Around a third (32%) of UK consumers would delay a purchase if they could not find any negative reviews about a company, according to a new report by customer review platform Feefo.
The survey of over 2,000 UK adults reveals customers’ views, attitudes, and behaviour towards online reviews. It found that customer reviews influence the purchasing decisions of online shoppers. The data also shows that shoppers are more likely to believe another customer’s comments than those of the company itself. As many as 97% of people say they read reviews before purchasing.
Customers look to reviews to verify whether a business is trustworthy, gauge how likely they are to have a positive customer experience and find out the worst-case scenario when making a purchase. Shoppers depend on positive and negative reviews to help them decide which products or services best suit their needs and which don’t. It provides balance to their shopping research.
28% actively search for negative reviews
But the research also shows the value of negative feedback. While 28% of shoppers actively search for negative reviews to read first, 22% say they would feel suspicious of all the company’s reviews if they failed to find any poor write-ups.
Interestingly, 72% of customers say they are concerned about fake feedback, especially if they don’t find any negative reviews about a company. Customers understand that no company gets it right the first time and seek negative reviews for reassurance.
Transparency is crucial for both winning and keeping a customer’s trust. According to psychologist Wendy Dignan, authenticity and honesty are bigger trust signals for customers than thousands of flattering five-star reviews. Fake and overly positive reviews have received a lot of media attention recently and people are now actively looking to negative reviews as reassurance of authenticity.
For businesses to earn consumer trust, they must be transparent. A key way to do this is by displaying all feedback, including negative. When consumers see negative feedback, they see that a brand has nothing to hide, suggesting it’s a business they can trust.
Embracing negative reviews
No business wants to get negative reviews. They can feel disastrous, especially when a company has developed a laser-sharp focus on creating products, services, and experiences that customers will love. But the research shows that rather than being fearful, businesses should recognize them as honest feedback from real customers and embrace them to the business’s advantage. Negative reviews are a key tool in helping shoppers make confident purchasing decisions. They also contain unique insights that help businesses improve their products and services.
Car brand Kia isn’t afraid of negative reviews. Customer experience manager David Hart says that both good and bad customer reviews offer valuable insights that enable the company to create a better customer experience. They give the company a true understanding of what customers need and want, which influences all aspects of the manufacturing process.
Iceland’s Customer Response Co-Ordinator Rachel Lewis says that the supermarket chain uses feedback to improve customer service. The insights are fed back in real-time to decision-makers to enable them to take quick action.
Negative reviews provide a unique opportunity to create happier customers and even brand advocates.
Turning a negative into a positive
Responding to a negative review is key to turning it into a positive customer experience. In fact, any business that ignores negative feedback does so at its peril. A remarkable 82% of respondents said they expect companies to provide a clear and honest response when there’s an issue.
However, as the research found, customers won’t settle for just a standard copy-and-paste response. While customers understand that sometimes issues are outside a company’s control, they expect businesses to take action.
- 74% want brands to apologize due a faulty product or service
- 71% expect an apology following poor customer service
- 56% want brands to apologize for late delivery
- 39% expect a firm to apologize in the event of a product recall
- 30% believe companies should apologize after scandals
The report highlights that a reassuring 69% of shoppers would still purchase from a company if they saw that the company had acknowledged a negative review, apologized, and offered a suitable solution to resolve or remedy the issue.
Responding to negative reviews is a golden opportunity
As psychologist Wendy Dignan explains, responding to a complaint with authenticity and honesty embodies the values conscious consumerism is pushing for. We could be entering a world where negative feedback becomes the perfect chance for businesses to prove who they say they are.
Customers are impressed when they see businesses respond to negative reviews by:
- Providing effective solutions (45%)
- Offering financial compensation (38%)
- Explaining why the situation occurred (35%)
- Introduced long-term changes to prevent it from reoccurring (35%)
- Apologizing on a public platform (27%)
- Apologizing via private message (22%)
- Phoning to apologize (22%)
Rather than feeling scared of negative feedback, Invopak’s Customer Service Manager Stuart Rolfe says that the company embraces it through conversations with customers about their unhappiness, often leading to better service and re-ratings. The firm ensures that every response is personalized to that specific customer.
Communication is key
The shopping options that consumers have today are endless. A consumer will consider many factors when determining who to purchase from, return to and who to pass up. But the key considerations are often trust, transparency, and communication.
According to Caroline Shears, Customer Engagement Centre Manager at Nisbets, customers value transparency, especially when faced with a problem. Therefore, Nisbets strives to communicate any issues with customers and keep them updated on developments until the issue is resolved.
The firm also uses its customer reviews to inform its processes. Caroline explains: “We read every review we receive and made significant changes based on them. For instance, treating Saturday as a normal working day, extending next day delivery cut-off, and offering a next day collection service. We value the time our customers spend on leaving feedback and want to ensure it doesn’t go to waste”.
Other highlights from the report include:
- 44% of shoppers who left a negative review used the business again after receiving a satisfactory response
- 40% posted positive comments on their social media about businesses that dealt with their complaints well
- 35% of respondents followed up with positive feedback after experiencing an issue they felt was dealt with effectively
- 44% say they wouldn’t use a business again if it didn’t respond to a serious review they left
- 37% would advise others not to buy from the business
- 24% would publicly criticize the business on social media
- 15% are willing to take their story to media (increases to 32% for Gen Z consumers)
To read the full survey, please visit https://www.feefo.com/en/business/resources/reports/navigating-the-negative.