Great read this morning by Matt McGee at Small Business Search Marketing, “Five Ways Negative Reviews are Good for Business.” Matt suggests the benefits of negative feedback are:
They create trust.
They provide honest feedback.
They can improve your SEO.
They help you make better business decisions.
They offer a golden opportunity.
Matt’s post calls to mind statistics regarding growth in social media participation by consumers. According to Forrester Research Study (October 2008) on social media adoption, consumers who classify themselves as “critics” (those who contribute to ratings, reviews, blogs, etc) increased by almost 50% over the previous year to 37% of those surveyed. Anecdotally, I suspect the number has increased substantially since then. Many recent studies indicate that between 65 -80% of consumers search the web for local businesses and actively read reviews and ratings as part of their purchase consideration process. Consumers are adopting social media at increasing rates across all categories.
I agree with Matt McGee and recommend the following strategies given trends in consumer behavior:
1. Make engagement a standard part of your marketing plan. Develop a social marketing plan that encourages your customers to provide feedback. Include tactics as simple as asking a customers to complete surveys or as complex as creating a product information and rating system on your website. The truth is that most reviews are positive so encouraging engagement only serves to improve your online reputation and customer loyalty.
2. Develop a web presence on social platforms where your customers hang out. If your target customer is on Facebook, create a Fan Page and develop a plan to engage them there. If your customer is on LinkedIn or Myspace, engage them there.
3. Create a pro-active communications plan to address the customer feedback. I recommend my clients use a simple decision tree process. Include decision points to handle situations such as :
a. Customers with verifiable complaints
b. Competitors planting negative feedback
c. Customers with incomplete information or distorted versions of the truth
d. Customers with positive feedback
Matt McGee is correct in suggesting negative reviews provide an opportunity to improve your operations. The beauty of social technologies is that they place inexpensive tools into the hands of a small business owner to form a more personal customer relationship. The functions of these tools play right into the strengths of small businesses that are already heads and shoulders above large organizations in personalizing the customer experience. Responding to the negative feedback in a positive way demonstrates your commitment to the customer and your desire to improve their experience with your business.
Would you rather use negative feedback to improve your operations and service or lose a customer without knowing why?