In 2004, Yelp! started the most prominent customer review site in the world. Over the next few years, other review sites emerged and are now seemingly ubiquitous: Yelp! for restaurants and local services, Glassdoor for jobs, and TripAdvisor for travel and tourism. Today, review sites are an integral part of the consumer experience, and that has businesses and brands paying more attention to them than ever.
Why the surge in popularity? Customers realized the value of looking at reviews from their peers, and they’ve grown to trust reviews even more in recent years. According to one study, 88 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Unfortunately, customer review sites have become a double-edged sword for many businesses. Good reviews can increase demand, drive traffic, increase brand trust, boost conversions and even help with SEO – much more than any paid advertising campaign can typically do. Negative reviews, however, can destroy a business if not dealt with strategically and appropriately.
Negative reviews can happen for any number of reasons, and while a small amount can be chalked up to Internet trolls (they are plentiful, these days), most negative reviews are caused by legitimate mistakes on the company’s end. Sometimes they are things the business can control: customer support experiences, wait times, confusing website design, etc. Other times it’s a bit outside of direct control, including third-party shipping mistakes or fulfillment errors.
Either way, every negative review offers valuable insights about your brand, product and service, and dismissing them is a serious misstep. According to research from Trustpilot, a global online review community with 30 million reviews of 160,000 businesses, you can convert 70 percent of unhappy customers to returning customers by resolving their issues. Consumers are also 15 percent more likely to buy something if they see a business addressing problems online.
So how should businesses deal with negative feedback? Here are a few best practices that you can use to combat these growth killers:
Don’t Be Accusatory
From time to time, customers might knowingly or unknowingly make factually inaccurate accusations. It’s imperative that you do not publicly accuse them of lying. Doing so may give the impression that your business is unwilling to accept responsibility for its perceived mistakes. Other customers might shy away from bringing legitimate concerns to your attention, as they’ll fear they’ll be treated the same way.
Hurling accusations, just or unjust, is a losing strategy that seldom leads to the business coming out on top. You may win the battle, but you’ll lose the war. Instead, address the customer’s concern publicly, and, if possible, take the conversation offline to point out any discrepancies in an objective and friendly way.
Look for Patterns in Feedback
If one customer posts a negative review about your business, it may be a fluke. If multiple people have the same issue, you’ve gained valuable insights into a potential flaw in your business and you likely have an issue that needs to be addressed. By looking for negative review patterns, you may discover there’s a problem with your third-party distribution. Or perhaps that new payment processor you’re using has a glitch. Maybe some of your customers are getting tripped up over UX issues on your ecommerce website. The good news if you recognize it early, you can correct it.
When you notice a pattern, Investigate and get to the bottom of the problem as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to be transparent with your customers by letting them know you’ve heard their concerns and have taken actions to correct it.
Don’t Make Assumptions
It’s easy to assume that one of your veteran customer service reps knows exactly what he or she is doing. After all, they know the ins and outs of the business better than anyone! But if you notice a pattern of negative reviews around customer service, it’s certainly possible that an education gap has emerged when it comes to a specific customer issue. It’s also possible that the quality of service has decreased over time.
If upon further investigation this proves to be true, it’s a great opportunity to re-motivate or re-educate your customer support team. Catch the problem early and you can potentially avoid a much larger problem.
Transparently Discuss the Actions You Have Taken
Customers don’t trust businesses like they used to. In fact, a 2017 Trust Barometer report puts trust at an all-time low across business, government, NGOs and media. Translation: you’re not going to be able to b.s. your way out of major customer issues.
Want a second chance? Be specific about the steps you are taking to address legitimate customer concerns, and do it proactively. Don’t wait until you have a United Airlines-sized debacle on your hands before taking action. Be clear in your messages across your website, social media profiles and review platforms.
Today’s customer review management tools are extremely intelligent. Use SaaS tools to their fullest potential by tagging key words or phrases, demographics, serial reviewers, etc. The more insights you gather about your customers, the better you’re able to spot issues before they become much larger problems that are more difficult to manage.
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