The Impact of Customer Reviews … And How You Can Make The Most Of Them

SatisfactionThere was a quick interview with Peter Mühlmann posted by Smarta last week which ended with some very interesting data. The one that stood out for me was that online reviews can generate 40% of additional revenue per year whilst the other startling insight was that 78% of the respondents to the survey stated that negative reviews online could deter them from making a purchase with a retailer altogether (this is further supported by data from American Express in 2011). This is a startling figure which crosses over very nicely with conversion rate optimisation: just how can you make it more likely that a potential customer will buy from you, rather than a competitor? Here we look at a few simple actions you can take to reduce the rate and severity of your negative reviews.

Centralised Repository of Feedback
There are many ecommerce plugins for managing customer service feedback, but the one we particularly like is Reamaze as this allows you to centralise and organise the process of responding to customer queries. You can add give multiple staff members access to the system and reply to the comments. You can also organise, mark as spam and set ‘workflows’ – which are semi-autoresponding messages.

Report on Your Inbound Messages
Reamaze also lets you produce reports such as how many messages you’ve received in the past 30 days, this month, this week and today. It gives you your average response rate and draws a chart of those rates. There is another chart for the ratio of feedback that you resolve in ‘one hit’ and the average ‘thread size’ – which indicates how many times you need to respond to people to resolve their issues. Another chart allows you to report on each individual staff member’s response rate. There is also an ‘appreciations’ report which basically shows that the (potential) customer liked the response you gave, without them actually needing to reply to say ‘thank you’ and take up more time reading it.

Many of the businesses we’ve had access to customer feedback data either shows people responding positively to quick response times or negatively to slow, incomplete or unhelpful responses. If a customer responding warmly to your support communications then it seems likely that they would give more positive reviews on online review systems.

Allow People To Answer Their Own Questions
Knowing when an order will arrive is key – at the very least give people a realistic expectation of when their order will arrive. The advice is simple: Before customers book either give a general indication of delivery times, such as “95% of orders received by 4pm are delivered the next day”.

An improvement would be to do as MDS Battery do and sate that a product is in stock and will be despatched today. When the time passes their last cut-off time for despatch they system automatically updates that page to show that the order will be despatched tomorrow.

A further improvement would be to say “Want it tomorrow, 24 Feb.? Order it within 4 hrs 58 mins and choose Express Delivery at checkout” and then give people an option to book specific delivery slots.

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Of course this latter option isn’t available to most online retailers purely because you do not have your own delivery network. However, you can often choose expedited services with couriers that could be explored.

Certainly, if you’re using a courier explore the option of adding in tracking information to your despatch notifications. Shopify allows you to add in a tracking ID when you fulfil and order and retailers such as Freego include the tracking link to DPD where you can amend the delivery time or send to a neighbour’s address.

The main issue for customers, however, is non-delivery, with late delivery close behind. For this it is essential that you use a courier that has a high success rate and you (or your agents) can quickly get hold of to resolve any issues. Here, cost is often the flip-side of poor service levels.

So, make sure customers’ delivery expectations are realistic and the deliver (excuse the pun) on your promise. If you can manage this then you should be able to improve your average online review scores fairly significantly as well as reduce the amount of time your staff spend resolving issues.

Keep Accurate Stock Data and Correctly Forecast
Another issue we often see is people that order products and then you notify them via email or telephone that the product is out of stock. This is extremely frustrating for customers.

There are two important notes. The first is obvious: regularly do stock checks if you manage your own fulfilment. If you outsource then the stock picking accuracy rate should be almost 100% (if not 100%). If you don’t have the luxury of your own computerised and robotic picking system then take extra care whilst picking and do those regular and ad hoc stock checks.

Another aspect to be aware of is that if you add any plugins and you have set your system to not allow ‘back orders’ that they do not inadvertently circumvent that request. One particular Shopify App: Quantity Breaks allows you to set discounted prices for bulk orders, but unfortunately does allow customers to order more stock than you have set – against your explicit request. Our advice would be to only use this app against products you have very large stock levels of, or can get new stock very quickly.

Product Quality & Suitability
For SEO purposes you should be writing detailed, useful, imaginative, original and insightful product descriptions, but for the sole purpose of improving customer satisfaction and review ratings then it is essential that what you write in a product description accurately reflects the product features. If you’re offering a bulk bag of chocolate and there is a chance that some of the discs may be broken, tell people that and give them an opportunity to request a more refined product.

