When a customer makes a purchase from your website or physical store, they have usually done a lot of research into your brand to make sure you have the right services for their needs. If the item then has a fault or breaks, the customer might then leave a bad product review on your website. At times like these, how do you resolve the situation?
Providing a high level of customer service can solve a number of problems and can even cancel out a flawed product! Research shows that buyers are likely to leave positive feedback if they received excellent customer service, even if the product they bought wasn’t to their liking. Let’s take a look at the ways customer service reviews can add value to your business in a way that product reviews cannot.
What are service reviews?
There are two main ways in which customers can evaluate your business – through the product they buy from you and the service they experience. When a consumer leaves a service review, this can encompass any part of their journey from finding out about the product, ordering, purchase, delivery, and support with using the product they’ve bought.
Service reviews can also be about how well you handle problems and complaints. Crucially, if a customer has a bad experience with your product, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get slated for your service. A bad product review might seem like a blow, but because a service review is all-encompassing, it is more important than feedback based solely on your products and says more about your company overall.
Here we look at two potential customer experiences that could lead to a service review and how they can both add value to your brand.
Bad customer service journey:
Let’s say a customer has bought a vacuum cleaner and it has jammed. They post a bad product review. No one responds to the review personally, but a “bot” writes a comment underneath that sounds like the vacuum cleaner wrote it. There is no “fix it yourself” information online so the customer ends up as “number 35 in the queue” before speaking to a disinterested operator. The phone operator informs them that they can return it, but they must pay for the postage themselves. The money will not be returned to the customer’s account until a month after the company has received it.
This is, undoubtedly, a poor customer service journey, leaving the customer with a bad opinion of the vacuum cleaner company. With a product flaw, a customer can either spend their money elsewhere or give you another chance; however, when bad customer service is involved as well, they are almost definitely going to turn away from your brand forever.
Good customer service journey:
Using the same example above, a customer buys a vacuum cleaner, and it jams. They post a poor product review out of frustration. In good time, a member of the customer service team gets in touch and asks what has specifically happened. They give the customer the direct line of one of the repairs team and within an hour, the problem is sorted.
It might not end like that, the customer might end up needing a new vacuum cleaner, or a visit from a repair expert, but the point is that the problem is the same, but the customer is left happy with the service they have received.
A company with good customer service might have previously adopted the same behaviour as the first example, but instead of accepting that a margin of consumers will always complain, they have used bad reviews as a starting point to provide a better service to their customers.
Here we break down the six major reasons why customer service reviews are so vital to your business.
1. Reviews tell you how customers feel about you
People’s expectations of companies big and small are higher than ever before. You can be judged on any number of criteria – some of which will be nothing to do with your product whatsoever. How a company navigates politics, social issues, and – now – the pandemic, can be just as important as product and customer service journeys.
With omnichannel marketing and advertising campaigns becoming the norm, there are more channels for consumers to vocalise how they feel. And vocalise they do, with some research suggesting that over 70% of customers write reviews for local businesses.
Even more people read these reviews – roughly nine out ten people. But what is particularly striking is the number of people who look for business responses to reviews: 89% pay as much attention to what a company writes back as they do to what the customer says. It shows that while a poor review is obviously best avoided by good strategic planning, it need not be the end of the world. If your customer service team has an ethos of turning each negative review into an opportunity for a positive encounter, then you are showing the world how customer-centred you are. People will be listening.
This highlights the importance of integrating customer service provision across all the channels that a customer can use to feed back. The data that customer reviews create in massive quantities is changing the way that companies plan strategically for the future. A recent report from McKinsey revealed that only 6% of companies felt measuring their CX through traditional surveying supported their strategic and tactical decision making – but more on this later.
2. Reviews can be used to manage your brand reputation
There are companies out there that have done some amazing work to build brand communities out of their most passionate ambassadors. It’s crucial to provide a channel for this strong feeling because, as this report discusses, positive and negative brand engagement can actually start out from a similar point.
The reasons for keeping customer reviews as positive as possible are clear – one bad review can cause up to 22% of potential customers to desert the brand they are looking up and go with a competitor. The typical consumer will engage with a minimum 3.3-star rating, disregarding any brand which scores below that. There’s no time to be resting on laurels either: 73% of consumers will disengage from reviews that are over a month old.
