About Reviews
 (Not the Good Ones) 

 By: Dave Nelsen 

For many of our businesses, online reviews are a key trend thanks to social media. Most of us are aware of consumer review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. Those of us who sell business-to-business (B2B) now need to be aware of sites such as TrustRadius.com and G2.com. Reportedly, 60% of B2B buyers now read user reviews and that number is rising. What people say about us – social validation for our prospects (AKA safety in buying from us) – is critically important to smoothing their buying journey.

Isometric illustration of a white impossible structure resembling an M.C. Escher drawing, with two magenta cubes. One cube is floating above the structure casting a shadow, and the other is located inside the structure at a lower level, creating a visual puzzle.

Also important to all companies, whether B2B, B2C, or B2-something-else (government, education, etc.), is the “employer” review site Glassdoor.com. Certainly, it has implications for our ability to attract the best and brightest employees. However, it may also affect our ability to attract customers. Try Googling your company name (in so called “private” or “incognito” mode) to see if your Glassdoor results come up on Page 1 (yes, they often do). What your employees and former employees are saying about your company and its culture can influence whether people will do business with you. I’ve heard countless firsthand reports from CEOs who decided that they didn’t want to buy from or partner with “a company like that.”

Regarding potential malicious reviews, think about those you’ve seen that don’t apply to your business. Ask yourself, to what extent did those malicious reviews influence your thinking about the target? Did you conclude A) That must be a really terrible organization, or B) Wow, that reviewer is a total wacko, nut job (the technical term for “idiot”)? I’m guessing that typically your reaction was the latter.

Here’s the “game:” First, understand that we’re all now essentially performing in public (behind a glass door as it were) and that in business (if not also in life) we have to be better than before. In every single corporate action… hiring, not hiring, firing, customer service, product claims, etc., we must strive to excel. Go the extra mile! Even if in reconciling a sticky problem, a given transaction has a negative return on investment (ROI), overall that situation, positively resolved, will pay other dividends.

There are myriad strategies for providing outstanding customer service in a world of social media. Regardless of how you do it, I recommend signaling online that you are deeply committed to resolving each problem.

You should usually do this by handling the entire transaction online, in public. If that’s not practical, comfortable, or desirable, at a minimum I would recommend a customized-to-each-situation public response (on Facebook or wherever the issue is posted) that goes something like this:

“We are very sorry to hear about [issue here]. We are fully committed to making it right. Please contact us at [email address or URL here]. We’ll work directly with you to do our best to leave you delighted.”

As for examples of great customer service, a single company leaps to mind. Maybe you thought I was going to point to Apple as the best example (I love Apple!). No, you can’t go wrong there, but instead, I cite Zappos, the Internet shoe retailer run as an independent division of Amazon.com. Zappos’ Net Promotor Scores (NPS) are consistently above 90.

Back when travel was easy and carefree, I went to Vegas to tour Zappos. It’s inspiring to see how they run their operation. First, daily NPS scores are prominently displayed for employees and visitors alike. Second, they’ve changed their success metrics. Instead of measuring how many “tickets” are resolved per service person per hour, they measure how long team members spend per customer and reward the longest experiences. I remember hearing about one support call that went on for 9 hours.

Zappos’ customer service is so legendary that a customer reportedly once called Zappos for help in ordering a pizza. Not only did the task get done, it resulted in the most effective marketing investment (by ROI) ever in the history of capitalism. See, we’re still talking about it (for free).

When we’re unhappy, we tell 3-times more people and now we have these megaphones to do it. To level the playing field (and to create a more balanced perception), ask your happy employees and happy customers to post authentic reviews on the most relevant sites. In time, if you’re running a great organization, the reviews should be 80% to 90% positive (AKA 4.0 to 4.5 stars).

With that equity in the bank (what I call investing in your online reputation), the next negative reviewer will have far less influence. Not that you should ignore a critic. Always work to resolve a negative situation. Critics can become raving fans. At a minimum, use every negative review to trigger a process improvement process internally. Every negative review is actually a gift. “Thank you for pointing out how/where we can improve our operation.”

We’re all used to interpreting and consolidating the positive and the negative. If my standard on Yelp were to eat exclusively at 5-star-rated restaurants, I’m going hungry. On Amazon, I read the most negative reviews first (I bet you do too), and yet I still buy products and services. In fact, authentic reviews help accelerate our purchase decisions and, by setting our expectations up front, lead us to be happier with what we buy (which translated into 45% lower product return rates in one Petco study).

In truth, most malicious reviewers likely have only one modest effect (and it’s on themselves). By venting, perhaps they feel a little bit better and then turn their attention elsewhere. If they knew how little impact they made on the world, they’d no doubt be unhappy about it and be looking for where to complain next.

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