Positive customer experiences are a necessary and cost-effective way for brands to build, improve, and maintain customer loyalty. Now more than ever, there is an onus on CX to constantly improve or offer something new with every interaction or purchase—a daunting task for sure. More daunting still is the damage wrought by negative CX, particularly in the form of customer reviews. Whether by word-of-mouth or digital posting, one negative review carries a significant weight that brands dare not ignore.

The Power of Negative Reviews

Negative Customer Experience online review clothing shopping

The cost of gaining a single new customer for a brand can be five to twenty-five times that of retaining an existing one through quality CX. According to the Customer Experience Impact Report, all it takes is a single negative customer experience for 86% of consumers to quit a brand. A single negative article about a brand on the first page of Google search results is enough to send 22% of potential new customers looking elsewhere. That number doubles with a second negative article via that same Google search result meaning that just two negative reviews will turn away nearly half potential new customers.

The importance of online reviews cannot be overstated. 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews when it comes to making a purchase. Most online reviews employ a five-star rating system. For every one-star review (the most negative), a brand will need four five-star reviews (the most positive) to average out to a four-star rating.

Further, the financial impact of online reviews is significant, according to the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University. Purchase likelihood is 270% greater for products with at least five reviews compared to those with no reviews, a staggering statistic that shows just how important reviews have become to the customer.

However, only one in ten customers who have had a positive CX will leave a review. Negative customer experiences are much more likely to be reported. That means it can take up to 40 positive customers experiences to mitigate one negative review.

Customer reviews not only tie into emotions but a psychological need for a sense of social belonging. A strongly positive or negative customer experience activates a sense of “incidental arousal” and a need to share that experience to the greater community. More often than not, that experience (and consequential review) is emotionally-charged.

Responding To Negative CX Reviews

A brand cannot simply put out the fire of the initial negative CX issue. No, the brand needs to do whatever is necessary to keep the customer and even attempt to transform them into a brand advocate, the result of a stronger emotional connection between the customer and your brand. While negative reviews cannot be avoided, their frequency and the way in which they are dealt with are all within a brand’s power.

A negative review or customer experience should be treated as a top priority and replies to them should occur within hours, not days. Establishing an alert system with an actionable chain of command for dealing with and solving a customer’s issue is a necessary first step to combating any negative CX.

First and foremost, customers want to be heard. That’s why the first impressions responding to negative feedback are so important. Customers need to be shown empathy so they know that the brand is on their side. One way to achieve this is with a personalized experience, one that feels humanized with a live person leading it, not a bot or an automatically generated reply. It is with this personalized experience that the opportunity to strengthen the emotional connection arises.

The customer and the brand then begin to share a mutual purpose to right a wrong. Naturally, some customers are more challenging and more vocal than others, which makes each interaction a new challenge. Another reason that understanding customers and how they feel is so important.

The Customer Feedback Loop

Any time a brand responds to a customer’s feedback or reviews (be they positive or negative) they are entering the Customer Feedback Loop. The goal for the brand is to close this loop with something more than an acknowledgment of the feedback willingly given by the consumer.

Negative customer feedback should be addressed with not only an apology (the acknowledgment) but also with options for resolution, be it issuing a refund and a promise to do better or another offering above and beyond. The online shoe retailer Zappos, for example, has become famous for its clear dedication to CX.

Veronica C. of Huntsville, AL, recently posted on Instagram about her positive Zappos customer experience after first lodging a complaint. She had purchased a pair of boots for her child’s Halloween costume, but the shipment was sent to a previous address. A call to customer support quickly resolved the situation with a second pair of boots being rushed delivered to the correct address at no cost. But several days later, to Veronica’s surprise, she received a handwritten note from the Zappos customer service representative. Not only that, the note made specific mention of her child’s Halloween costume. Veronica was so delighted by the positive experience that she shared it on Instagram. Zappos turned a dissatisfied customer into a brand advocate and also won a die-hard customer for life.

The key was Zappos’ focus on delighting their customer after a negative experience. As we’ve seen, certain emotions generate a stronger emotional connection between customer and brand, such as delight or joy. The importance of successfully creating a stronger emotional connection between your brand and a customer is it makes them more likely to become brand advocates. Clearly, Zappos was successful in this endeavor.

Every negative CX opens a door for a chance to grow the relationship with the brand again. Get the customers involved, ask them for a review of this experience (or an update to their original) and check back in with them promptly.

It should be noted that the squeaky wheel of negative feedback need not be the only reviews that receive this treatment. Positive reviews or feedback that offer ideas or suggestions for improvements, for example, should be rewarded as well. This is an opportunity, through the same kind of personalized engagement, to close the feedback loop with a special offer or discount that could, in turn, create new revenue.

Every negative CX review offers brands the chance to get ahead of the next one, to actively troubleshoot and self-assess, and to improve customer service and support. Interactions with dissatisfied customers need to extend beyond just tending to their primary complaints to ensure that they not only remain customers but that they hopefully transform into brand advocates. Continuing to provide personalized CX by understanding and targeting specific emotions in your customers will go a long way to mitigating negative reviews.

Since the cost of obtaining a new customer is generally five times that of retaining an existing one, that is indeed a sound investment.

For your next CX project contact Chuck Bean.

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