Online review and ratings are the deciding factor behind popularity and success of any business. So they are as important as any other marketing strategy. A consumer’s buying decision is based upon the online reviews, because they believe in their peers, that is, peer-to-peer trust. Customers believe that their fellow customers do not have a motive to cheat them. These are the most potential form of word of mouth. 5 star ratings and positive reviews persuade a customer to buy a product, while the negative reviews turn them off.
Now, these online reviews can break a brand’s reputation much more than they build it. In order to know how that happens, we need to understand who can write these reviews; an irritated customer, a competitor, an ex-employee, or an extortionist.
An irritated customer can blow up one unsatisfactory experience into a huge issue that might stop the other customers from buying the product. 4 out of 5 customers reverse their purchasing decision on reading a negative review.
Competitors, either directly or in-directly submit falsified reviews about a business for personal benefits. Businesses arrange people to write positively about their company or negatively about a competitor by providing financial and non-financial benefits.
According to Peachey of BBC news businesses cherry-pick positive reviews and also commission negative reviews to undermine rivals.
An ex-employee out of anger or for personal reasons write bad reviews to damage company’s reputation.
Another important segment of people who do this are extortionists, who threaten or blackmail a business if they are not provided with the offers that they ask for. The power is now in the consumer’s hand, which is being misused by this segment of people.
Some online review sites filter out some of the reviews secretly which they feel are inappropriate and rate the business based on rest of the available reviews.
Astroturfing is a term used to denote the practice of creating fake grass-root reviews.
We do not have a way to verify if the reviews posted are true. But it is a hard truth that people tend to believe these reviews and build an image about the brand based on them.
Few countries have taken up mechanisms to identify and uproot astroturfing. For example, Competition and Market Authority of UK has launched investigation on various companies for using paid-off endorsements. Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 by Australian government has mentioned these biased reviews to be a breach of the Act.
5 ways to tackle negative reviews:
- Keep your customer engaged with your positivity:
Talk more about your positives, tell your customer what good things you have done recently so that they do not have time to look into the negative comments.
2. Build strong customer relationships:
Build a very strong customer relationship, so that they don’t believe the bad reviews even if they come across them.
3. Personally thank the good reviews:
When you receive a good review, spend time thanking the customer for the review and share with them how motivating their reviews are.
4. Face the critics:
Instead of running away from criticism, stand and face the critics. Do no re-direct them to a customer service department like most companies do, personally address their issues and take their comments as scopes of improvement. Remember, truth always wins.
5. Loyal customers will save your brand:
If you have a good customer relationship and if customer believe in you and your brand, they will come for rescue when you are bombarded with falsified or biased negative reviews. Such rescue operation will take you to the next level of fame and prosperity.
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