For a company, public criticism can be damning. In this day, consumption habits hinge on reviews and opinions which can shape public perception of a company, service, or product.
Consumer review platforms aren’t niche or limited by sector anymore either. For example, the online reviews website PissedConsumer.com currently has over 2.4 million consumer reviews and receives 3.5 million monthly visitors.
It’s clear that consumers are leveraging this exposure to improve their consumer experience.
Checking business reviews online has become a critical stage of the purchasing process, yet, while vocal feedback from a displeased customer is inevitable, fret not, as bad reviews can be of benefit to your business because you can turn this criticism into a competitive advantage.
It’s widely acknowledged that there are a lot of shady practices in the use of online reviews. In fact, it has been found that, at the main hub of product reviews, Amazon, around 70 percent of the reviews are fake or paid for.
A new or relatively obscure product with 1000s of A+ reviews obviously has to be too good to be true. It’s a fact that people will find fault in anything, and at such high numbers, quality control and other scale issues will be present.
So, obviously, the central issue here is trust. The best way to establish this valuable trust is to know, as a business, exactly how to respond to negative reviews.
Negative Reviews Can Educate Potential Buyers
The presence of negative reviews will increase trust and believability in the majority of positive ones. Not only will customers be suspicious of an absence or an abnormally low proportion of bad reviews for a product, but the quality of the bad reviews can also play a part too.
According to Science Direct, a significant percentage of poor online reviews encourage what’s known as a ‘conformity effect’, whereby, as the negative reviews add up, highly engaged consumers, for example, those who like to thoroughly research something before they commit to buying, tend to take the word of, detailed, well-written ‘quality’ reviewers.
Conversely, more passive consumers will have their decision influenced by negative reviews or star ratings, regardless of the content of the written reviews.
There are those who specifically seek bad reviews of a product or service in order to find a reason to dissuade them from buying it, often after their mind has already been made up to go ahead and make the purchase.
These types also tend to spend more time on a review site reading in-depth reviews. Informed consumers seek the complete picture.
Most are reasonable enough to assume that nothing is perfect, but particular shortcomings may be less of an issue for some than they are for others.
The upshot of this is that those who like to do their research on a product will more likely be swung by detailed negative reviews that highlight specific issues encountered with the product, whereas those who have less time to look into things or shop more instinctively will simply go by the overall star rating, as an example.
Respond and Follow Up
Most online review sites allow the receiver of a customer complaint to respond to it publicly. Negative reviews provide an excellent PR opportunity for you to publicly right a perceived wrong in posting a visible reply to the critical review.
If a satisfactory resolution to the matter is attained, the customer may write a positive follow-up message, or remove the negative review altogether. Both net positive outcomes.
Use Poor Reviews to Improve the Public Perception of Your Company
A company that visibly responds to its customers’ concerns, even if it doesn’t always successfully resolve them, still makes a good impression, not only on the customer themselves but also on existing or potential customers who are browsing.
The latter can put themselves in the shoes of those who wrote the comment and envision that should they have any problems themselves; they will also be given the same time and consideration.
A slew of genuine grievances that remain unanswered, particularly if a certain issue crops up repeatedly, sends a clear message to those who don’t rush into parting with their money.
Addressing comments and complaints empowers the customer by showing them that their voice is heard and establishes trust through an acknowledgment that sometimes things can go wrong, but they won’t be hung out to dry if they do.
People generally don’t like to be stand-offish and tend to shy away from confrontational situations. A friendly acknowledgment and a polite indication of a willingness to help can really turn the heat down and snuff out a potentially angry customer who just wants to let off some steam.
Use Poor Reviews to Improve the Public Perception of Your Company
Possibly the most important reason to take the time to read your reviews is for the useful information you can glean from them.
Studying purchaser feedback is probably the most effective way to understand and develop your product or service.
There may be common issues that emerge in the field of daily use that highlight a design oversight or some kind of incompatibility which you can iron out in a future iteration.
They can also help alert you to otherwise unknown mistakes and stop you from making them again and again.
Be the First Contact
A satisfied customer is less likely to leave a review than a disgruntled one, so, while we are talking about how to find benefit from already posted negative reviews, you should of course do whatever you can to ensure that the customer isn’t moved to this course of action in the first place. Your best tool to ensure this? Effective customer service.
Social media, email, telephone, onsite messenger… All these options to contact you should be made easily available and visible to your customer, this way they will more likely speak to you first before making their complaints public.
Tackle Your Problems Head-on
The mature approach to dealing with negative reviews is to address them, never dismiss them or hope to sweep them under the carpet.
As pointed out, they are not eternally damning and can provide an advantageous opportunity to improve the quality of your service or product and present your company in a positive light.
Engaging with genuine negative reviews and initiating a dialogue that acknowledges and addresses the complaint and collaborates with the customer to find a solution will inform and educate potential customers and satisfy careful purchasers.
The rise in customer engagement builds trust in your business, increases levels of customer satisfaction, convert browsers into buyers, and even contented customers into ambassadors for your business as they share their positive experience with others.
Poor reviews only pose a serious problem for those who fear them or don’t have a well-thought-out, genuine strategy for dealing with them.
Showing the confidence to publicly acknowledge and engage rather than instinctively go on the defensive, shows confidence in yourself and, in this case, your business.