While January may be a quiet time for many of us, as we rest and recoup following Christmas, it’s one of the most important times of the year for retailers. With a combination of Christmas sales and consumers returning unwanted gifts, there is often a huge amount of stock coming in and out of the door. So, while retailers up and down the country work hard to make the shopping experience as smooth as possible, it’s inevitable that mistakes may happen. And when they do, consumers have never been quicker to go online and voice their frustrations in the form of negative reviews.
This, understandably, causes great concern amongst retailers as reviews form such a crucial part of a consumer’s buying cycle. For example, our own research indicates that 61 per cent of consumers check reviews before making a purchase online, meaning it’s never been more important for retailers to ensure they’re dealing with negative reviews appropriately.
Our research also shows that the top three customer service frustrations, which often lead to negative reviews, include being passed around different colleagues or being put on hold, rude or defensive staff, and a lack of staff knowledge. To bring this to life, and make it easier for retailers to recognise where they’re going wrong, we recently created Café Zero to highlight consumers’ frustrations with businesses’ poor customer service. Café Zero humorously demonstrates bad customer service (you can download the video here: https://we.tl/j1pOuZImXi).
Negative customer reviews must play an important role in helping your business to remedy customer frustrations, such as the ones highlighted in the Café Zero video. If your business receives a negative review, a simple first step is to acknowledge the complaint by responding to it. Our own data shows that 84 per cent of shoppers said they would use a retailer again if they responded to a negative review by addressing their concerns. While a further 70 per cent also said retailers could win them back with the offer of a refund, discount or freebie.
So, while consumers can sometimes be easily frustrated and will often go online to voice their opinions, our evidence indicates that these complaints can be easily remedied and their trust regained. Here are my five top tips to do just that:
Understand the value of criticism and deal with it well
It can be difficult to read criticism of your brand, product or service online, but it’s important to understand that criticism has its place and to accept it. Use it as an opportunity to highlight your responsiveness and commitment to customer service.
Use criticism to recognise the signs of a problem in advance
Online criticism can play a crucial role in helping retailers to deal with problems before they get out of control. By remaining vigilant and closely monitoring complaints for themes or recurring issues, it could help solve problems before they arise.
Don’t act as though mistakes aren’t happening
Nothing leaves a bad taste like a cover up and customers are often quick to spot them. It’s important to own up to, and maintain a positive attitude, about mistakes when they’ve been made. Being open and honest comes across very well while snatching victory from the jaws of defeat shows you’re a determined business.
Use criticism to improve product and service development
Feedback, even if critical, should form a key part of the development of your business. If customers are continually complaining about a specific issue with one of your products, it’s highly likely that it needs to be changed. Harness the power of free consumer insight and use it to better your business.
Don’t measure the number of complaints – measure the number you resolve
Making a mistake is unavoidable, human and, at the end of the day, understandable. Failing to sort it out, however, isn’t. It’s important not to get bogged down with the number of complaints or negative reviews you’re getting, but how many you’re resolving and how you handle them.
The reality is that we all make mistakes and while nobody likes hearing about it, this criticism is fundamental to enabling your business to improve going forward. So, the next time your business receives a negative review, take a moment to consider what the customer is saying and use their feedback to ensure a positive business outcome.
James Westlake, UK MD, Trustpilot