The online customer review, both valuable and brutal, is here to stay. It offers transparency for potential customers to get a user-based sense of a product. It offers honesty and peace of mind when a product is purchased online. However, it leaves businesses vulnerable to the scrutiny of every buyer, whether reasonable, unreasonable, pleasant or acerbic.
10+ years in business has taught me many lessons along the way, with the most valuable often in the area of customer service. Whether you have a business online or on the street, your product or service is not immune to customer online reviews. This part of your business, especially in the early, learning stages, can feel like the most frightening part of your work as you stand at the mercy of your customers. However, by seeing a review for just what it is, using feedback to better your business, and learning how to effectively navigate a negative review, what you once feared could soon be your biggest ally.
Recognize a Review for its Purpose
A review is just that--someone stating their opinion of your product. In its most organic form, it offers honesty and accuracy from the viewpoint of the customer. To put the review in its proper perspective, it’s critical that every business owner faces reviews head-on to know them for what they are, and how to treat them:
• Reviews highlight your best assets, letting you know just what you do right.
• Reviews expose your weakest areas that need improvement.
• Reviews offer publicity, both positive and negative.
• Reviews should always be treated with importance and respect.
• Reviews are collections of people’s opinions, and while treated with care, should also be recognized as such.
Listen to Review Feedback to Improve Your Business
Although the customer review is initially so prevalent for the benefit of the customer, it also benefits the business. What people post can help you make your product great. When you get lots of positive reviews about your service, everyone out there looking for your service finds you and sees all those rave posts. The many positive reviews also help you find out exactly what you’re doing right. You may be thinking your lavender ice cream is the best thing on the planet, but if all your customers boast about your salted chile caramel, you may want to consider adjusting next week’s production. Further, you can use this information to know what to promote and when.
Just as much as positive feedback helps your business, negative feedback, while seemingly the bane of your business, is a blessing in disguise. No one enjoys getting negative feedback, especially when it’s posted all over the internet, but negative feedback helps you in two ways. It first exposes an area of concern, whether that be with one transaction, or with a major flaw in your product. It also offers you the opportunity to turn around an unhappy customer, before your whole reputation is ruined.
Appreciate and Overcome Negative Reviews to Boost Your Business
In the face of negative feedback, first, appreciate the situation for its value. Be grateful that your reviewer left you a horrible, scathing review online, for you to publicly acknowledge, fix and recover from the offense. Had the reviewer simply trashed your business to all of their friends, you’d have no way to turn the situation around and salvage your reputation. If ever faced with negative feedback, you can take steps to turn it around, help out the customer, rescue your reputation, and maybe even win back the customer with your dedication to their satisfaction.
• Communicate genuinely and calmly, and avoid dismissive, defensive or hostile tones. Let them know you care, and want to do your best to make it right.
• Fix what’s broken. If you can offer a return, a replacement, or something to restore their faith in your business, then do it.
• Do your best. Strive to offer them the best service on the second go-around that you can. Your best is all you can offer.
When facing reviews and the subject of feedback for your business, your most useful approach is to handle feedback boldly. Welcome reviews. Ask customers for their input. View every post you get as one more bit of helpful information to make your business great. If you honor every review, and use the information constructively, your reputation for being an honest, forthright and needs-based business will be your shining reputation in the end.
Author Bio: Rick Kreiger is president and owner of Leather Furniture USA, an online M2C leather furniture retailer. Having been in business for 10+ years, he has seen firsthand the power that customer reviews have on his business.