Don’t be afraid of bad reviews. More and more consumers are going online and posting reviews, and other consumers are reading these reviews and using them in their purchase decision process. With the growth of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, mylife, Friendster (and the list goes on and on) these reviews are getting shared with larger and larger audiences. According to a recent study, 70% of online consumers consult ratings or reviews before purchasing, and that same percentage say they trust recommendations made by unknown users. That number jumps to 90% when it is a recommendation from someone they know. So online reviews are having an effect on the number of prospects that walk through your front door.
Occasionally when I talk to other businesses about social media and online reputation, one of the first things I hear from them is “how can I get bad reviews taken down?” and this tells me that they are not looking at social media in the proper light. First, in general, bad reviews cannot get taken down. A bad review is not your content – but it belongs to the consumer who posted it and the site that is displaying it. The question a business owner should be asking is not “how do I get bad reviews removed?”, or “how do I prevent people from seeing them?”, but “how can I use these bad reviews to improve my business?”
I look at bad reviews as a tool to improve business from a couple of different angles.
First, a bad review is a sign that I have a hole in my service process. Our goal is to provide excellent customer service to all customers. A bad review is a sign that we are not meeting that goal 100% of the time. I realize that my staff is not perfect, and their may be gaps in our customer service programs where a customer’s experience may not be at the level we want. A bad review highlights these gaps in service so we can fix that and prevent further bad experiences. A bad review can point out an area that may be causing me to lose customers – not just the one who complained, but potentially others who did not complain and simply took their business elsewhere. So I like the idea that consumers are out there willing to share their opinions and experiences – in a joint effort with me to continually improve the level of service we offer. I know that if I take their feedback to heart, and act upon it, the quality of my customer service will continue to improve over time, which means more repeat customers and more referrals.
Another positive aspects of bad reviews is that it provides a business the opportunity to show that customer, and the world, that we care about service, and that we care about them as a customer. If a bad review appeared on my business, I would respond immediately to that consumer to try and rectify the situation. I have rarely seen a situation where a bad customer service experience has gone so wrong it cannot be fixed. Responding to bad reviews allows a business owner to fix that gap in their service quality, and by responding to reviews online, the rest of the world can see that you care as well. I don’t believe consumers in general expect every business to be perfect every time, and I don’t think they are looking for a company that has never had a single bad review. What they are looking for are companies that stand behind their service, and if a bad experience happens, they are not only willing to fix it but eager to fix it.
A final thought about people who post bad reviews. People that post a bad review tend to be the type of people who voice their opinions and share their ideas with a lot of people. While you may view these people as a threat, if you can turn their customer experience around they can be one of your greatest allies, now spreading the word just as vigorously of how you responded to their complaint, and made them happy, and they will tell the whole world.
At the end of the day, it’s not bad reviews that worry me as much as the idea that a consumer may be out there, have a bad customer experience with us, and they don’t share it with me. They take their business elsewhere and I never find out why. Without feedback from customers how can we improve the services we offer them?