Earlier this month, we wrote here (http://goo.gl/jKA3oB) about the growing popularity of business review websites looking to compete with the Better Business Bureau, consumers’ traditional go to source for business ratings.
The piece discusses how the internet limits businesses’ reliance on the BBB to mediate customer disputes. Social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Angie’s List and Yelp all provide consumers with a platform to voice feedback, positive or otherwise, making any and all voices heard. Due to the popularity of these platforms, search engines may rank their reviews higher than those posted to the BBB profile of a given business. Business owners and consumers prefer these websites for a few key reasons: they are optimized for mobile phones, their formats encourage positive feedback, and users can post photos while networking with one another.
Google is looking to disrupt the business review space by adding an app called My Business to Google Hangouts. Google is late to the party, but as the top global search engine, don’t count them out. This feature allows businesses to add photos and video, engage with loyal customers and followers, respond to customer feedback and even connect face to face via video chat. Unlike Apple’s very selective product rollout strategy rooted in its hardware expertise, Google’s software giant status gives the company more freedom to allow the public to test any app’s utility in real time without a gargantuan investment. Google can innovate without having to invest in manufacturing, retail, or worry over release timing. And they’ve got something really special on their hands.
Unlike other review websites, My Business allows businesses to connect directly with their customer base, followers and even their harshest critics. Having an opportunity to engage with customers means that unhappy ones don’t have to take to public forums to air grievances to get attention—this can save a business’ reputation. Businesses can now interact face to face over the internet to deliver new product information, DIYs, or feedback, all in real time on a single platform. Sites like Yelp only offer deferred communication, meaning that customers can praise or criticize, but business owners can’t communicate with them in real time. It’s a communication relevance divide similar to SMS/text versus email; a battle email is losing rapidly. Instead of waiting on hold to speak with a customer service representative to resolve an issue, consumers may now chat face to face with a representative to open a dialogue–greater emotional interaction should result in more effective communication.
Google’s My Business allows business owners to integrate various facets of their profile into one platform. The product allows a company to combine its brand page, reviews, location, general information and social media marketing on one page, creating a more complete online presence. All this information is available to customers when they search a company on Google and provides easier navigation for consumers, less clicks and less aggravation. Simple and unified, Google hopes that My Business is a breakthrough in how businesses and customers interact.