Online customer feedback: Part 2 – dealing with negative comments

negative customer feedbackCustomer reviews, both positive and negative, can be of real value to your business. They can help grow sales and enable you to better understand your customers. In part one we looked at the importance of embracing online customer feedback and part 2 we examine how best to deal with negative comments.

A mix of positive and negative reviews can help improve consumer trust in your business so don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Essentially it’s all about how you deal with comments – the ultimate aim being to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one. Remember negative feedback has its place:

The benefits of negative feedback

It is important you understand how negative feedback  can actually be beneficial to your business – that way you are better equipped to handle complaints, poor reviews and hostile comments.

Provides a balance. Negative reviews help balance out positive reviews. Indeed as we can see from the research above consumers are more likely to trust reviews when they see both positive and negative comments. Overwhelming positive reviews can actually make consumers question their validity. Of course, it’s about getting the correct balance – clearly a lot of negative reviews is not going to work in your favour either! By balance I mean for example, if you had 15 positive reviews and one or two negative reviews that users can see you have quickly and efficiently dealt with, then you are probably striking a happy balance.

Constructive criticism. Genuine negative feedback can offer you real insight into your products and services. So instead of automatically going on the defensive and dismissing any negative feedback, rather take on board what your customers have to say. After all these are your end users and they may be providing you with valuable insight and information into how you can better improve your product or service.

Educates customers. By responding to some comments, you can actually educate other customers. For example supposing a customer comments that they are having difficulty using a particular element of a product, your answer can guide the customer through the process and point them to where they can find help on your website such as your FAQ page. This information is then there to help other customers who may experience the same issue. You have successfully dealt with the negative comment and educated other customers at the same time.

Feedback on areas outside your immediate control (eg. external suppliers). As a small business owner you may well be reliant on third-party contractors to fulfil certain elements of your business. Feedback from customers about an area which you may have outsourced to a third-party – for example packaging or delivery –  can help keep you in the loop about the service your contractor is providing on your behalf. Too many negative comments may mean you need to investigate the situation with your supplier, after-all it reflects on your business.

Introduce best practice guidelines

Before looking at how to deal with genuine  negative feedback, we should mention those comments that you will need to take a different approach. For example any feedback that is offensive, derogatory or submitted by internet trolls are not genuine comments and you should not be engaging with them. Simply remove them from your website as soon as possible. It is a good idea to put in place some guidelines or rules of engagement that visitors  wishing to engage online must adhere to or risk being removed. For example:

  • No swearing or profanities
  • No personal attacks, bullying behaviour  or derogatory comments
  • No explicit photos or images

Take a look at other businesses forum guidelines and it will help you put together a best practice list for your own site. For example Google’s Product Forum’s posting guidelines will give you a good starting point.

How to deal with genuine negative comments

So, how can you best deal with genuine negative feedback from customers? What is the best approach to take?

Don’t ignore them. You need to deal with negative comments as soon as possible – ignoring them can just make things worse. As we mentioned above, if comments are in breach of the guidelines you have laid out you will need to remove them. If not you need to respond as soon as possible. A quick response shows that you care about your customers opinions and will ensure that the issue is nipped in the bud and doesn’t snowball into something bigger.

Be transparent. If it is your fault (or the fault of a third-party contractor) and you have genuinely made a mistake then don’t try to hide it and don’t be afraid of saying sorry. For example something along the lines of ‘ We are very sorry that on this occasion you didn’t get the service you expect from us, we would like to rectify the situation by…..’. can work well. Also, offering a replacement, a voucher or some other incentive by way of an apology for any inconvenience caused can also be constructive.

Look at things from your customer’s perspective. Try to remember that most of the feedback you get from customers will be genuine. The majority of your customers will simply want you to listen, take their comment seriously and provide a solution to whatever the issue may be. So before you reel off your response without really thinking just take a moment to consider the situation from your customer’s point of view and try to emphasise with how they may feel. Just because something isn’t a big deal to you, it may well be a big deal to your customer. By trying to understand this you are more likely to respond appropriately.

Remain professional, polite and pleasant.  It’s not always easy to remain calm when someone is having a go at you or your business – especially when you feel that their comments are unfair. Remember when people are frustrated they can be emotional and write things in the heat of the moment, you must however not respond in the same defensive manner. At all times respond professionally, politely and pleasantly even if you are arguing a point or disagreeing with the comment. This way the argument will be less likely to escalate, your customer is more likely to calm down and your professional manner will reflect well with other customers who may be viewing the exchange.  And if you do remain professional throughout and follow through with a solution, then your customer is more likely to return, not spread negative feedback any further and even convert into a loyal long-term customer.

Finally, just think about what you as a business can take away from each complaint. What can you learn from it and what may you need to change in order to prevent more negative feedback on a particular issue.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post so please do leave a comment.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How customer reviews can help grow your online business

Part 1 : Embracing customer feedback

word of mouth marketingWord of mouth has always been one of the most successful ways of promoting a product or service. People trust the personal recommendations of friends and family above even the most innovative sales techniques or advertising . But where once word of mouth was primarily the domain of local businesses and limited to personal recommendations from friends and family, the internet has seen word of mouth marketing explode. In recent years we have seen a massive boom in customers sharing their opinions on products and services via specific review sites, digital media, social media networks, discussion forums,  blogs and online retail sites.

