Study: Responding to Online Bashers Works

Discussion
Mar 07, 2011
Tom Ryan

According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 68 percent
of consumers who posted a negative review on a social networking or ratings/reviews
site for a retailer after a poor holiday shopping experience actually received
a response from the retailer. Of those, 18 percent turned around and became
loyal customers and bought more.

Among consumers who did get a response from
the retailer to their negative review, the survey determined that 33 percent
followed up and reposted a positive review. Thirty-four percent deleted their
original negative review.

The study, sponsored by RightNow, found that consumers
generally have low expectations of how retailers monitor and respond to their
negative reviews. Among the third of consumers whose negative review did not
get a response, 61 percent indicated they would be shocked if the retailer
had responded to their negative comment on the web.

"When consumers have a bad experience, they will not come back," said
Greg Gianforte, chief executive officer, RightNow. "And now, more than
ever, unhappy consumers are turning to the social web to share their complaints.
However, retailers have an opportunity to wow consumers by listening and effectively
responding to their complaints on the social web. Retailers can bring back
unhappy customers and turn them into brand advocates."

On the other side,
after a positive shopping experience with a retailer online, 31 percent of
respondents said they purchased more from the retailer. Among those having
a positive shopping experience with an online retailer, 21 percent recommended
the retailer to friends and 13 percent posted a positive online review about
the retailer.

Other findings from the survey:


  • Half of the respondents indicated they were influenced to buy from a specific
    online retailer by great customer service or a previous positive experience
    with the retailer;
  • Twenty-eight percent researched what customers wrote on social networking
    and reviews websites while shopping online;
  • Thirty-eight percent turned to the retailer’s website for information
    or support with online shopping;
  • Twenty-two percent were frustrated by information that was inconsistent
    between the retailer’s website and customer service agents.

This survey was conducted online in the U.S. from January 25-27, 2011 among
2,516 adults ages 18 and older, of whom, 1,605 shopped online during the most
recent holiday season.

Discussion Questions: What are the best practices to responding to both negative and positive reviews on the internet? How should staff be organized so that complaints are heard by the right people within the retail organization?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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16 Comments on "Study: Responding to Online Bashers Works"


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Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 2 months ago

Responding to online criticism is an excellent idea – it shows that a retailer cares about individual customer experiences and is “in touch.” Retailers need to take complaints seriously and it’s not enough to respond with a blanket “We’re sorry, we’ll try to do better.” Responses should include a follow-up with management at the individual store to see what happened and a legitimate effort to resolve the issue. By doing this publicly online, retailers can turn a negative into a positive by showing how responsive they are when problems do occur.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
10 years 2 months ago

Using the strength of the social web to turn a publicized bad experience into a publicized good experience works IF the bad experience is truly an exception. Adding further momentum to this trend are the generally long, slow lines at the customer service counters and a lack of expertise in the stores.

The challenge for retailers will be in scaling this capability as customer expectations shift and more turn to the social web. However, no matter how well they scale it, it won’t make up for systemic issues that are causing the bad experiences (recall the airline broke my guitar saga that went viral awhile back).

The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies for retailers in this case.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
10 years 2 months ago

Companies need to have in place a social media strategy, and within that strategy, they must have plans as to who is going to respond to customer comments, what the voice of the company will be like, what information is to be shared, and how often the various social media sites will be monitored.

Social media is a dialogue, not a monologue. This means that when customers provide their comments and reviews, whether positive or negative, companies MUST respond quickly and honestly, while remaining personal, or they risk raising the ire of the customer. In today’s social media and connected world, customers have high expectations as to how they will dialogue with companies, and how often.

