Every customer review — good or bad — is the raw material successful businesses use to continually improve the experiences they deliver.
Unless you’ve studied them in detail, it’s easy to mistake customer reviews for something that’s separate or off to the side of a customer experience. Unlike the way a company markets itself, the way it sells and manages the purchasing process or even the way it provides customer service, reviews are outside of their direct control.
When you think about customer experiences holistically, however, you realize that none would be complete without getting some kind of feedback. Unless customers can tell you how they felt about an experience and whether they would seek it out again, there’s no way to ensure you’re developing a sense of trust.
Of course, reviews are not the sort of feedback that customers relay to a company in confidence through a survey. They are deliberately public, and often on forums where a company is evaluated alongside its competitors.
That means it’s often difficult or impossible for a company to have a negative review taken down, even if it seems inaccurate or somehow unfair. That review might show up in search engine results every time someone researches your company.
The range of platforms where customers can submit a review, meanwhile, are proliferating rapidly. There are review sites dedicated to specific product and service categories, reviews on independent blogs and of course reviews on social media.
Talk to almost anyone with experience in dealing with reviews and they’ll likely say the same thing: the biggest mistake you can make is to do nothing.
Reviews, like any valuable source of intelligence or data, should always be acted upon.
The word “action,” in this case, doesn’t simply mean celebrating internally every time you get a good review. It doesn’t mean scowling at your monitor every time you get a bad review, either.
Take action that will elevate the experience. And to do that, look at it from a customer service perspective, since reviews come at the post-sale point where they may need the most help and support:
Angry, disappointed or anxious customers reach out to service agents all the time, and naturally companies try to address their questions and concerns before it’s too late.
Here’s the thing: it may not be too late even once a negative review has been written.
Whether the review has been posted on social media or some other forum, have an agent proactively reach out to see if the issue can be rectified. In some cases you may be able to help them overcome a challenge. In other cases you might be able to offer a “make good” of some kind, like a discount on their next purchase. Even easing the process of making a return could be welcome and strengthen customer loyalty.
Sometimes a customer who posted a negative review will update it with some positive words after they’ve been approached by the company after the fact. Even if they don’t, they might share what happened via word of mouth.
You won’t always be able to repair a relationship with a customer when they leave a negative review, but you can work hard to ensure the same mistakes don’t happen again.
Service agents are often given considerable training and resources to handle all kinds of troubleshooting, but they can’t cover everything. A review may contain nuggets that point to common missteps customers make with a product, or areas in the process of using a service that are unclear or confusing.
Take these learnings and go over them with your team. Maybe they’ve heard similar things, but maybe not. Ensure everyone is on the same page and in a position to head off such issues next time.
Customers might complain in a review that they didn’t feel the company was there when they needed them, but in many cases they would have much preferred to handle issues on their own.
The content you read in reviews should feed directly into assets like FAQ lists, manuals and guides, video explainers or tutorials and more. They could become the foundation for the advice customers receive through a chatbot, or a self-service portal.
It’s not just the negative reviews you need to study. A good review may highlight aspects of an experience the company might not even realize it was delivering.
This could be as simple as the language an agent used when they were on a call with a customer, such as the questions they asked or some words of encouragement they offered. In other cases a service interaction might have not only solved an immediate problem but warned the customer about one they would have encountered later.
Wherever you see wins like these, try to standardize them. Take what appear to be happy accidents and make them deliberate stops on the customer journey.
Reviews are, by their nature, judgemental. They’re primarily intended for the benefit of other customers, not the company that they’re written about.
That said, customer reviews are not simply a verdict on a company. They are part of a conversation that happens around a company.
By participating in that conversation — first by listening, then by responding in some way — you’re demonstrating a commitment to customer service excellence. The more this becomes part of your company’s DNA, the better your reputation becomes, and the more likely the bulk of the reviews you get next will make you smile.