Negative Online Reviews: How to Find, Respond and Learn from Them

Thursday - 2 January 2014

Both good and bad reviews have a direct impact on sales and a business’s reputation. Courtesy of Moondustwriter

It’s no secret that online reviews can define a business’s reputation. Online reviews also can directly impact sales: a one-star increase in Yelp restaurant reviews can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue, according to a Harvard Business School study.

But it takes more than awareness and concern to tackle the online review ecosystem, TJ McCue points out in How to Get More Positive Reviews.

The first step to a strong online reputation: excellent customer service.

Customers who experience remarkable service will tell their friends and family about your business. Such word-of-mouth has the most significant impact among customer because customers trust recommendations from people they know more than any type of advertisement or review.

Rather than (awkwardly) asking customers to give you a positive review, McCue suggests PR managers issue surveys that ask about their experience with products/services. Brands can then use this feedback to improve their customer service operations. Companies can also publish positive feedback or encourage those customers to publish their comments on review sites.

Companies and brands can also use media monitoring services to track news articles, social media conversations, YouTube videos, and, if necessary, TV and radio news. Media monitoring results can provide key insight on market intelligence, product use, customer sentiment and other issues. Different tools provide different services, but integrated monitoring services like CyberAlert can provide all-in-one packages for a lower price.

McCue reminds brands to expect negative reviews. No brand can satisfy all its customers. Even brand giants receive bad buzz — McDonald’s is a highly polarizing brand, with 33 percent positive sentiment and 29 percent negative.

When a brand receives a negative review, its online reputation managers should first try to identify the customer and attempt to make things right, McCue asserts. Too many businesses — small businesses, especially — make the mistake of defending themselves and refusing to acknowledge their mistake.

Before you can respond to a review, it’s instructive to determine who you’re responding to, Mack Collier explains in Your Field Guide to What It Means When Someone Complains about Your Brand Online.

Collier lists three distinct types of online complainers. The type of response issued by PR managers depends on the type of complainer.

Angry customers. The most common source of complaints, angry customers usually involve a very specific issue, and nothing else. It may include larger statements about how the issue reflects poorly on your brand, but Collier believes it’s usually to call attention to their complaint and secure a fix for the problem.

How to respond: resolve the specific issue ASAP. Try to move the exchange offline so you can get specific information from the customer.

Passionate fans. Devoted customers often reach out to their favorite brands regarding their bad experiences with recent products or events. In an academic study, David Streitfield found customers use review sites to vent about their dissatisfaction with a brand. An example of this phenomenon occurred when Harley Davidson released a perfume, and the prissy image of perfume agitated its more “hardcore” Harley customer base.

How to respond: Communicate that you are taking the feedback seriously and will forward their recommendations to the decision-makers. Ask the fan if they’d be interested in offering further feedback.

Trolls. Trolls attack the brand in vague terms, often to call out larger-picture issues and causes they don’t agree with — such as a brand’s support of a political candidate. Their motive is to spark a response from the brand.

How to respond: Don’t. As Collier explains, if someone is trolling a brand’s website with vague, unwarranted attacks, Site managers have the right to delete the comment.

Key takeaway: it’s impossible to stop negative reviews altogether, but brands have services and tools at their disposal to find, respond to and learn from customers.

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