Failure to Analyze Data from Negative Online Reviews Is a Wasted Opportunity

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    When you think about it, online product reviews can be a goldmine of information for companies whose products are reviewed on sites like Yelp. With the right data analytics in place, these reviews can yield valuable insights that companies can capitalize on to dramatically improve the customer experience. The problem is that when the reviews are negative, a lot of companies are more likely to try to ignore them than to tap the value that lies within.

    To better understand how online retailers can leverage data analytics to capitalize on negative online reviews, I spoke with Jonathan Hinz, product marketing director at Trustpilot, an online reviews community and technology platform. Hinz said negative reviews can be the most powerful reviews for initiating change within businesses:

    These negative reviews illuminate the areas that cause customer dissatisfaction. Data analytics derived from online reviews offer an endless supply of insights that can improve business operations and an organization’s bottom line. Brands are seeing measurable value in online review analytics, particularly when they distribute these insights across the organization—to the fulfillment, management and engineering teams—and not just to the marketing and customer service teams.

    For example, Hinz said, if a brand sees a spike in negative reviews about the time it took for a product to ship, the feedback can go straight to the fulfillment team to update processing times:

    From there, the customer service team will respond to the review, engaging with the customer and noting that the fulfillment team is fixing the issue. Additionally, the brand will continue to monitor the analytics behind fulfillment-focused reviews to see if the sentiment is improving. If the brand isn’t seeing improvements, the data and insights may be presented to management in order to inform a top-down solution to the issue.

    So how should an online retailer respond to a negative review that’s posted, say, on Yelp? Hinz said that while it is understandable to fear negative reviews, brands need to remember that any feedback received about a product, good or bad, will be beneficial to provide a better product or service to customers:

    The first thing an online retailer or service provider should do is respond immediately to the negative review. More than 15 percent of consumers said seeing a negative review which was successfully resolved by a company would make them more likely to make a purchase than seeing a positive review. Waiting for the issue to disappear will only result in lost customers, including the customer directly impacted and those with whom he shares his negative experience. Additionally, when replying to a negative review, the retailer must offer a personalized solution to the customer’s problem and follow through with what was promised. Kellogg’s, for example, uses social media to immediately respond to negative reviews, and turns customers into brand advocates. In one instance, after responding to a complaint on Twitter, the brand followed through on the customer’s goofy request to have breakfast with Tony the Tiger. With this action, the company built a trusting and long-lasting relationship.


    In October of last year Trustpilot released a report based on a study conducted in collaboration with the market research firm Econsultancy, that addresses the value of tapping customer feedback to improve the customer experience. I asked Hinz what the key take away from the report is for online retailers, and he said it’s that they need to measure and act on the voice of the customer:

    One of the most important lessons brands can learn from the report is the importance of tangibly measuring business success. Successful brands are investing in tools that analyze customer sentiment and personalize targeted marketing, reducing shopping cart abandonment, improving retention and therefore increasing the company’s bottom line. They are using these tools to set internal goals for customer engagement and measuring the ROI behind their campaigns to better understand how to reach a customer.

    Hinz said another important takeaway is that brands can cultivate strong customer loyalty through interactions rooted in trust and transparency:

    A brand that admits it made a mistake or apologizes for a false review will attract far more customers than one that attempts to cover up or delete negative reviews. In fact, 15 percent of customers are more likely to return to a business that has publicly addressed negative feedback and turned it into a positive experience. These interactions also provide third-party validation that brands can display for potential customers about how their products and services perform and their dedication to customer satisfaction. Above all, however, brands should remember that online reviews are an essential business tool with a value that extends beyond customer service.

    A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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