negative review what to do

Advice relating to online reviews is regularly focused on how to gain good feedback through excellent customer service. Seldom discussed however is what actions a business should take in the event of a bad review appearing online. Sometimes unavoidable, bad reviews can prove highly damaging for companies and with mobility retailers being the ones to work directly with end-users, it is the retail sector that frequently feels the wrath of a disgruntled customer, regardless of whether the review is warranted or not.

As the saying goes, “you can’t please all the people, all the time,” however, when fifteenth-century poet John Lydgate made the comment, he did not have to contend with the internet and a plethora of review sites giving every dissatisfied customer a platform.

The growth of customer review platforms has meant that it has never been more important for companies to always be on their A-game. Regardless of how impeccable a retailer’s customer service is however, there is always the chance that a customer may feel that the service received did not meet their expectations.

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Occasionally it is impossible to avoid a grievance, be it an issue with a product, a refund, a warranty or any other number of scenarios that can lead a customer to hit the caps-button and take to sites such as Google Review, Facebook, Trustpilot and Tripadvisor to voice their displeasure.

Speaking with mobility retailers in the industry, stories of delays to repairs caused by difficulty obtaining spare parts from suppliers, product quality issues and disputes over refunds have all resulted in bad reviews appearing, regardless of who was in the wrong.

“It’s never easy to read negative customer reviews as some can be quite harsh. As business owners, it can feel personal, like we did something intentionally wrong.” Ray Vernon

Worse still, these highly visible reviews can be pernicious and, in a competitive market where trust is crucial, damage both a retailer’s reputation and bottom-line.

Not to understate the power of online reviews, it is safe to safe to say it is big business. According to the Competition and Markets Authority, it is estimated that online reviews potentially influence a staggering £23bn of UK customer spending every year, encouraging and dissuading consumers from buying from a company.

It may be impossible to stop bad reviews from ever appearing online, however, retailers have the power to control what to do when a review does appear in order to mitigate the fallout and potentially turn a negative into a positive.

Keep an eye out

In order to address a negative review online, businesses need to be aware that the review exists. This means allocating time regularly to monitor review sites and social media to ensure there are no embers smouldering away that could potentially turn into a full-blown forest fire.

The sooner a negative review is identified and addressed, the sooner a company can take action to ensure the impact is minimised.

Manage emotions

Given the nature of the mobility and healthcare industry and the role these products play in the lives of end-users, there is often a lot of emotion tied up in the purchase of these products.

Equally, for business owners whose companies are the result of endless months and years of sweat, tears and hard work, it can be hard not to feel hurt and emotionally charged when a negative review appears online, particularly if they feel that their business has been treated unfairly.

“The best way for a business to evolve is by listening to the customer and adapting.” Mandy Burns

With experience advising clients on what to do when a negative review reared its head whilst working in his marketing agency before establishing the online mobility marketplace Mysokoni, Ray Vernon notes the importance of putting yourself in the customers’ shoes.

“It’s never easy to read negative customer reviews as some can be quite harsh. As business owners, it can feel personal, like we did something intentionally wrong. Fact is, things go wrong, complaints and bad reviews are a part of business today but it is also an opportunity to learn,” says Ray.

“It helps to look at things from the customer’s point of view. They’ve done their research, trusted your company’s product/service, made the purchase with their hard-earned money and now, something has gone wrong. They are disappointed and upset because they’ve been inconvenienced and let down. However, this is not about you, it is about them and it does present an opportunity to turn a disgruntled customer into an advocate.”

negative review reaction angry computer
Reviews, particularly where the company may feel it has been treated unfairly, can lead to anger but refraining from a knee-jerk response is important states Ray

Ray advises retailers to read the review from the customer’s perspective and think carefully before responding.

“First, read the review properly and as hard as it may be, do not react emotionally” he suggests.

“People have better things to do than provide a negative review without a reason. Now is the time to empathise with them, to understand what has gone wrong.”

