Leveraging Ratings, Reviews to Improve the Customer Experience

Content Manager

Ratings and reviews not only provide credibility for your business but make the purchase decision an easier one for your customer, attendees were told at a session at Operations Summit 2015.

“Who is telling your story?” asked Debra Ellis, founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting Ellis, who co-lead the session. “In this world that is so interactive and so connected, someone is telling your story. If you’re not the one telling your story, someone else is. If you are not responding to the story they’ve told, then they’re telling it and telling it inaccurately.”

According to Ellis, 72% of consumers said in 2012 that they trusted online ratings of strangers as much as those from someone they knew; in 2014 that figure had increased to 88%.

“Part of the reason for this increase is the companies that are doing it well,” said Ellis. “Amazon and some catalogers and direct marketers are policing the reviews and they’re downgrading the ones that are duplicate, inaccurate or not from buyers.”

Ellis said happy customers may leave positive reviews, but unhappy customers will leave negative reviews everywhere they can, aggressively searching for places to post them, even if it is inappropriate.

Positive reviews build trust and credibility. Online reviews are rated consistently high alongside other marketing tactics in terms of their ability to influence consumers, including editorial content.

Ellis said ratings are playing an increasingly larger role with SEO, adding that people need validation when there are so many choices online. She also said they allow customers to differentiate similar products and decrease return rates because they’ve been educated, know what they want and what they’re buying.

“The bottom line is you want your customer to trust you and have an open line of communication to you,” said Ellis.  “If they know they can post anything about your company, positive or negative, and that you will be responsive to them, they are more inclined to trust you and you’ll have a better relationship with them.”

Ellis said if you handle customers with respect while keep communication lines open, the relationship will improve naturally.

“The trick to negative reviews is to turn them into a positive,” said Ellis.  “One of the best benefits is constructive criticism, which gives you an opportunity to take that information and improve your business.”

Ellis said it is important to know your customers better than anyone else and why they are coming to you. “You have to know if they’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, and if they’re leaving reviews on Yelp,” she said. In addition to knowing what social channels they’re using and where they’re leaving reviews, brands should know what their online triggers are.

“It’s just about what makes them buy, but what makes them happy,” she said. “Generally what customers expect is less about what companies think they expect.”

Most customers don’t want over-the-top service unless you have really high-end products, Ellis said. They just want to be able to get what they want, when they want it and at the right price point and quality level.

She also pointed out that not knowing how customers are being disappointed is a handicap in terms of creating a great customer experience.

“If you don’t know what their experience is, you have to keep working until you do,” said Ellis. “You need to be responsive, answering emails and reviews in 24 hours or less, and you want to provide them with solutions.”

Also key is responding quickly and accurately, reporting fraudulent reviews to site managers and having an active digital presence.

A good way to get more positive reviews? Ask customers for them, Ellis advised. The best places to post them are on your homepage where appropriate, alongside your best-selling items and on your search page.