The Power of Online Customer Reviews

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000” – Jeff Bezos

The quote above puts in words, what is perhaps the worst nightmare for any company. There is no denying the power of online customer reviews – a great comment can elicit a great deal of positivity while a negative one would have the opposite reaction, only with more ferocity. With online channels now having become ‘the way’ to communicate and get messages across, customers waste no time in sharing their experiences they had with a company. The terrifying part – also resonating in the quote above – is that irate customers are more prone to sharing their experiences to a large number of people. Given that these reviews are online, there is nothing a company can do to stop customers from venting their anger for all to see and by the time they have a chance to view the comments, thousands of people may have already read, shared, and formed an opinion about the company based on these comments. Scary right?

The power of online customer reviews should not be undermined by companies – they can happen when a company least expects and usually create a lasting effect on how other customers – regular and potential – perceive the company. The harsh reality is that even if your company may have done everything right, the number of great reviews would not be as many. However, a single lapse or error could get you some scathing remarks and vociferous negativity – creating a big dent in your company’s reputation. Understanding the power of online customer reviews and managing the company’s reputation online is now an absolute must for any company. Research has proven, without doubt, that people almost always check online reviews before buying from or associating with a company and negative comments can prove to be a company’s undoing. For the survival of a company, it would need a solid and increasing customer base, providing a steady flow of income and negative reviews can diminish these necessary requirements to a very large extent.

Building and maintaining online reputation is no mean task. Thankfully, there are guidelines and techniques that companies can employ to use the power of online customer reviews to their advantage and sustain a positive image. Companies tend to falter on responding to reviews they receive. This is a major blunder and could be perceived, wrongly, as ignoring and callousness on the part of the company. Customers expect to receive a response to any comment and review they post about your company – it would be detrimental to ignore the irate customer comment, since it would reinforce the negative image they have of your company. Potential customers and other readers too, would perceive this as apathy and arrogance, and would not endeavour to associate with your company. Conversely, if a company does respond to all reviews, they would gain goodwill and the overall perception would be that they company cares about its customers, even the angry ones. By understanding the power of online customer reviews, a company can gain for itself, a large ‘fan’ base, willing to overlook small lapses and ignore some amount of human error.

As mentioned, there is a lot of power of online customer reviews. Managing all the channels on which these reviews can appear is a colossal task even for large company. It is a lot of hard work and needs constant attention and focus. It would require investment in the form of assigning a small team of individuals, dedicated to reviewing and managing online comments on every channel, the company uses to communicate with customers. This team should have complete knowledge of the company’s products / offerings and of the usage of the channels of communication. Of course, customers may not leave comments daily, so the task of keeping a check becomes easier with time. When there is a comment / review, this team must be highly adept at writing responses to them, immediately. It is vital first of all, to thank the customer for their feedback. In the case of positive comments, showing appreciation is a great way to encourage them to do so in the future too. Negative comments need more careful handling – an apology would be in line, but post that, request the customer for an opportunity to rectify the problem. If things seem to be getting ‘ugly’, the company should try to resolve it offline – no point exposing your company to further nastiness and comments. Whatever the approach a company uses, a response from the company would be imperative to display concern and empathy for its customers.

If possible, a company could put in a system where they can contact customers immediately after they have some kind of interaction with the company, and seek their comments. This would be helpful in preventing any poor reviews and the company would be able to resolve the issue before a larger audience gets to hear about it. The idea is to give all customers an ‘outlet’ to express their opinions and comments, especially the negative ones, before they let the ‘world’ know. Investing time and effort in this exercise would be a lot better than combating the power of online customer reviews, the negative ones in particular. Over 1 million people view comments about customer service every week. Roughly, 80% of those are negative or critical in nature”. – helpscout.netwith such startling facts, it would be prudent for any company to carefully monitor their online presence, constantly strive to provide top class service, and find ways to swiftly rectify any lapses or errors on their part.

While it is important to manage meticulously, poor reviews, it is equally important to pay attention to the happy customers writing the ‘good stuff’ about your company. Reach out to these happy customers and thank them adequately for their business and their reviews. A company could also offer special incentives or send them a token of appreciation – this would ensure that they remain engaged and are encouraged to write great reviews in the future too. Building and sustaining strong relationships with happy customers not only gets them to come back with more business and good reviews, but they would also make an added effort to spread the good word of mouth to others about your company and their experiences. There is a lot of power in positive online customer reviews too and it is the responsibility of the company to harness this power. The more positive reviews a company can garner, the better equipped it would be to combat negative comments and reviews. Just like with irate customers, it would be helpful for a company to reach out to happy ones immediately after they have had the positive experience with the company. When the incident is fresh in their minds, they are more likely to provide better and more ‘glowing’ reviews about their experiences – let it slide, and the initial ‘euphoria’ could die down, making it tough for them to recreate the happy experience and hence be unwilling to write a comment.

There is power in online customer reviews and companies that are able to create a reputation of trust and dependability, are more likely to benefit from customer reviews. The fact is that customers expect and deserve good service and products – it becomes highly frustrating for them to accept shoddy service and being let down on the promises made by a company. It is the onus of the company to ensure that they under-promise and over deliver and not the other way around. Customers of today understand their rights, know what they can expect, and are unlikely to stick around a company that blatantly refutes their rights. Not only would they leave, they would ensure that others know about their negative experiences – potentially blocking off a lot of business and prospective customers for a company.

Understanding the power of online customer reviews will keep a company’s reputation in tact – negative comments cannot just be wished away, and positive comments cannot be forced. How a company behaves with its customers will have an impact on what they say about the company – good or bad, the responsibility lies with a company.

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