One company that reacted and adapted after a tricky situation is Starbucks. Starbucks suffered a body blow in 2007/8 when the financial crash took a huge chunk out of its customer base. McDonald’s offered cheaper coffee for customers who cared about price, and smaller independents retained the segment of the market who still cared about quality, Fair Trade, and the environment. Although online reviewing was in its infancy, Starbucks identified the need to engage a community that was dissatisfied. It launched “My Starbucks Idea” which encouraged consumers to have their say on everything from the product range to store layout, music, and ingredient sourcing. It still exists today!
Starbucks implemented over 100 ideas and inspired a community of consumers who felt listened to. This paved the way for its popular mobile app, which the company invested in long before competitors thought of doing the same.
Although the time was different, there are lessons to be learned here. Poor customer perception was addressed, and the voice of the consumer elevated, instead of ignored. As a result, the brand’s image improved so much that it is regularly cited as a success story today.
3. Reviews diagnose your company’s issues
Your customers are the best lens you have into the function of your business. If you have a problem as specific as poor delivery in a single postcode, you will see it filter through into reviews.
If monitoring this type of service review sounds laborious and overly granular, then you don’t need to worry. Insight tagging and performance profiling are both Feefo tools that you can use to can monitor the hot topics emerging from consumer reviews without having to trawl through customer review sites and social media.
Unlike some other feedback management organisations, we insist that all customers are verified and have actually been through a customer experience with your company. Fake reviews are designed to mislead and dominate the online space. Fake reviews can sometimes be really easy to spot, for example, if there is no profile information about the reviewer. However, fake reviews might not always be so obvious. One untrustworthy review can taint all the hard-earned positive reviews on there.
But the real customers who have put in the effort to inform you about where you’re going wrong can be a goldmine. The consultancy industry rakes in millions of pounds every year telling companies where they are going wrong but many problems could be solved by just listening to what customers have to say and empowering a well-trained customer service team to deal with their feedback.
Every problem has a solution – it’s just figuring out what this is.
4. Reviews reveal information about your competitors
The enormous proliferation in online activity over the past 20 years has made hyper-transparency a part of operating as a brand. Customer reviews are a double-edged sword because while you want your good ones proclaimed from the mountain tops, you’d rather no one saw the bad ones. But forget about your reviews for a minute and think about those of your competitors.
It has never been more possible to take a look at a rival company’s dirty laundry and see what they are doing well, doing poorly – or simply not doing at all. What used to be “finger to the wind” guesstimation is now firmly rooted in data. Competitor analysis is now big business, and it’s no longer just for the select few who can pay for it anymore. Now so much data about corporate entities exists in free and public online space, that targeted competitor analysis for smaller businesses is now viable.
Having an awareness of how your competition is performing is crucial to keeping up in your sector, but also capitalising on opportunities. McKinsey talks about the small number of companies that are fully exploiting the potential of real-time responses to CX, using examples like compensation for delayed flights offered by the company before customers have a chance to complain.
Having this sort of real-time insight into factors affecting your competitor’s performance will allow agile companies to intervene and attract dissatisfied customers to their services and products instead.
5. Reviews increase revenue
Customer service reviews, when managed well, have the potential to increase your revenue:
In the short term
- Responding well to a negative review can stop you from losing a customer and their spend
- Good feedback encourages more people to make purchases
- They provide data that you can use to personalise marketing, driving more sales
In the long term
- Helps you develop products that will work and sell better
- Engaged customers have a greater “lifetime value” to a company
- Produce data that enables real-time experience tracking (RET), which is transforming the marketplace
- Helps to fix issues with the customer journey, like obstacles to transaction, that might be causing higher rates of cart abandonment
Fundamentally, companies that keep customer reviews at the heart of their thinking outperform those that don’t in many ways. The Big Data market globally is expected to grow by nearly $250 billion over the next four years, so there is clearly a large appetite for the insight it can generate.
6. Reviews should drive strategy
Remember when there were only about four customer segments, and personas contained just a few wobbly assumptions that we couldn’t really evidence?
No longer. Customers share so much information about themselves in the reviews they write. We are all so used to living online lives that it no longer feels intrusive when a company knows a lot about you. In fact, increasingly, consumers report that they expect a company to personalise advertising and marketing to them – some even going so far as to say they would ditch a brand that aimed ill-fitting marketing resources at them.
Using a customer service review to personalise your response to that person could also raise their opinion of you and spark another sale once you resolve their original issue.
Customer service reviews are such an essential part of how your business operates. It’s not just a matter of saying thank you for the good ones and asking the review host to remove the poor ones; reviews should be informing every strategic conversation you have because your business only exists because your customers do. If a consumer got something to say, everyone in your company, right up to the top decision-makers, should be listening and continually adapting to what your customer base is telling you.