Customer feedback is thriving: 31% of consumers give feedback at least once a month on the products and services they have bought and 88% read customer feedback online before making a purchase. Where companies are concerned, the voice of the customer is so valuable, some no longer hesitate to invite a selection of randomly picked customers to their strategic meetings in order to integrate their unique vision into the innovation process.
But customer feedback is also subject to debate. The upsurge of rigged or unjustified feedback (comments clearly left by the competition, inflated satisfaction rates thanks to fake positive reviews…) have created fear towards customer surveys and the online publishing of customer reviews.
So should you be scared of customer feedback? What solutions exist to make customer feedback more reliable? How should you react if your customers leave you negative feedback?
From transparency to misuse
Fake customer feedback has become a very lucrative business, with marketing agencies offering fake user comments in exchange for ridiculous amounts of money, companies exchanging gifts or vouchers against positive customer reviews…
In 2013, the French Direction générale de la répression des fraudes noticed 45% of irregularities with regard to customer feedback.
And this year, a study by French consumer group UFC showed that every one in three websites skew the customer reviews they publish online.
Though forbidden in France, fake reviews are proliferating and are increasingly difficult to spot by consumers. Unsurprisingly, over 92% of consumers no longer trust the online reviews they read (Opinion Way).
Some solutions exist
In 2013, the French national organization for standardization AFNOR published the first voluntary regulatory standard aiming to ensure the reliability of customer reviews published online.
The principles and requirements of the norm include the necessity to check for proof of purchase, to only show the most recent customer reviews, to display them by chronological order and to clearly identify the author. A clear message of quality for consumers.
Though the norm is not compulsory, it was completed this year by the French “Loi pour une République Numérique” (Law for a Digital Republic in an information-based Society), which requires websites to clearly indicate where their customer reviews come from and if they have been subject to a verification process. The aim is to give extra weight to websites whose customer reviews have been verified and to help customers make more informed choices.
Recognizing the real value of customer feedback
No matter whether its positive or negative, customer feedback is a valuable source of information for businesses : Negative reviews help raise awareness towards pain points and improve services, positive reviews can improve employee motivation… And no matter what, they inevitably result in increased consumer trust. According to a 2013 study by Harvard Business School, 95% of consumers do not trust businesses who do not display a mixture of positive and negative feedback.
However, when publishing negative customer feedback online, you must take the time to answer each comment, both in a respectful, professional fashion. Recognizing when you have been in the wrong, explaining what happened, finding solutions and simply showing that all customer reviews are welcome all show that you are actively listening to what your customers have to say. This will all the more beneficial for your brand image.
The vast majority of customer feedback is positive
This has been studied and proven on many occasions : when customers are systematically surveyed after a purchase, the vast majority of customer feedback is positive. In the US, over 88% of customer reviews are positive (with a score of 4 or 5 /5). In France, some stores are achieving record satisfaction rates, with up to 99% of satisfied customers on over 4500 customer reviews. Encouraging customers to leave post-purchase feedback helps gain more detailed insight into customer perceptions towards the stores they visit.
Lastly, in order to avoid over positive reviews having a negative effect on consumer trust, third-party websites such as TrustVille help guarantee the origin of customer reviews by only publishing verified feedback, no matter if it is positive or negative, in chronological order.