Companies that choose to ignore this challenge will ultimately be left behind and become an also-ran brand.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

The reason that people speak is to be heard, to have their opinions validated. If a retailer listens and responds to a complaint, they can change the emotions of the situation. Randy Pausch, in one of his last lectures, talked about a football coach who was really hard on him. The assistant coach told Randy, “When the coach stops criticizing you, that’s when you have to worry”. Smart advice. When someone complains online about an experience, it is NOT, repeat NOT, irretrievable so response from someone senior at the retailer is likely to be very effective if crafted correctly.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Retailers are getting a better understanding of the power of the internet and social media. When retailers have specific people assigned to monitor the various outlets; you have to believe in the power social media carries. What better way to flex your muscles of dissatisfation with a service or product received than to tell your friends using an internet outlet? When we receive a response the power we believed we had is verified. Also, when we receive a response we are more apt to change our thinking and praise the merchant for the response. Retailers are believers in the expression “one dissatisfied customer is more likely to tell twenty one friends of the dissatisfation.” Converting the dissatisfaction into a satisfied customer results in increased business every time. Try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

If you’re in business, it’s both common sense and common courtesy to respond to a complaint. If you’re “too busy” to do that, ultimately you get what you deserve.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Actually responding to customer postings is new for retail. 12 years ago I asked the CIO of a huge retailer how the company responded to customer emails, and his answer was “Emails? Ha!”

One best practice is going to be speed. If someone complains about slow checkout lines, don’t wait three years to respond.

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I agree with what Warren Thayer said. Ignore this medium at your own peril. Speed is absolutely essential. If this is not an assigned task by a well trained staff, there is more at risk than one might initially think. The term ‘going viral’ may apply.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

All businesses must see social media, not as a burden or a mine field, but as an opportunity to engage directly with customers when they are most passionate (doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative).

Why would any business forfeit that opportunity?

I’m always impressed (to the point that it is a major factor in my choices) by restaurants, hotels and other service businesses that closely monitor and respond to both positive and negative comments on review sites such as Yelp. On the other hand, I’m always stunned when CMO’s and CEO’s who put themselves “out there” on Twitter, for example, completely ignore direct questions and comments made to them. Don’t they know that one-way participation is more perilous than sitting it out?

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

There is also a difference between responding and resolving. A few weeks ago, I was staying at a Westin in Atlanta and I was having one bad experience after another. I finally had enough and Tweeted about it. I was impressed that someone from Starwood Hotels contacted me within minutes. They wanted to hear about the problems and got the details of my stay.

An hour later, they got back to me and told me to call the front desk. Really? Why wouldn’t they have the manager call my room the next day, or offer me a free breakfast and include a note apologizing for the issues? But no, they told me to call the front desk.

I checked out and will never go back to that hotel. Sure, they responded, but they didn’t save the customer.

Larry Negrich
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I’ve also noticed that manufacturers are having representatives scour and respond to negative product feedback on select retail sites.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 2 months ago

The trick is finding the postings. Certainly, there are semi-centralized blogs and company-based feedback forums and email support departments. But Facebook pages and Twitter? How do you find and respond to all of those? How do you spot all of the online review sites? It’s a daunting task, but we must eschew the idea that “you can’t do anything until you do everything.” Get started like you’d eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

I think that you should respond, first asking for more facts and getting details of the situation. Answer back with honestly and compassion for the basher’s situation. If you find your company is truly at fault, offer apologies, and if you can do it off-line, offer a concession, freebie, discount, etc.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

What does the retailer and CPGer need to possess? 1) The ability to monitor, measure and allow data predictability in consumer sentiment/”conversation” based on internet websites, postings, blogs, wikis, etc. 2) An executive or management dashboard UI that will assist executives in managing the pulse of the brand, 3) A statistical correlation between changes in consumer sentiment and changes in revenue based on syndicated market data., 4) A statistical correlation between changes in consumer sentiment and changes seen in the various Industry brand health indices, 5) The ability to model trade-offs in marketing activities and estimate their impact on consumer sentiment, revenue and Industry brand health indices.

How do you do this? With a dedicated staff utilizing tools available today to take the human error, delay and emotion out of the equation.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

My own expectations of online retailers delivering on customer service inquiries via a website are quite low.

As other contributors have noted, too many responses are automated and the eventual follow up is generic and may not lead to resolution.

I am sure that exceeding expectations in this area is an opportunity for differentiation by online retailers.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
10 years 2 months ago

Responding is a great thing and can bring clarity to the situation. Let’s face it, there are different needs and expectations with different folks. So trying to please everybody is really, really hard. But responding with a positive spin is a great way of diffusing the comment. The complaints should go into buckets by category and a general bucket and each manager of each category should get them and share with each team member. Use the responses as a training mechanism.

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