    If they are going to participate in something like a Groupon package, the business needs to make sure that it can actually fulfill the orders or it is just going to ran into a huge problem as this company has

  19. Mike, regarding Centroid, I want you to do This search “Roof Cleaning Tampa”.
    I am in Brandon Florida 33511, 20 miles from Tampa 33601 Centroid.
    When I do this search, my company (apple roof cleaning tampa florida) is the ONLY Local result I see returned. Not only am I number one, but even better yet, I seem to be suppressing my other local competitors Google Places pages.

    If you white spark me, you will see I study this blog, and have worked very hard to do what you said to do (Get Citations). True, it has been a major PITA to manually try and correct old address information. But I have been doing just that lately, and it has paid off.

    Thanks for this Blog Mike!

  20. @Chris

    You are seeing an artifact of Google’s resolution of an ambiguous search. Google is unclear whether the searcher is looking for a specific business of that name or a service i that area. Google has historically resolved the ambiguity by showing the branded result. Since your business name has obviously been chosen to match that search, you are the sole victor on that very specific search as they think someone is looking for the brand not the service.

  21. @Mike
    Well, whatever it is, I will take it:)
    It was like this for a good while, maybe 3 months, then, out of nowhere, the old 7 pack appeared again. All these local pages have Tampa addresses, and I was knocked clear out of the search results/ Only my webpage “saved me”. It always dominates the organic listings.
    Honestly, I hate this Google Local stuff. But I try to deal with it.
    The old 7 pack I am currently suppressing has several competitors lying through their teeth about where they really are. It seems totally wrong that a competitor can simply make up an address, and outrank me, simply because their made up address is closer to Centroid!~

  22. Groupon is a double edged sword. It has the potential to greatly increase your business for a short while. But if you don’t go to the extra lengths to meet the customer’s needs, you’ll see the afore mentioned scenario again and again. If you can afford to do a good job with your Groupons, then I think its a great idea. But if you aren’t prepared to make the extra effort, this will definitely end up hurting you.

  23. @Chris

    From a personal google account have you tried to suggest that those businesses listing information is incorrect. It may take 5-6 weeks but we have found that if we are able to provide the right data that google has changed listings based on ‘consumer’ input. Also using mapmaker or finding someone who uses mapmaker a lot and has built up a trusted level can help to clean up a business that is faking it’s location. Nevertheless, it is not always easy to prove. The easiest is when you get a lazy business owner who tries to game the system but then links to their website which does not have their address anywhere near the location they ‘claimed’. It is much trickier when they are borrowing a colleagues address using Suite 101 or something and doing all the citation work to support it. But maybe that gives you a couple avenues to let the truth show through. That is of course if you are using this advice for good and not evil – haha.

    Good luck and kudos for trying to do all the citation work on your own! If I was in Tampa FL i would use your services just because I can tell how much you care about your business! 🙂

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