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Customers write online reviews to share their experiences, and smart business owners actively solicit as many customer reviews as they can.
We like it when customers have good things to say about our business. However, negative online reviews are a nightmare for many business owners. But they don’t have to be!
A savvy business owner knows that all customer reviews are good reviews—even the negative ones. Here’s why.
You Benefit from Social Proof with Customer Reviews
In our modern world, customers want to know that things work. They don’t trust a business out of hand. Instead, they trust the online reviews real customers have left behind. This is the concept of social proof.
New customers want to know that others have tried and liked your product before they are willing to give it a try themselves. That means you need reviews. The more reviews you have across platforms, especially well-known ones like Yelp, Google, or PissedConsumer.com, the more credibility you have as a vendor, and the more customers will be willing to trust your products.
They Help You Grow Your Online Audience
In many ways, the internet is like high school. Popularity is based on how much people talk about you. So the more chatter there is about you online, the more popular you are with your target audience. Online chatter can happen in many places. We tend to think of social media as the ideal location for conversation, but reviews are just as, if not more, powerful.
You want name recognition, but beyond that you want buyers. When a customer cares enough to leave a review (and almost two-thirds of consumers have left a review for a purchase they enjoyed), they are committing themselves as fans of your business and your brand. When you encourage reviews—even mediocre or negative reviews—you create chatter about your business. Then you can work with the negative online reviews when they appear.
You Can Use Reviews to Interact with Consumers and Amplify Your Brand
According to BrightLocal data, 97 percent of would-be customers read company responses to reviews. Your audience doesn’t just want to see what other customers have to say, they also want to see what you have to say to your customers.
It’s easy to send out a quick thank you to the customer who has said nice things. But what customers are really watching is the actual conversation that can occur with negative online reviews. Nobody likes being the subject of online complaints, but it’s not as bad as you might think.
When a customer posts a question or concern on social media or on a review platform like Yelp or PissedConsumer.com, you have a chance to reply. This is simply the start of a conversation. Give your customer tips and advice. Ask meaningful questions to sort out what the issue might be. And if all else fails, enjoy your public audience for the next step in the process: making it right.
Reviews Give You Opportunities to Demonstrate Exceptional Customer Service
It’s hard to get knocked repeatedly in the eyes of the public. But don’t consider negative customer reviews a public shaming. Think of them as opportunities to showcase your exceptional customer service.
Customers know that no business is perfect. Things go wrong from time to time, and they watch the negative customer reviews closely to see how the company reacts. Don’t drop the ball on this golden opportunity.
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A consumer complains or questions something publicly about your product or service. You reply publicly with ideas or perhaps a link to helpful how-to materials. The customer isn’t doing any better. You then have a chance to publicly state that you stand behind your products and you want to do right by the customer. Ask him to email or call you at a specific number so you can fix it.
If you offer the customer a fair solution—a refund, an updated version, a store credit—then ask them to consider updating the original complaint to show that the issue is resolved. This sends a powerful message to other customers.
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You Can Adjust as Needed Based on Customer Reviews
Complaints aren’t just a chance to demonstrate your responsive and compassionate customer service for a live viewer audience. They are also an excellent source of feedback on the product or service you’re selling.
If you notice a trend of complaints about a particular thing, it should be a red flag. One or two complaints might be a random mistake. Multiple complaints about the same thing is a design flaw. If you are serious about doing business, you can use these complaints as a chance to improve the product or service and try again.
If you update the product or choose to release an improved version, consider contacting the original customers who first complained online. Offer them a chance to sample the revised version in hopes of honest and, hopefully, positive feedback online. Those who left the negative complaints initially may be your best brand ambassadors when they note and praise your improvements publicly.
There are few aspects of running a business that are carefree or that can bear the occasional neglect. Too often, brand marketers will drop the ball on reviews or assume that the good outweighs the bad. Your reviews are your open communication lines to customers. Most customers care more about reviews than they do about advertisements anyhow. So spend your time and energy where it will do the most good—with your customers, on online review platforms.