Last year, a study by Cone found that four out of five consumers have changed their mind about a purchase based solely on negative information found online. However, the same study also found that 87 percent of those polled agreed that a positive review confirmed their decision to purchase. Clearly, online reviews are “word of mouth” on a global scale.
Here are a few tips to help you harness that power and use online reviews to showcase your customer service, improve the customer experience and even drive sales.
Coping With Negative Reviews
When it comes to online reviews, only one thing is certain: Someone, somewhere, isn’t going to like your product. But while four out of five consumers may change their mind based on a negative review, there are things you can do to turn a negative into a positive.
• Stay calm and professional
Typically, the first instinct of anyone when faced with a negative review of themselves or their product is to lash out. “How can so and so say that about us? Doesn’t he/she know how hard we worked, the kind of resources we devoted?” Well, the truth is, no, he/she doesn’t know. All a disgruntled customer knows is that the end result wasn’t to their liking. Lashing out and getting defensive makes you and your company look like a petulant child. Instead, take a deep breath and turn that negativity into something positive. How? Try to . . .
According to a study conducted by RightNow, 68 percent of consumers who posted a negative review on a social networking or ratings/reviews site after a poor holiday shopping experience got a response from the retailer. Following that contact, 34 percent deleted their negative reviews, 33 percent changed their mind and posted a positive review and 18 percent became loyal customers –and even bought more. Think about that for a minute. By simply responding to a negative review in a mature, empathetic and understanding manner, you may be able to turn a unhappy customer into a fan!
Engagement with naysayers shows you put your customers first and fully understand the value of the customer experience. So be sure to make the effort. Respond to negative reviews. Tell customers you “hear” them, that you understand where they’re coming from, and thank them for taking the time to issue such constructive criticism.
• Appreciate the learning experience
If you listen, you will learn.
What did your customer find wrong? Maybe there’s a flaw that the quality control team didn’t catch. Maybe the customer simply wasn’t using the product correctly, which could signal that instructions are unclear or insufficient. Yes, you have to create products you care about, but you also have to create products that customers will want to use. Listening to negative feedback is a great way to learn more about your customers’ wants and needs. Keep this in mind: No matter how negative the review, the customer actually took the time to reach out –and that means he/she must feel something for your product. What insights can you learn from these emotions?
Want a great example of how negative reviews can lead to product improvement? Check out this story from furniture retailer Land of Nod. When a customer complained that a certain type of table scratched too easily, the company came up with a new table surface and offered one (free of charge) to every customer who mentioned the soft table. Land of Nod listened, learned, improved its product and capitalized on the opportunity to offer stellar customer service.
Taking Advantage of Positive Reviews
Although marketers rarely see them as calls-to-action, positive reviews can also offer valuable opportunities to engage with customers and learn more about your product/service. Just be sure you . . .
• Follow up
Remember when Mom used to make you send thank you notes to everyone who gave you a birthday gift? Positive reviews require that some sort of cordial reply. A simple, congenial “thank you” to the customer for taking the time to offer a review will go a long way. As is the case when they write negative reviews, customers want to know that their voice is heard. A positive review is your opportunity to reach out both publicly online and with a personalized message to further nurture the customer relationship.
• Enable online reviews
Never shy away from the opportunity to let customers post reviews of your product on your website (or other sites where your product is featured). Amazon.com has built a community around product reviews, and leaving a comment there is relatively easy. Your site’s capability for reviews should be similar. The voice of your customers can be the most persuasive marketing tool at your disposal, so be sure to encourage your customers to share their recommendation with your online audience. As I mentioned in the intro, 87 percent of those polled in the Cone study said a positive review confirmed their decision to purchase.
• Be grateful for heterogeneity
Consumers turn to online reviews to learn more about products and services they are considering to purchase, and today’s empowered buyers fully expect to have their decision shaped by a range of opinions. A string of positive reviews, all filled with glowing remarks, isn’t very believable. Neither is a string of negative reviews, all filled with complaints. Consumers want to make an informed decision, and you have to trust them to thoughtfully weigh both positive and negative comments. (Of course, if you’ve responded appropriately to negative online reviews, potential customers will see your remarks, as well, and they’re likely to give you credit for your customer service efforts.)
Online reviews are a two-way street. They offer a chance for customers to have their voices heard, and they offer you an opportunity for you to learn what works, what doesn’t and what you can do to make the customer experience better. Remember: Customers aren’t required to review your product. Whenever they do, they’re taking time out of their busy lives to offer you a valuable learning opportunity, a chance for engagement and/or support. Respond. Be authentic. Be professional. And, learn to gain insights from customer reviews, whether they’re negative or positive.