More of us than ever before are shopping online and using the internet to look up brands. This is, in part, due to the closure of many bricks-and-mortar shops and offices. However, even as the impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic lessen, it’s unlikely that people will abandon online channels entirely.

Customer review specialists Feefo have carried out a survey of over 2,000 adults in the UK throughout 2021, to identify how they feel about leaving feedback and what their preferences are.

The research certainly highlights the importance of brands facilitating customer reviews online, with 97% of respondents admitting that they read reviews before they make a purchase decision. This suggests that any brand/customer interaction will almost certainly affect future performance. There is also a very high chance that it will be mentioned publicly at a later date.

Those taking part in the survey stipulated that they read customer reviews for four main reasons:

  1. To verify a company’s authenticity and trustworthiness
  2. To understand the worst-case scenario of working with or buying from a company
  3. To gauge how consistent a positive customer experience from a company is
  4. To compare customer experiences between competing brands to make a purchase decision (where price isn’t a differentiating factor).

It’s imperative that businesses facilitate customers leaving reviews. If they don’t, they’ll be left anyway and usually without a ‘right to reply’ or any benefit. Utilising a third party independent review system, brands can facilitate and collate customer feedback but also analyse the reviews left to provide business insights.

Actionable business insights are the gap between data and customer experience. Various tools can be used to influence business direction and development. They can take onboard genuine customer feedback and work toward meeting the real-life needs and wants of the audience.

Customer experience platforms, provide software that generates these analyses and scores directly from the content left. This includes, but is by no means limited to sentiment analysis, behavioural analysis and NPS (Net Promoter Scoring).

Not all negative reviews are bad

Negative reviews, whilst often feared by businesses for a variety of reasons, can be leveraged by brands as well as positive ones. The customers surveyed understood broadly that no business ‘gets it right’ all of the time, but were increasingly mindful of fake positive reviews. As a result, 32% said they’d be concerned if they couldn’t find any negative feedback and 28% sought out negative reviews before any other feedback. A further 22% said that if they couldn’t find anything but positive reviews, they’d be suspicious about all other feedback left.

It is clear, therefore, that businesses should always respond to, but never remove, any negative reviews. Publicly responding and later demonstrating what they could or had done to resolve the situation shows a willingness to please and a positive work ethic, but also proves authenticity. The content of these reviews can feed into the analysis tools to then help prevent future issues and resolve any outstanding issues.

Positive feedback can be leveraged in marketing communications to demonstrate legitimate testimonials and good experiences, but businesses can also focus on their own growth and development alongside ‘good news’. A “you said x, so we did x” communication proves a brand’s commitment to do better for their customers to meet their needs; putting them at the centre of their operations and doing whatever needs to be done to build loyalty and advocacy.