Another tip would be to review the customer service messages you receive about a particular product and then add the answers you give directly to the customer to the publically available product page. Amazon, go one step further, instead of receiving customer questions themselves, they all past customers to answer them in the ‘Customer Questions & Answers’ section of some of their products such as the Keter Store Out storage unit.

Prevent Breakage During Delivery.
Online consumers, by their very nature, will buy from various different businesses and receive their products in a wide variety of states. There are small-scale, niche retailers that fulfil in house and will wrap their products beautifully who simply cannot scale that up as they grow. There’s Amazon we have add a great deal of packaging to their customer’s orders by may not do so well at perishable and fragile items and then there are various food retailers who will place jars or bottles in boxes with little packaging along with fragile items which, when combined, causes damage to those less sturdy items. And then there are some companies we’ve had deliveries from who are based in Europe who send breakable items with no internal packaging.

Be empathic and imagine the disappointment your customer will have receiving broken or slightly damaged items and the realisation that they can either not consume the product themselves or give it as a gift and the need to contact you for a replacement. It will not only save your customer service time to respond but also save you the cost of sending replacements but also there will be a longer term cost in that customer may not only verbally inform their friends of the issue they had, but also possibly share their comments on their social media profiles and also down-rate your customer on independent reviews sites such as Trust Pilot, Feefo etc.

Correct Address
It does happen. Customers do add incorrect details when they place an order, so using a system which validates addresses is useful. This issue often arises when you offer PayPal as a payments option and customers do not update their addresses and PayPal sends their default address to your systems. The costs may be prohibitive but Click to Address offer plugins for a variety of ecommerce systems.

When it comes to consumers typing the wrong characters and helping them more quickly order from you then the advantages of 1.5p per use seems attractive.

Expired or Inaccurate Offers
It is easy to create offers for specific purposes and for them to be passed around the internet. We’re not only talking about voucher codes that do not discount how the customer is led to believe it will, but also the restrictions placed on cashback transactions such as Top Cash Back where the purchase specifics to receive the cashback may not apply to many/most customers that use it.

Build A Tribe
This may sound a touch ‘new age’ but it is essential that you work hard to build a customer base that will add to your customer’s knowledge. If you have customers that explore your product range offer them exclusive information via email, give them insight that you don’t share publically and reward them for adding product reviews. You’re most probably an expert at your market but customers need opinions from other people like them. So allowing customers to describe products in a manner, tone and depth that resonates with other customers will help them make better buying decisions which will improve customer satisfaction and ratings.

Engage With Customers Where They Are
Customer complaints should always be conducted within a CMS system such as Reamaze as you can escalate and share responses within the organisation. You can also quantify and measure performance. However, simple questions regarding delivery times, stock availability, making customers feel appreciated, etc. can be done on various social media platforms. You can use something like Hootsuite on the most basic of levels to manage this, although you should make sure that you track brand mentions wherever they occur.

Go ‘That Extra Mile’
If you offer a free gift with an order, over a decade ago Firebox used to add free-sweets to orders, then people are less likely to be so forceful with their negative reviews, and actually give more positive ones online and socially. Consider how you can do this. If you cannot add free small gifts to orders you can try a different tack and create and share excellent content online. If customers see you spending a great deal of time (in their eyes) creating engaging and informative content they see they are getting something free and a better service than they would generally expect.

Create a Specific and Transparent Returns Process
Online customers do have rights and if they wish to return products then you need to make sure the relevant regulations are adhered to. It is essential that you at the very least use those requirements as a minimum standard you offer customers if they wish to return items, but try to go above and beyond that. Many third part ecommerce software offer have returns apps available and should be considered by most online businesses using Shopify, Magento, EKM Powershop and the like.

If your returns policies and procedures aren’t easily found or understood then customers may just contact you using a method isn’t best utilised for returns and then get frustrated. A specific returns system will allow people to feedback actionable data, by classifying their reasons for returning the items, for example. But also it shows that you take customer satisfaction seriously.

If you have different returns procedures for different product categories, or types such as large and bulky items v. small items then this will need to be communicated on your website. Also if you have procedures relating to specific return addresses, returns authorisation and returns delivery payments then this also needs to be very clear and actionable – don’t make it difficult for customers to return items as they will only share this fact with their friends as well as down-rate you on third party reviews websites.