Echoing Rays’ sentiments, Kieron Macfarlane, Head of Retail at Mobility Solutions, explains how mobility retailer with showrooms in Glasgow and Clyde Valley approach negative reviews.

“We aim at all times to handle any customer feedback whether positive or negative with honesty, integrity and compassion,” he says.

“We believe it’s vital when dealing with an unsatisfied customer to allow them to air their frustrations fully initially – this allows the customer to feel heard and allows us to get a full picture of the situation and hopefully how it has arisen.”

A knee-jerk reaction simply refuting and countering each point made by the reviewer may feel justified at the time, however, there is the risk of it showing the company to be argumentative and belligerent – two traits no mobility retailer wants to be associated with.

Showcase your skills

As damaging as a negative review can be to a company’s reputation, a bad review also presents businesses with a unique opportunity to showcase its customer service skills to potential readers.

“Customers can smell an automated “we’re sorry” message from a mile away” Alexandra Lomas

To do this, it is important to respond quickly and show a willingness to solve the problem to ensure customer satisfaction, states Ray.

“Diffuse the situation by acknowledging their complaint and apologise. This is especially important online, where potential customers can see it,” he recommends.

“The Nottingham School of Economics found that 45 percent of customers withdrew their negative evaluation of a company in light of an apology, whereas only 23 percent of customers withdrew their negative evaluation in return for compensation.”

This gives a company a chance to show would-be customers exactly how it works to rectify problems for customers, backing up any claims of offering exceptional customer service, stresses Ray.

“Provide a timely resolution to the problem. Your goal should be to genuinely make the customer happy. If the platform they used for the review enables you to reply online, then do so,” continues Ray.

“Let the public see that you are interested in helping customers solve problems. Even if you do not know who the customer is, acknowledging that something has gone wrong and you apologise for the inconvenience but asked them to get in touch so you can help them will go a long way in reducing any brand damage.”

Ideally, companies should respond publicly to a negative review and then move communications away from the review platform, where it can be addressed directly between the company and the reviewer.

Have a process in place

Having a process in place to handle negative reviews can help to prevent the risk of a knee-jerk response and ensure consistency of best practice across the company.

Speaking with Mobility Solutions’ Head of Retail Kieron, he outlines the retailer’s process when a complaint appears online.

“It’s important for us to identify wherever possible what the root cause of every issue is so that moving forward, we can put in preventive measures to minimise any future customer frustrations,” he emphasises.

“All aspects of the process are noted on our CRM system to further aid the process; this means any member of staff can quickly bring themselves up to speed on the complaint – reducing the resolution time and meaning the customer never has to repeat themselves to us.

“We also believe in feeding back to the customer in an appropriate way where things have gone wrong, allowing us to be fully transparent – we believe in treating customers the way we ourselves would like to be treated and if that means admitting to our own mistakes, we will.”

mobility solutions reviews marketing
Embracing online reviews, Mobility Solutions actively encourages all of its customers to go online and let the retailer know how it did

When creating a process of how to deal with bad reviews, NRS Healthcare’s Customer Engagement Manager Alexendra Lomas points out the importance of having genuine interactions.

“Customers can smell an automated “we’re sorry” message from a mile away,” she warns,” so it’s really important you address each bad review on an individual basis to ensure your customer feels like their comments are being taken seriously.”

Turn a negative into a positive

Mentioning previously the opportunity to turn to a disgruntled customer into a brand advocate, Ray recounts how one company managed to turn an online frown upside down.

“A company I know has a very active Facebook page with thousands of followers. This has worked really well for them, each time they promoted a product it resulted in sales,” he says.

“One day, just before an upcoming sale, a customer launched a barrage of complaints about how terrible the product they purchased was and no one should buy from the company again.”

According to Ray, the owner of the business was upset but responded with an apology and asked the complainant to contact the office to see what could be done to fix the situation.

