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Businesses benefit from negative reviews

15th December 2021 Print

While no business wants to receive negative customer feedback, poor reviews are actually good for business, according to research that shows more than one in five (22%) online shoppers feel suspicious about a business with no negative reviews. 

The survey of over 2,000 UK online shoppers by consumer review platform Feefo details how customers perceive both consumer feedback and how a company responds to complaints. It shows that 34% of consumers would cause delay making a purchase if the site had no negative reviews. The study suggests that when a business shows it appreciates customer feedback and is prepared to make an effort to respond to all comments, good and bad, this conveys significant competitive advantage.

The power of customer reviews

When customers feel dissatisfied, traditionally they would tell their friends and family about the negative experience. However, today, complaints about a brand, product or service tend to be online, potentially reaching thousands of people and influencing the perception of a business with tremendous results. 

The research found that a massive 97% of consumers now turn to reviews before purchasing, believing another customer's feedback over anything a business might say. This demonstrates the importance of a company's customer interactions and how they affect future growth and performance.

Interestingly, buyers use customer feedback to determine if a business is genuine, trustworthy and has any issues the customer should be aware of, such as poor product quality or slow shipping times. Feefo found that the website product pages of eCommerce brands featuring verified five-star reviews are 270% more likely to be chosen than product pages with no reviews.

Negative reviews provide a golden opportunity

As online shopping rocketed around March and April 2020, businesses saw feedback rise by 40%. However, customer ratings fell by 18.5%, with a third of consumers admitting to sharing negative feedback online. But the research suggests that businesses shouldn't be alarmed to receive negative feedback. 

In a world of fake reviews, negative customer reviews help a business prove its authenticity. Customers are becoming increasingly aware of fake reviews and understand that no business gets it right every single time. The survey found that 72% of online shoppers are worried about fake feedback, while 32% would feel suspicious that all the reviews were not genuine if they failed to find any negative write-ups about a brand, product or service.

While nearly every customer looks for feedback before purchasing, 28% actively look for negative reviews to read first, regardless of when they were posted. This compares with around 44% who will view the most recent review first.

Psychologist Wendy Dignan said: "Fake, overly positive or suspiciously gushing reviews are getting a lot of attention in the media, and it's fascinating that people are now actively seeking out negative reviews for reassurance. People know that firms can't get it right every time: what they're looking for is evidence that any issues are dealt with effectively."

Honesty and authenticity from negative feedback are more significant trust signals for shoppers than endless five-star reviews. In fact, 69% of respondents said they would still purchase if they could see that the business acknowledges a negative review, apologises and offers an appropriate solution. 

Caroline Shears, Customer Engagement Centre Manager at Nisbets, said: "Customers value transparency when faced with an issue. As a team, we now strive to ensure that we communicate any problems we're experiencing with our customers to keep them updated on any developments until the problem is resolved."

Turning a negative into a positive

Businesses put a lot of resources into their products, services and customer experience, so negative reviews can feel hugely disappointing. However, it's possible to turn those negative reviewers into happy customers and brand champions.

Vauxhall's Digital User Experience and E-Commerce Manager Jonny Evans suggests: "Consumers are influenced by what their peers buy and say. So it's important to create customer advocates for our brand through reviews."

The report also reveals

- 44% of customers who have left a negative review have continued to purchase from the business after receiving a satisfactory response

- 40% of customers shared positive comments on social media about a business that has dealt with their complaint well

- 35% of customers followed up with a positive review after an issue was dealt with effectively by the company

Customer Service Improvement Manager at Invopak, Stuart Rolfe, said: "We aren't scared of getting negative feedback…Conversations with customers about the reason for their unhappiness often lead to re-ratings and better service."

The value of a meaningful, personal response

Getting the most benefit out of a negative review is all about how the business responds. Any business that ignores or even removes a negative review takes a huge risk. After all, 82% of consumers expect a company to offer a clear and honest explanation when made aware of an issue. The survey also discovered:

- 44% of consumers refuse to purchase from a company again if it didn't respond to an important review

- 37% would also warn friends and family not to purchase from the company

- 24% wouldn't hesitate to criticise the company on social media, and 15% would even consider taking their complaint to the media

But customers don't just want a cut-and-paste response. While they understand that some issues are not the company's fault, they want a business to take the time and effort to respond to them quickly and effectively.

As Psychologist Wendy Dignan explains: "Answering a complaint with authenticity and honesty is becoming the perfect way to embody the values that conscious consumerism is driving. Quite possibly, we're embarking on a world where negative feedback becomes the ideal opportunity for businesses to showcase that they are who they say they are."

Opportunity for businesses to grow 

All customer reviews are essential for a business to learn and grow, helping them to prioritise changes and create a better customer experience.

David Hart, Kia's Customer Experience Manager, said: "All reviews, both good and bad, give us the insights we need to do that (improve customer journey and experience). They offer us a true understanding of what our customers want and need which influence all aspects of manufacturing from comfort, running costs, design and style, in-car technology and safety."

Rachel Lewis, Customer Response Co-Ordinator at Iceland, agrees: "All feedback Iceland receives helps us continue to improve our customer service and delivery experience.

"All feedback Iceland receives helps us continue to improve our customer service and delivery experience. This insight is fed back in real-time to the relevant decision-makers who are able to take swift action."