January 27th, 2013 | 3 MIN READ

Negative Reviews? Think Like Twitter

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

One of Twitter's most effective applications for business is its use as a customer service channel. People are already complaining publicly on Twitter, so responding via Twitter shows your disgruntled customer - and the world - how helpful you are.

So why don't businesses take advantage of responding to complaints and negative reviews on their own product pages?

4 years ago, we recommended this tactic in an article Thinking Positively About Negative Reviews. It took me 4 years to come across an ecommerce site actually using it. But I recently found 3 - White House Black Market, Aliexpress and Ice.com.

If you're going to use this tactic, here are some tips to make the most of them:

1. Clarify the issue

In the 2009 article, we cited research from Forrester on customer reactions to negative reviews. 7% indicated they would contact the retailer or manufacturer for clarification of the issues raised in the negative review. Contacting the seller takes time and effort, so though this is a low percentage, a much larger percentage would benefit from a clarification in-line with the review.

Take the opportunity to show off PK (product knowledge) and teach customers how to get the most of their ownership. For example, the Huawei Ascend G was getting a number of negative comments about the ringer volume. The manufacturer released a firmware upgrade that solved the issue. Customers may not read each and every review, or research these problems themselves. A staff spokesperson who can respond to these comments can reassure customers it is a good product can save sales and build trust with your company.

Tip: When staffing your response team, choose individuals who are good at researching and finding solutions to problems.

2. Suggest alternative products

Forrester found 47% of customers would search for alternative products when they read a negative review (26% would buy anyway). Why not help them navigate to a suitable, recommended alternative whilst showing off your team's product knowledge and building trust?

For example, a 1-star review for the Urban Decay Naked Pallette on Sephora stated "Not enough matte colors. The shimmer/glitter colors just don't work for me." A helpful response could be "Yes, this palette leans more towards frost shades than matte. If you prefer matte, I recommend the Stila Neutral Pallette. It has a number of comparable shades with a matte finish" A link to the recommended product not only helps this customer, but educates all other readers about an alternative that addresses this particular concern about the product.

3. Embrace variety

Canned replies are efficient, but don't come across as authentic once they appear more than once per product.

It's not always possible to respond to a negative review with a clarification or alternative. (For example, how do you respond to someone who simply didn't enjoy a book?) Don't feel obliged to respond to each and every negative review. Use discernment which ones warrant clarification, alternative recommendation or an apology to show your business' attention to customer complaints.

After encountering a negative review, 18% of customers will look for a retailer/manufacturer that offers a money-back guarantee. Simply reminding customers of your satisfaction guarantee at this point of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) can have a positive effect.

4. Enable community responses

Sometimes your staff doesn't have the benefit of experiencing the product first-hand. Allowing others to chime in with their own solutions has benefits.

Community responses also educate your customer service staff, and can be re-stated in staff replies.

5. Don't get defensive / offensive

This may sound obvious, but there's no room for snark in customer service. Don't insult the buyer, suggest they don't know how to use the product, or publicly ask them to change their feedback.

Not only can hosting negative reviews build trust by demonstrating your transparency - they provide an opportunity for you to educate and resolve customer service issues in public, which can translate into more buyer confidence, and ultimately, sales.

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