“Turns out it was a customer error as they had purchased the wrong product,” continues Ray.

“The owner offered to replace the product and expedite the correct one to the customer for next day AM delivery, free-of-charge. The following day, the customer left a message of thanks on Facebook and highly recommended both the company and the products. That same customer remained an advocate for months and in the end, requested to become a reseller.”

Learn from mistakes

Alongside the opportunity to put customer service into action in a public forum, negative reviews also enable companies to learn and change elements of its offering to prevent the situation from happening again.

In this respect, negative feedback can be as valuable as positive feedback.

what to do with negative review spend time
As more shopping goes digital, staying up-to-date with what consumers are saying about a company will become more even-more important for business owners

A move that some retailers might consider brave, Mandy Burns, Brand Manager for Mobility Solutions, details how the company has incorporated both good and bad reviews into its overall marketing approach to help it continuously improve its operations.

“We actively promote customer feedback both negative and positive – the best way for a business to evolve is by listening to the customer and adapting,” she elaborates.

“We have recently developed a suite of marketing materials in which the call to action is very simply asking customers to tell us how we did! This message features on customer receipts from in-store purchases and packing slips in online orders. Since the implementation of the new suite of marketing communications reviews on Google has tripled in monthly frequency.”

By encouraging customers to share their experiences, Mobility Solutions is able to gain invaluable customer insights and perfect its offering, inevitably leading to a far greater number of good than bad reviews as it continues to learn and improve.

Do not fake it until you make it

Unsurprisingly, the majority of review platforms are not eager to give hard numbers for the number of reviews they believe to be fake and with many sites not having a moderation system in place in order to post, fake reviews are considered to be a pervasive and growing problem.

Many businesses claim they have been the victim of a fraudulent review left by people that are not customers to tarnish reputations.

Conversely, some companies have also been suspected of purchasing fake positive reviews to improve review scores and ratings, alongside using fake positive reviews to hide negative reviews – estate agency firms Purplebricks and Foxtons were accused of employing the practice earlier in 2019 but denied any involvement.

The unscrupulous practice is one that can have a number of consequences, including action taken by review platforms such as Google, which relegates guilty companies’ search engine rankings into the abyss.

Moreover, speaking with Sarah Lepak, Director of Governance & Policy for the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA), she highlighted that companies that use fake reviews not only contravene the Association’s Code of Practice but are also breaking the law.

Trading practices in the UK are covered under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPURs). Under this legislation, a trader is committing an offence if they “engage in a commercial practise which is a misleading action” which causes the average consumer to buy something they would not have otherwise.

“The CPURs applies to members in the context of the Code of Practice, which requires members to comply with pertinent legislation and specifically mentions the CPURs in the context of advertising and marketing, and also point of sale information,” explains Sarah.

“The question with fake reviews is whether they have the effect of misleading customers into making a transactional decision that they would not otherwise have made.  I would argue that they certainly do have that effect.

“If a company overtly places an advertisement, it is expected to justify any claims it makes but with a fake review there is no justification of any claims or statements made, as well as absolutely no transparency; it would definitely fall foul of the requirement in the Code of Practice to use ethical selling techniques.”

In addition, fake reviews purchased for platforms such as Google are usually easy to spot, often not bearing specific relevance to the company or inconsistencies with locations. For savvy consumers that do identify fake positive reviews, the damage to a company’s reputation can be far deeper and longer-lasting than an authentic negative review that has been addressed properly.

Prevention is better than cure

As is so often the way, prevention is always better than the cure, particularly in the case of online reviews and if a retailer is finding it is spending more time dealing with negative reviews than on other areas of the business, it would suggest that there may be a more inherent customer service issue that needs to be addressed.

As the retail landscape continues to see digital grow ever-more important, fuelled by the more digitally au fait children of many end-users turning online to purchase products for elderly parents, the need to be prepared to react in the right way to negative reviews online has never been so important.

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