Reviews and ratings can help boost your sales. Know what to expect and how to respond so your efforts don’t backfire.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon gives special treatment to participating Amazon merchants: the expunging of reviews criticizing Amazon shipping, fulfillment and packaging. This news has created quite a stir because it flies in the face of all the best practices for hosting website consumer reviews. Because of its size, market dominance and relatively positive customer satisfaction, Amazon might be able to get away with this conduct. Smaller companies, however, should be wary.
As I’ve written about before, customer service matters now more than ever, particularly thanks to the advent of social media. These days, consumer reviews and ratings factor strongly in the customer service mix – particularly the post-purchasing experience. To tell you how and why, I recently spoke to Jim Houlihan, Director of Content Authenticity (note his job title) at Bazaarvoice, one of the industry’s largest providers of consumer ratings and review management and syndication.
Trust is Everything
Bazaarvoice strives to “bring the voice of the customer closer to the heart of a company’s business,” which is a good place to start a discussion of ratings and reviews best practices. Houlihan points out that when dealing with content generated by word-of-mouth – particularly reviews — consumer trust has to be inviolable. If we consumers cannot trust what we’re reading, whether it’s about a product or a service or an experience, we will ignore it. Worse still, that lack of trust can permeate to the company about who the untrustworthy content is written, even if they do not bear responsibility for the false content. In other words, having authentic reviews is as important to managing your reputation as is having positive reviews.
Houlihan reminds us that it’s a lot easier to tell a falsehood when you don’t have to look someone in their eyes. Don’t assume your negative reviews have been falsified by your competitors just trying to make you look bad. In its review management process, Bazaarvoice’s technology has algorithms paired with human review moderation to help prevent fraudulent or overly self-promotional reviews. That said, Houlihan says he has to constantly educate their clients to ensure that they are not censoring or removing negative reviews. “All reviews, both positive and negative, have importance,” notes Houlihan. “Having some negative reviews on your site enhances the trust of your buyers because no company or product is perfect.
Insights from Reviews
In my last article, I spoke about listening being one of the ten objectives businesses can use to build social media strategies. Similarly, listening to your consumers by what they post in their reviews can provide you with insights and opportunities you may never have considered before. For instance:
- Listening to negative reviews gives you an opportunity to improve your product or service
- Consumer feedback can fuel your creativity for new products or services or tip you off to market trends you didn’t anticipate yourself
Other Review Best Practices
When implementing ratings and reviews on your site, Houlihan provides some other factors to consider:
- Transparency. If you court experts or endorsers to write product reviews on your website, whether they’re positive or negative, it should be fully disclosed that this person is being recruited or compensated for their review. This kind of disclosure is actually required by FTC regulation.
- Encourage reviews. Bazaarvoice finds that only about 15 to 20% of reviews come in “organically” (unsolicited) and yet, according to Econsultancy, a highly-rated product will increase the likelihood of purchase for 55% of consumers. Therefore, it’s perfectly acceptable – a good idea, in fact – to encourage your consumers to review and rate you. Do so by asking for the review on an order confirmation page or by sending out post-purchase emails requesting a review or by having consumers test your product at an event or store and encourage their review. These reviews can even act as drivers of foot traffic to and sales at your brick and mortar store if you have one.
- Expedient moderation. Once submitted, reviews generally undergo some sort moderation before being posted live on-site. This moderation needs to happen quickly so the review remains relevant and you retain credibility among your consumer reviewers.
- Respond. Most consumers posting positive reviews don’t expect a “thank you” from the purveyor of the product or service, but when a negative review gets posted, if you have the opportunity to respond, at the very least you should acknowledge the consumer’s complaint. If you can help direct them towards a resolution or describe the action you will be taking as a result of their comment.
- Protect your brand. The larger the brand, the greater the impact scandal can be on it. Don’t let too many negative reviews go unanswered or allow yourself to fall prey to the desire to manipulate your reviews. “If you’re a cheater and violate social ethics, in time it will come back to haunt you,” cautions Houlihan.
In other words, be mindful of the power of the public to impact your business. Their words can help build you into a success or take you down, so pay attention.Comments(0)
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