Opinions

Negative Customer Reviews Are Not The End Of The World

The Apprentice's Elizabeth McKenna should learn to embrace her negative reviews.

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The Apprentice's Elizabeth McKenna should learn to embrace her negative reviews.

Opinions

Negative Customer Reviews Are Not The End Of The World

The Apprentice's Elizabeth McKenna should learn to embrace her negative reviews.

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Customers are increasingly vocal about the quality and service of brands they use and won’t hesitate to use social media, especially to vent their dissatisfaction. This caught Apprentice candidate Elizabeth McKenna out in the show’s penultimate episode, when she was grilled by Mike Soutar about some of the very negative online reviews her florist’s business had received.

Having such a strong personality, she’s bound to be making a big impact with clients and although the vast majority of comments left were very positive, having a handful of less favourable reviews is inevitable – just as it is for any business. That doesn’t make them any more palatable though.

Soutar read out some of the comments from one of McKenna’s customers, who had said they “had the unfortunate experience of speaking to Elizabeth, who was angry and shouting”. Another had declared, “avoid her like the plague”.

In one review, a customer even told a story of how her business had delivered funeral flowers too late for the service and that she had tried to appease the situation by offering a complementary bouquet. It’s hard to know what the best thing to do is in these situations.

At a time when well over 500 new start-ups are being launched each day in the UK, finding ways to differentiate and grow a small business brand is more important than ever. User generated content in the form of customer endorsements and online reviews are a powerful way to achieve this and verify claims made about a product or service.

The simple fact is that reviews help consumers decide whether they should purchase a particular product or service. Online, they are a modern-day equivalent of the ‘word of mouth’ our parents would have relied on a mere 10 or 15 years ago to filter out the best potential suppliers.

According to independent research conducted by e-commerce specialists 3DCart, 71% of consumers said that customer reviews made them more comfortable about buying a product and 82% of consumers reported that reading past customer reviews made the buying decision easier.

Apart from the practicalities of reviews offering the online equivalent of word of mouth, their rise in importance, together with other forms of UGC, is closely linked to a wider social trend, which is best described as a general ‘crisis of trust’.

According to the Trust Barometer research published annually by Edelman, trust in business has reached an all-time low. We are living in an era characterised by mistrust and consumers have become very cynical.

They now have to distinguish between real and fake news, influencers with an agenda and fake endorsements from celebrities, some of whom receive huge sums in return for endorsing brands. In response, consumers are placing their trust in their peers and fellow consumers - people just like them - who are sharing photos, tips and free advice online. Hence the power of UGC, which is perceived as agenda free and authentic.

A bad or negative review will happen for every business at some stage, they are a part and parcel of business life today. It is a consumer’s right to leave feedback and most people understand that a business will have the odd bad review.

It’s normal, the laws of human nature dictate that you simply cannot please everyone. Clearly, negative reviews will impact a buyer’s decision making, but there are positive and negative aspects to consider.

Firstly, by having been actively collecting reviews, the chances are you will have a larger proportion of positive reviews already, so when something negative occurs, it simply gets diluted in among the good ones. That’s good planning.

When a bad review happens, that’s when the panic sets in for business owners, but they should instead bear in mind why reviews are important in the first place, to help develop trust and demonstrate transparency. Although no one wants negative reviews, displaying them openly does demonstrate transparency.

Rather than try to conceal lower-rated reviews, it’s far better to acknowledge them and be seen to be responding appropriately. Consumer research has shown that customers are more likely to trust brands and businesses that aren’t afraid to be transparent.

Rather than viewing poor reviews negatively, as a threat to potential sales, see them as an opportunity. A customer has shared some information about your products or services and given you a chance to learn about important issues and make improvements.

Consider the alternative – they could have gone away dissatisfied and not said anything. Not only would you have lost a customer, you wouldn’t know the reasons why and be in a position to address any problems.

From a potential consumer’s perspective, when they encounter negative reviews, they will be more interested in how you as a supplier dealt with the problem.

As much as a positive review is reassuring, it’s equally important to know that a brand is listening and that when problems occur, they are handled professionally and openly. This all adds to the authenticity of a brand and an important part of building trust.

About the author

Gavin Mullins is the CEO of Eooro.com and an expert in helping companies to benefit from user generated content (UGC).

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Negative Customer Reviews Are Not The End Of The World

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