There is no denying the importance of online customer reviews and ratings are continuing to grow as more statistics and reports prove how they can seriously impact your business performance, online reputation and search rankings.
One such example is the Consumer Shopping Habits Survey by ChannelAdvisor which found that 83% of all holiday shoppers are influenced by customer reviews (August 2010). Furthermore, a study by Reevoo found that retailers and brands who embrace reviews and recommendations into their online retail strategy see a sales uplift of up to 18% (February 2011).
All in all, businesses in any industry cannot shy away from the fact that reviews help to establish credibility and trust in the minds of potential customers whilst providing them with vital information that they want to see before making a purchase decision.
The hesitation by some to embrace user reviews may be due to the fear of receiving negative reviews, but the fact is, no matter how fantastic you are, you are bound to get a negative review and although it is tough to hear complaints about your business, by being prepared and having a process in place, you will be better set to deal with these.
Here are our top tips on how to deal with negative reviews online;
1. Acknowledge the feedback
The first thing you should do is to acknowledge the feedback to let the customer know you have seen it and are working on how to fix the issue or provide more information. The longer you leave it, the more annoyed or angry your unhappy customer might get – turning it into an even bigger issue.
Even if this is just a simple thank you for the feedback, we appreciate your comments and are doing everything we can to look into the issue further etc
A survey of more than 2,100 travellers by Forrester Research for TripAdvisor found that response remains key to a company’s image in online review sites, whether the review is good or bad, as nearly four-fifths of respondents said that “a good management response to a bad review reassures them” and that “a good management response to a good review makes them think highly of the hotel.”
2. Determine what type of response is appropriate
Now you have acknowledged the feedback, the next step is to provide an appropriate response. An article published on Mashable advises that when dealing with negative feedback, it is important to determine exactly what type of feedback you’ve received, as it will determine the response.
Here are the types of negative feedback you may receive and how we suggest you respond:
Straight Problem – when someone has an issue with your product or service and they have explained exactly what went wrong. This type of feedback can be very beneficial in exposing real problems that your company needs to correct.
The Response: You may wish to respond personally or publically – this will depend on how extensive the problem is and how many people have reported it – sometimes responding publically will be the better option as it will show others that your company really cares about their customers and their opinions.
If the problem exists, obviously steps should be taken to correct it and your response should explain what is being done to solve the issue.
There will be times when the criticism is the result of a perceived problem rather than a genuine problem – for example, someone doesn’t like the certain way in which you do something. Even still, this type of complaint should be given a response – something along the lines of “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, however we do it this way because...” - it may be a legal reason why you do something a certain way, so try and explain why it is like that if you can.
Constructive Criticism – when the comment also includes a suggestion. This type of feedback can be extremely helpful to receive.
The Response: Sometimes the suggestion given will not be possible to put into practice, and other times it may help you further develop your product or service. Either way, make sure you thank those for taking the time to provide the suggestion. By responding to criticism with a positive message you will build loyalty and trust.
Merited Attack – Essentially this is when you or your company did something wrong, and it has annoyed someone. While the attack itself may not be merited, the issue that was the catalyst does have merit.
The Response: Often these can be difficult to deal with as they can feel personal, but try to keep in mind that at the very core of it, there is a real problem. We advise that you respond quickly to assure them that steps are being taken to correct the issue or alleviate their problem, such as offering a partial refund or discount in future (see point 6).
A word of warning....if you find you are hot headed after initially reading the review, make sure you take a step back and cool off before responding. A study by Forrester Research found that when it comes to negative reviews, three-fifths of respondents said “an aggressive management response to a bad review” will negatively impact their impression of the company.
Trolling –Trolling is different from a merited attack in that trolls have no valid reason for being angry at you.
The Response: It may be difficult to determine if an attack is a troll. We advise that you try to find out as much as possible about the issue – if it really was a troll, they may not respond at all, and if they do, it should become clear whether or not they are really telling the truth. If it is a troll, then you may want to remove the comment if possible.
Some may suggest not commenting at all as it may spur on an argument with someone who is obviously out to make you look bad, but it will be extremely hard to determine for sure whether someone is a troll or not. Keeping a calm, pleasant and helpful tone against an unreasonable complaint will make your company look more superior. Also, if threatening or genuinely abusive language is included in the post, you may be able to delete it or at least warn them that they face deletion if they carry on using this language.
Spam – a post that has nothing to do with your products or services.
The Response: Remove as soon as possible.
3. Don’t censor the bad reviews
You will get found out - interestingly, studies have proven that a few bad reviews alongside good reviews can even have a positive overall effect.
Research by Reevoo points out the importance for organisations to be wary of not censoring all the negative reviews as 70% of people trust reviews more when they can see bad reviews as well as good. Furthermore, 38% of shoppers are more likely to read the bad reviews than the good ones AND 95% of people said they will still buy a product with a bad review.
4. Be patient and understanding. Try and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
In dealing with upset people, remember that you are closer to your industry, products and services than they are and what may seem like common knowledge to you may be foreign to the end user.
Take a step back and put yourself in your customer’s shoes to try and understanding why they are frustrated.
Whether or not the error lies on your end, a simple apology will go a long way in keeping your customer. Instead of trying to figure out where the blame lies, do what you can to make your customers experience better.
5. Stay positive
Adding even more negativity to the conversation by getting caught up in a fight will reflect poorly on your company.
6. Consider contacting the person privately
Sometimes it is better to send a private message or email to give you more flexibility to address the complaint. For example, you may want to offer the managers direct line or a discount off their next purchase, so communicating privately gives you the opportunity to add a personal touch.
Offering direct lines and special discounts publicly can lead to other people creating problems just to get that special treatment, so it’s best to keep these conversations private.
To conclude, here are some additional points to bear in mind...
- You can learn a lot from negative reviews. They can tell you about any service and quality issues that you may not have know about until it was too late.
- It’s important to respond to negative reviews. It will show the reviewer and other potential customers that you care and are willing to make changes.
- It’s easier than you think to encourage positive reviews. Encourage your most loyal and satisfied customers to post reviews online. Our clients who have gathered the most inspiring content have used our Reviews and Ratings application to run competitions to ask their customers to upload their favourite experience, photo or video.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a loyal customer. If you have been demonstrating best practice by responding to all comments and engaging customers, you may find that your most loyal ones will in fact defend your organisation. What’s great about getting this support is that there’s a genuine credibility when your customers endorse your business for you.
- Don’t focus on negative reviews because most are positive. That’s right! The study mentioned earlier by Forrester Research found the top reason travellers write an online review is to “share a good experience with other travellers”. In addition, of the many review solutions we have created, most of them have very few if any, negative comments posted and instead receive 80-90% positive reviews and comments. So whilst it is important to ensure you have a process in place on how to deal with negative reviews, you may just find that those few bad reviews will soon be buried in a sea of positive ones.
To find out more about how your business can make the most of that social media has to offer, contact us today...