In today’s world of social media, smart phone apps, and product- and service-review websites, opportunities for customers to share their opinions and personal experiences of businesses have grown exponentially. It is an unfortunate reality that consumers are 3 to 5 times more likely to talk about a negative experience than a positive one, and that those who hear or read a negative review are more likely to remember it. The ability for consumers to share reviews of businesses and services online can pose a challenge in an economy where a company’s online reputation can win or lose their share of consumers’ scarce resources.
Many businesses are hesitant to provide the opportunity for customers to leave comments or reviews, for fear that any negative opinion posted may damage the reputation of their brand. Recent survey data from Nielsen’s Global Online Consumer Survey makes it clear, though, that the availability of peer reviews on a website will positively affect online businesses even when some customer comments are unenthusiastic. This is because consumers place a great deal of confidence in peer reviews, and see them as an important source of information on which to base their purchasing decisions. Today’s internet search engines provide savvy shoppers with countless alternatives, so if reviews are not evident, online consumers are likely to search for a comparable company whose website does contain peer review information.
With the knowledge that providing online peer reviews drives business, service providers and retailers must adopt a comprehensive review strategy. Even the most professional and conscientious business will encounter some level of negative feedback. How a business responds to an unfavorable customer comment or bad review online can make the difference between damage to the company’s reputation or an opportunity to demonstrate that company’s commitment to its customers. A professional, respectful response to an unflattering review or complaint may not win back the business of a particular disgruntled patron, but it will show other prospective online customers that the company takes the opinions of its customers seriously and is committed to providing excellent service.
Negative feedback can be the best way for a business to discover perceived deficiencies in its customer service. Before the advent of online reviews, unhappy customers or disgruntled clients would simply take their business elsewhere, and perhaps tell some friends or family about their bad experience. Business owners would often not even realize they had lost that customer’s business, or would have no idea why the customer did not return. Online reviews, good and bad, offer a kind of market research and client feedback that has not previously been available. A company should consider the merits of any negative review it may receive, and view the feedback as objectively as possible. Negative comments may flag problems with staff or expose inefficiencies in the way the business is run, or may reveal a gap between what the company provides and what customers are looking for.
The manner in which a business publicly responds to negative customer reviews can often turn the negative into a positive in the eyes of others reading the comments. The following suggestions will help a business make the best of an uncomplimentary online customer review:
Do not ignore the negative feedback. Potential customers will read both positive and negative reviews. If they see a customer complaint, they want to see that the company actively attempts to satisfy unhappy patrons.
Remain positive and sincere. Defensiveness in a response is unprofessional, and angry, biting comments from the management of a business will reflect poorly upon the character and business ethics of the company.
Respond promptly, and with the aim of rectifying the situation. A business with customer reviews on its website should read the reviews on a daily basis, so that the response can repair a damaged customer relationship before the client takes his business elsewhere. The response should also be from someone in the company who has the authority to make immediate decisions that can remedy the problem.
Make a visible effort to resolve the issues raised. Resolving the complaint privately will perhaps bring a client back, but if there is a negative peer review online for all to see, it is also vital to let other potential customers see how far the company will go to satisfy their needs.
Ask for a follow-up review. If a company responds positively and respectfully to a negative review, and is able to satisfy the disgruntled customer, it is prudent to try to get the now-happy client to submit a follow-up review. If other potential clients can see that the reviewer’s needs have been met and he or she will continue to do business there, the initial negativity can actually act as a boost to business.
Finally, remember that customers will happily share positive experiences; but they are not as likely to leave a positive review as a negative one without some prompting. A company with a comprehensive review strategy will send out customer surveys and regularly request follow-up comments from satisfied customers via email or website comment areas. With these reminders and requests for positive feedback, a company’s good reviews will outweigh negative ones with potential customers.