This is the first installment in our Customer Service In The Digital Age series.
Negative customer reviews happen to retailers of all sizes, and the impact on business is enormous. In a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 86% of consumers report being influenced by negative customer reviews, which is no small figure in a time where online reviews are considered to be just as important as personal recommendations.
So how do you minimize the impact? Here are our three steps on how retailers can effectively address negative customer reviews.
1. Understand what you’re dealing with.
Identify the type of negative review in order to appropriately address it. The three most common types are:
- Justified negative comments: a customer has encountered an issue with your product or service. This type of comment will include a description of the negative experience, and likely a call-to-action for customer service representatives to tackle the problem.
- Negative opinions: a customer dislikes some element of your product or service, and is using social media to voice his or her opinion. The criticism may or may not include a suggestion on how the brand can improve the perceived flaw.
- Spam: a spammer leaves an inflammatory comment or link to disparage your business or market a competing business. The comment will look like a copy and paste job, be generic, and likely have a link to a competitor site.
2. Respond to negative reviews using a standard timeframe.
Regardless which of the three negative comments you’ve received, always be sure to respond with a next course of action—and do this quickly. 72% of consumers expect brands to respond within an hour to negative reviews posted on Twitter, and the expectation carries over to other social media outlets. We recommend responding to negative online reviews within 24 hours, and to make this response time standard across all customer inquiry channels like email and phone:
- For justified negative reviews, refrain from posting a generic “please contact customer service” message. Since the criticism is now a part of the public sphere, the onus is on the retailer to provide honest and personalized support. Depending on the comment, your response can either lay out the steps the customer should take to rectify the problem, or, in the case of a misunderstanding, an explanation of where things went wrong, and how to fix the problem. If the problem persists, invite the customer to a private conversation and mention that the same service will be extended to other customers with similar concerns.
- Negative opinions should be addressed with acknowledgement and positivity. Customers should be thanked for their opinions and (if the criticism was constructive) ideas on how to improve service or product design that could then be passed on to their respective brands. If the retailer has already taken steps to address similar concerns, the response should inform the customer about these new developments. Never respond with criticism or be defensive, and always reassure customers that their feedback is valuable.
- Spam is malicious in nature and should be deleted entirely. If possible, set up a spam filter to recognize and remove comments that appear automatically generated or inauthentic.
3. Use negative reviews to improve and deepen customer relationships.
Honest negative reviews give retailers an opportunity to improve their service or products. When customers take the initiative to voice their dissatisfaction, they are representing others with similar feelings. Retailers that address negative reviews transparently and take action to correct the wrongs brought to their attention will deepen the relationship between brand and customer.
Customers are having a larger impact on your brand perception than ever before. By using the three steps above, retailers can effectively address negative customer reviews and turn them into an opportunity for growth.