April 02, 2014

Positive Response to Negative Reviews Key to Online Success

“Dirty. Ants. Burnt food. Extortionate prices.”

Seven simple words and a single star came from one customer on a Facebook review of an Australian café. The message did not receive much attention until the café’s owner happened upon it and responded with a rant that made us feel uncomfortable half way across the world.

Not only did the owner take the customer to task for not being more up-front while at the restaurant, according to an Australian news source, he insulted his own staff’s laziness. The owner hurriedly explained that their prices were expensive because they bought flour that is “six times more expensive than the regular crap” and ended by thanking the customer in a sarcastic manner.

“Thanks for throwing it on just to kick our business, even although the price is right and that what happened was out of my control,” the owner wrote.

In this case, a simple bad review turned into a superfluous, negative conversation. It also led to another blog post being created about the restaurant by the reviewer, thereby making their image that much harder to control.

Paying mind to online in a new age of service

Businesses used to be judged by the merit of their goods and services. Each company controlled its own marketing and customer word of mouth played a big role in attaining new business. Now, a vague rating or number of stars on a website may play a big role in your business’ success. It’s no small wonder why reviews can drive business owners nuts.

Online reviews, as frustrating as they can be, now must be considered. While getting a poor review may bring about feelings of panic and rage as it did at the Australian café, it does not have to harm a business. In fact, this could be seen as a great opportunity to show just how good a company’s customer service is. Paying attention to online reviews may not be how businesses want to spend their time, but monitoring websites such as Yelp, Google and Facebook could be what sets a company apart from its competition.

Statistics tell the story of why response is essential. Dimensional Research found that 90 percent have been affected positively by a customer review and 86 percent have been swayed by a negative review.

Additionally, Bazaarvoice’s Conversation Index said seven out of 10 respondents reported how a brand responded to a review changed their perception of that company. Forty-one percent said it made them feel as though the business actually cared what customers think, 35 percent said it made them believe there was a better customer service standard and 22 percent thought the brand was more trustworthy.

This same report also showed some ways negative reviews can be addressed:

  • Customers who saw guidance from the company or an explanation of misuse saw a 186 percent improvement in purchase intent and 157 percent higher sentiment
  • Responses offering an upgrade, refund or exchange saw a 92 percent higher purchase intent and 88 percent higher sentiment
  • Companies that gave reviewers additional steps of how they could make their situation better saw an 89 percent improvement in purchase intent and sentiment

Online reviews, as frustrating as they can be, now must be considered.

Proper response is important

Staying on top of reviews does not have to be an arduous task. Businesses can enter their name into search engines and social media websites regularly to monitor whether any reviews, good or bad, have popped up.

If there is a negative review, it is a good idea to be sensible, friendly and quick in the response. Apologize and offer an alternative if that is what the situation calls for, but organizations should also be mindful of giving customers additional ways they can successfully use the product or offer guidance on why the customer had a negative experience. Always be sure to thank the reviewer for their business.

Don’t ignore positive reviews either. Responding to a nice review of your business with something as simple as a “thank you” could go a long way toward netting a return customer. These sunnier reviews can also be featured on a “customer testimonial” section of the business’ website. It never hurts to show potential customers that others have had positive experiences.

One example of how to handle social online reviews comes from restaurateur Karen Powell. She told Crain’s Chicago Business that when things go wrong, gift cards are offered to customers as an apology after first vetting that the customer has a legitimate beef. Powell also responds to positive reviews, something she calls a human impulse, to tell customers that they have made her day.

Each business will have to create a plan for how to respond to online reviews. However, in every case, it is important to remember that how you treat someone who has spent money on your business will resonate with customers. Treat them nicely and your reputation will precede you. Craft rude, vitriolic responses and this will likely breed more negativity. The choice is yours.