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How to make the most out of negative reviews

Did you know that 20 percent of consumers who write negative reviews about a business will become loyal brand customers if they get a response? Here’s how you should be responding to negative feedback.

At TrueLocal.com.au we receive a lot of enquiries from small businesses about what to do when they receive a negative review from a customer.

While it is easy to understand a business owner’s concern around this, I would encourage them to use any negative feedback as an opportunity to improve the customer’s experience.

Peer to peer recommendations and reviewing in particular are giving consumers the power to make businesses more accountable, with customers able to publicly air their grievances more easily.

With the popularity of online reviewing exploding, responding to these reviews needs to become another customer service stream, particularly when it involves negative ones.

How beneficial is it to respond to a negative review?

Research suggests that 20 percent of consumers that write negative reviews will become a brand loyal customer if they receive a response from the business, whilst over 30 percent will react by posting a positive review.

At TrueLocal, we’ve noticed that small businesses listed on our website are beginning to understand, as well as demonstrate the importance of responding to online feedback to improve customer service. One of the best examples of turning a negative review into a positive that we’ve seen was from a hair salon in Queensland.

After receiving a negative review from a client on TrueLocal, the hair salon’s owner responded by offering an apology, a solution and a chance for the customer to get in contact. Because of this, the reviewer replied with the following affirming response: “I appreciate that you are concerned about my experience…thanks for following it up though, most salons wouldn’t have cared”.

So how can a business use negative feedback to their advantage and build credibility?

My advice is to do the following when responding to negative feedback:

  1. Ensure your response is customer focused and avoid getting defensive, it comes across as insincere and uncaring
  2. Address each problem identified and try to provide a solution
  3. Offer to them a chance to get in touch with you privately either by email or phone
  4. Always be courteous and polite to the customer, apologise if necessary
  5. Give them a reason to try your product or service again eg. a deal or free trial

If a business follows these instructions, they are guaranteed at the very least that their disgruntled customer will respect them for producing a response.

The customer may not make a repeat purchase or visit, but the business can prevent the further spread of negative word of mouth communication to the customer’s peers.

In addition, potential customers visiting your page are also likely to view your company more favourably, even with negative review, if you have responded to feedback.

According Karina Venezia, who is a regular TrueLocal reviewer, if she has had a bad experience with a business, whether or not she receives feedback, becomes a key factor in returning.

“It simply shows a high level of customer service for that business and shows how important their customers are to them. I’d rather have a handful of amazing businesses who provide excellent customer service, rather than a thousand businesses who don’t really care who you are, take your money and move on to the next,” she said.

As the internet is becoming an increasingly significant part of the consumer buying cycle, local businesses must start developing the skills to properly engage with their customers online. Those businesses who can best tackle this key function will reap the benefits, while the others will, no doubt, be left behind.

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Simon Carson

Simon Carson

Simon is the general manager for Australia’s premier consumer review website, TrueLocal.com.au, the leading reviews website for local business in Australia responsible for the day-to-day management of the business. TrueLocal combines a directory of over 1 million Australian businesses with content and reviews from both users and the listed businesses. Simon joined News Digital Media in early 2011 as commercial director for Australia’s leading comparison shopping site, Getprice. He was appointed general manager of TrueLocal in June 2011. Simon has over 10 years experience in digital media and professional services, having worked for eBay, Telstra Media, the strategy consulting firm Bain & Company and Citigroup. He holds a bachelor of Economics from Sydney University and and MBA from INSEAD.

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