Guest expectations are getting higher every year, which means maintaining high levels of satisfaction can be an increasingly difficult goal to achieve.

In fact, 54% of consumers expressed having higher expectations for service now than they did a year ago (66% of consumers aged 18-34). That means it’s even more important than ever to be at your customer-service best.

Here are 4 other consumer data points that your FEC should pay attention to – plus other tips to help you grow.

#1. Companies that lead in customer experience outperform laggards by nearly 80%.

If you haven’t bought in to the idea that customer experience matters, this Forbes statistic should probably push you over the edge into believing. With so much competition for your guest’s disposable income, you have to set yourself apart by creating an experience that’s better than everyone else’s.

Consider a process where your team measures key guest experience data points on a weekly basis, such as tracking  survey scores, social media comments and team member shift feedback. This may seem like a daunting task, but the good news is that, according to the same study, 84% of companies who focus on improving service also note increased revenue.

#2. 82% of consumers read local business reviews to decide whether to do business with them.

It’s a no-brainer that consumers need to be able to find your business online, and most want the ability to purchase from you online as well. But this exceptionally high number of consumers reading reviews before deciding to do business with you means you can’t take your online reputation for granted.

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Be sure that that your website is up-to-date, compelling and mobile friendly. Make it easy to do business with you. Don’t forget all those places where people find you online, including Google, Yelp, Facebook and other social media outlets. Your online presence should include updated photos, description, web addresses and relevant contact information.

Only 54% of those consumers who avidly read local business reviews are willing to buy from a business with less than a 4-star review, so that means it’s important that you’re focusing on getting (positive) guest reviews as often as possible.

Consider soliciting guest reviews through calls to action on sales receipts, in discussions at the point of sale, at the end of group events or on social media, so that you can show recent, relevant reviews of your current team members and offerings.

#3. The average consumer spends 13.45 minutes reading reviews.

In a consumer economy where attention spans typically last less than ten seconds, capturing your consumers for nearly 15 minutes is staggering. This really highlights the importance you need to place in your online reputation.

You probably spend thousands of dollars in labor hours and fixed costs on your company’s marketing and promotion efforts. But considering how much time a consumer spends reading your ad compared to reading your reviews, you should definitely consider a similar amount of effort towards cultivating your presence online and responding to reviewers because – as we’re about to discuss – it matters.

#4. 97% of consumers consider how a business responds to reviews.

Almost every person who reads your reviews cares about how you respond to them.

We recommend that you thank every reviewer for their feedback (positive or negative). If the review is negative, express empathy and offer to discuss the situation more with a guest by phone or in a private message.

This doesn’t mean that you should capitulate to just any complaint. But showing that you care and that you’re listening and willing to explore an issue further goes a long way in demonstrating your core values.

Southwest Airlines is a great example of this. If you don’t follow them on Twitter, you should. They interact with their community with personality. They are extremely quick to respond, always jump in to get more information privately and, when they’re called out on something a consumer doesn’t like, they express concern for the writer and provide a next step or something else to consider. They never miss an opportunity to strengthen their brand through those interactions, and it’s probably not surprising that they’re ranked among the top in airline popularity and profitability worldwide.

Bottom line, the businesses that will be the most successful in 2020 will be those with a laser focus on their guests’ experiences, and the ones who can keep conversation moving will be the clear winners of the race. But it won’t happen by chance.

Where are you focusing on improving your guest experience? Share with us in the comments or on Twitter.

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