Online reviews: Why you can’t afford to ignore them

Online Reviews
Online reviews reinforce or diminish the trust and integrity of companies. [Photo: Courtesy]
Just this week, social media has been awash with consumer complaints about the quality of Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Always brand of sanitary towels.

The users of Always sanitary towels complained that the pads caused them rashes and inferior forcing Kebs to launch investigations into their claims. They accused P&G of selling substandard products in Kenya compared to what they sell in Europe and the U.S.

The Always user’s uproar on social media is an indication of how powerful online platforms have become an avenue where consumers share their positive or negative experiences.

When customers experience poor customer service or buy a substandard product from an outlet, they are likely to share their ordeal on the web and vice versa.

Online reviews reinforce or diminish the trust and integrity of companies. Additionally, they play a critical role in influencing consumers purchase decisions, but most Kenyan businesses disregard their impact.

Procter & Gamble’s reaction

In a statement, P & G acknowledged Always users feedback and apologised for the bad experience using their brand.

“We acknowledge and understand that there have been women who have had different experiences with our products. We appreciate that women have varied and unique period experiences and as such our broad portfolio is designed to cater to these needs,” read the P&G statement.

However, it disproved claims that the product was substandard.

“All the Always pads we have in Kenya are also available and similar to the Always in other parts of the world depending on consumer needs and habits in different countries,” it said.

Notably, it’s almost impossible to have 100 per cent positive feedback. You’ll eventually have a few negative online feedbacks, and some may originate from your competitors. You must, therefore, have a strategy verifying them and responding adequately so that it doesn’t affect your public reputation.

Strategies for getting positive reviews

Acknowledge the feedback

According to Ken Kiome who runs Oceans Digital Marketing Agency, one of the best approaches is to thank the customer for the feedback then apologise for the bad experience while acknowledging that you take their feedback seriously. Then promise to address the concern with the staff that served the customers and if possible provide them with a full/partial refund or a replacement for the product/service.

The greatest sin you’ll ever make is failing to respond to the online comments posted on your website or social media pages. Mainly, this will paint your business as less customer oriented.

“You will find some businesses have negative comments/reviews dating years on their Facebook pages and they have been unattended. What does this tell you? Business is being lost from the traffic reading through the negative comments” Ken says.

Provide excellent customer service

The surest way to get positive reviews is providing excellent customer service in addition to other value propositions. Consistent quality services help build strong brands and businesses must do it almost to perfection.

Businesses can keep their track of customer service through consumer satisfaction surveys. “Conducting consumer satisfaction surveys is a good way of evaluating the level of contentedness among customers” Ken argues. From the data harnessed, you’ll know your strengths and work on improving on your weakness.

Respond promptly

Serious complaints should be handled with the urgency they deserve. This includes contacting the authors of the posts immediately through the phone or other available channels. During the exchange, it’s good to own up to the mistakes. Ask them what the business can do to correct the error.

Complaints from clients can pile up when not handled promptly and appropriately. Additionally, you may be tempted to ignore the negative reviews which may paint a picture of lack of concern by the business. According to Ken, this may make the reviewer angrier and prompt him or her to share the bad experience on multiple social media groups thus do more damage to the business.

Moreover, you should be proactive rather than reactionary. When you notice something might not work as expected or go as planned, please inform the clients in advance don't let your customers find out on their own.

Take it offline

The exchange shouldn’t happen online where everyone can see. You can, instead, sort the issue privately by sending a private message to the reviewer or by calling him or her via their phone number. Once you have reached an agreement with the customer, publicly state on the same thread that you have resolved the issue or the actions taken to address the complainant concerns.

Moreover, you should make them confirm their problem(s) have been addressed on the same platform by asking if, for example, they have received the refunded money for an item ordered that had run out of stock and the business was unable to deliver.

“It’s always wise to try and reconcile with the client after satisfying their needs. To be on the safe side if the client is willing to pull down the bad review, it will be of great help because only the original author can modify reviews. Ken says.

Request loyal customers to share their positive experiences

After serving your customers and you notice they are giving sincere compliments ask them politely if they could be willing to give share their positive experience on your online platform. For example, “hey, we have a platform where you can share such nice words with us, do you mind having the link?” Then share the link with them. Ken states.

However, the reviews must reflect the actual state of your business, and they should not be deceptive. Also, customers should not be coerced to give their views. Frank says that although online reviews have become a major marketing strategy, with companies requesting customers to leave their comments and product interactions, they should not be used to deceive the public.

“These days, companies hire people to generate fake reviews.  So, in as much as I like to see the reviews, I sometimes decide to try a service provider to get my own experience” he says.

Track brand mentions online

Given the influence of online reviews on consumer purchasing decisions, you must be extra careful to avoid the loss of public trust. To keep track of most of the online feedback, you can use tools such as Google Alert and social media mentions that alert you when someone mentions your business on the Web. Moreover, you should conduct customer satisfaction surveys regularly to achieve and sustain high levels of customer satisfaction.

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Online ReviewsAlwaysProcter & Gamble