As we move forward into 2015, we see the trend of the blending of social media and customer service departments. Since so many consumers turn to online review sites and social channels to talk about their experiences, the social media and marketing departments need to integrate with customer service team members to provide the best response and resolutions. Reading different articles and points of views on this subject, you will find differing ideas. One extreme point of view comes from a new review site called Kudusto.com.au, which allows only positive reviews and feedback. Then there is quite the opposite outlook that negative reviews or negative comments are the opportunity to turn the situation around into a positive. Let's explore both of these ideas.
Do Negative Reviews Cause Irreparable Damage?
The found of Kudusto.com.au, Paul Ryan, explains that negative reviews only hurt small businesses, in fact he says that "negative online reviews cripple small business" and that they don't solve any issues either. His positive only review site is positioned to help point out what businesses are doing right, rather than highlighting only what they do wrong. He especially wants to help small businesses and start-ups. He cites statistics like 15% of more than 1200 surveyed claim they would not visit a business if there is even one single negative review, even if there are many other positive reviews. One might argue that is a small 15% of consumers that seem to be irrational. However, there is no denying the weight that online reviews carry. Ryan also quotes other surveys that show one in five consumers age 18 - 44 prefer to complain to a business on social media or on an online review site because they enjoy the anonymity or want to avoid a direct confrontation. Other studies have shown that consumers take the word of online reviews even if they do not know the person doing the review, it still acts like word of mouth marketing does. Ryan tells MarketingMag.com.au, "Small business is the crux of the economy and the largest employer of Australians. 80% of Australian businesses employ less than four staff and a high percentage turn over less than $200,000 a year, so the potential to lose three out of every 20 customers at the mercy of one person's opinion is tough to swallow." Instead of allowing consumers to post negative reviews or complaints online, instead consumers should have to deal directly with the business rather than post them online, and especially not anonymously.
Resolving Consumer Complaints through Social Media Customer Service
Other professionals have quite the opposite view about negative online reviews or complaints and say that you can take the opportunity to turn the negative into a positive by showing that you care to fix the problem by responding with excellent customer service. Sure, having positive only online reviews would be a dream for all businesses, and especially small businesses; however, that is a bit of a fantasy world. Consumers have learned that they can complain online and get results, so it is up to businesses to learn how to respond to negative comments and complaints and delivery customer service through social channels. Tim Handorf from G2 Crowd wrote an article for TechCrunch telling businesses to "Stop Being Afraid of Negative Reviews." In his article, Handorf lists three ways that negative reviews can have a positive impact or benefit a business in some way.
- Negative reviews help if you're relatively unknown. Because negative reviews can be more popular than positive reviews, if the business, or in the case of the study cited, an author that is less known can benefit from the exposure of negative reviews.
- Polite language can give a negative review a positive impact. In a strange twist of events, research has uncovered that certain phrases and language in negative reviews can have a drastically different effect on the reader's perception. The important thing to remember here is that the tone of the conversation on a review site makes all the difference. More nasty or negative comments will have a worse impact than professional and polite explanation of the problem. Therefore, when responding to reviews on complaints, professionalism and positive language is very important.
- Bad reviews have other benefits. A company called Revoo conducted a survey in 2013 that revealed that 95% of customers became suspicious of companies that only have positive reviews. The possibility of made up or censored reviews is very strong. The same study showed that 68% of consumers trusted companies that had both good and bad reviews. The topic is still very new and more facts are being uncovered on a regular basis now. However, there are overwhelming statistics and differing reasons why negative reviews can be a positive. Here are just a few more reasons why bad reviews can have positive effects:
- Negative reviews can grab readers' attention and then they will discover the more positive and good things about your company.
- Negative reviews or complaints can give your company the opportunity to show that you care about your customers and fix problems.
- Negative reviews can alert you to problems that need to be fixed such as a poorly trained employee, if all staff needs more training, or if a product or service is not working for customers in the manner you intended.
- Negative product reviews can lead customers to purchase other products and be happier in the long run.
Summary and Takeaways for Your Business
Any way you look at it, online consumer reviews and complaints posted on social media are not going away. Unfortunately for small businesses, there is no way to regulate comments and keep complaints off of review sites or social media channels. There is also no denying that both positive and negative reviews influence buying decisions. What your company has to do is embrace the idea that your customers are going to post about their experience with you online. Aim to deliver the highest level of customer service; but understand at the same time that you can't please everyone all the time. Be prepared for responding to negative online reviews and complaints on social media. Train your staff and monitor your name, keywords, brand, and social channels at all times. The sooner you can be alerted to comments about your company online, the sooner you can address and fix the problem.