“The most influential element driving purchase decisions today is word of mouth.” Word of Mouth Marketing Association

The rise of word of mouth has also seen a change in the traditional purchase journey, having a direct impact on consumers decision-making process. Never before have consumers had so much product and service information at their fingertips. Nowadays, very rarely would I purchase a new item without first checking out online product reviews or would I book an unknown hotel without having a quick peek at a site like Trip Advisor. Online reviews and customer feedback are an integral  part of word of mouth marketing as a way for people to recommend products and share their opinion with others.

In part 1 we look at the benefits customer feedback can bring your business and how to encourage it. And in part 2 we will examine how best to manage negative customer feedback.

The benefits customer reviews can bring your business

As a key part of a customers decision-making process, we take a look at the many benefits positive customer feedback can bring your business.

  • Help drive sales: Since so many customers now look at reviews prior to making a purchase positive feedback can help drive your sales. For example, supposing a customer was deciding between purchasing a product from you or a similar product from one of your competitors (all other variables being equal), if your product had no customer reviews and your competitors had positive customer reviews, the likelihood is your competitor is more likely to make the sale.
  • Improve conversion rates:  Customer reviews are a great way to win over wavering purchasers. They can address and remove any  lingering doubt a prospective customer may have over making the final purchasing decision. For example suppose I was wavering over whether to buy a particular dress as I had concerns about how the garment would stand up to washing. A customer review stating that they had found the garment kept its shape well after washing is going to help remove any remaining doubt I have and mean a higher probability of an actual sale. 
  • Improve brand trust and credibility: Online businesses who embrace customer feedback are more likely to benefit from improved consumer trust in their product or service. It helps enforce brand credibility by conveying to customers you are confident in the quality of your products and service, you value your customers opinions and are a transparent and trustworthy business.
  • Additional sales tool. Positive customer reviews can work for you as an additional sales tool. You will find many customer reviews outline the different features and benefits of a particular product or service – helping you reinforce your sales message to prospective customers.
  • Build customer relationships. Providing the opportunity for customers to engage with you by being able to provide feedback on your products and services, shows your customers you that you value them – their opinion matters to you.
  • Research tool. Customer reviews are a great, qualitative method of getting some feedback from customers as to what products are working well and what could be improved. For example if a number of customers are highlighting a similar issue with a product then you know it is something you probably need to investigate. Remember we can all learn from a bit of  constructive criticism.
  • Helps SEO. Including customer reviews on your site is an additional way of adding fresh relevant content to your website helping with Search Engine Optimisation.

customer feedback7 ways to encourage your customers to give feedback

So how can you encourage feedback from your customers? Obviously the best way to ensure positive reviews is to offer a great product, exemplary service and all round excellent customer experience. However there are also a few ways that you can help things along and prompt customers to feedback.

  1. Have product reviews visible on your website (both positive and negative).  Customer reviews should be somewhere visible on your website. And make sure you have a balance of positive and negative reviews. Overwhelming positive reviews can look a bit contrived and less believable.
  2. Ask for it. Don’t be afraid to contact customers who have recently purchased a product to solicit feedback. Customers who have just received a product or service are usually more willing to take time out to write a review.  A simple email a week or so after customers have received your product expressing that you hope they are enjoying their new purchase and asking for some feedback work well and show customers you care.
  3. Make it simple to submit a review. Make it as easy as possible for a customer to submit a review. If the process is complicated and they have to swing through hoops – customers simply won’t do it. If you have a review page then make sure the link is clearly visible and use it in email correspondence.
  4. Respond to comments . Show customers that you appreciate them leaving a comment by replying to them. This applies to both positive and negative comments (we’ll  examine the best way to respond to negative comments in part 2 of this bog). If someone has taken time out of their day to offer feedback on a product or service, comment on Facebook or read and remark on a blog post, then try your best to respond. It shows you value what they have to say and increases the likelihood that they will engage with your business again.
  5. Offer an incentive.  You do need to walk a careful line here and not over incentivise . What you don’t want is people sending in product reviews just to receive an incentive as these reviews are more likely to appear insincere. However entry into a monthly free prize draw can work well. Or,  you could send an incentive after they have submitted a review as way of a thank you. This way you know the reviewer hasn’t been influenced by the incentive alone .  
  6. Interact on your social media sites. Try to create an environment where your customers see a face behind the business. Remember people like to deal with people. So interacting on social networks, writing blogs and so on can convey  a business that is interested in engaging with their customers which in turn makes customers more likely to respond.
  7. Exploit customer feedback to its full potential. When you think about it you’ll realise that you can actually receive customer feedback in a number of different ways – not just through customer reviews. You may have some feedback during a telephone conversation with a customer or in an email exchange. Some of these me of these off the cuff remarks can make excellent testimonials that you can use on your website (just make sure you ask them for permission).

Customer feedback in the form of reviews, questionnaires testimonials, ‘likes’ and ‘sharing’ can all have a positive impact on your business. So finding ways to encourage customers to converse with you makes sense. In part 2 of this blog we will be looking at how to manage negative feedback.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment.

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