The relevance of Social Proof II – How to react to negative customer reviews and avoid them altogether
by Carolina Engl – 6 Min Read time
last updated 06/07/2022
A brief recap: In the previous article, we analyzed that bad customer reviews are pure poison for the reputation of every online store and have a direct impact on sales. This is because 88 percent of all consumers rely on the reviews of other customers; stores with poor reputations are deliberately avoided.
Furthermore, we have recognized that there are two main reasons for negative reviews: Internal reasons, which are usually related to product quality and can be remedied directly by taking the initiative, and external reasons, whose roots usually lie in fulfillment.
If, for example, the current stock level is not communicated in real time between the fulfillment provider and the eCommerce store, customers may order an out-of-stock item. This leads to delays in delivery, which annoys shoppers. Customer support, on the other hand, does not know the cause of the difficulties and is therefore unable to react in time and rectify the situation.
These and similar problems present eCommerce stores with a major challenge, because apart from a change of fulfillment partner, at first glance they seem to have few levers at their disposal to remove these external obstacles.
However, there is a better way than terminating a relationship that may have lasted for years. In this article, we will show you what this looks like and how you can react with a positive response to negative criticism.
Proactive and the right timing: How to avoid bad customer reviews through fulfillment
To get straight to the point: The solution to prevent negative criticism due to logistics errors is digital. Because where there are lengthy phone calls between the store and the fulfiller, possibly faxes are sent, and the height of digitization is an email with an Excel sheet attached, there are inevitably delays, communication problems, and ultimately bad reviews.
Therefore, the fulfillment provider of your choice should definitely offer – or switch to – a tool that creates full transparency and control over all warehouse and logistics processes, synchronizes data in real time, and automatically provides stakeholders with all relevant information.
Let’s look at three typical use cases for better visualization:
#1 A product is out-of-stock
The standard without a tool:In the store, the item in question is marked as available. A customer buys it and waits anxiously for its delivery – unfortunately in vain. At best, the shipment is delayed, or it may not be delivered at all in the foreseeable future. However, this information does not reach the customer until days after the order has been received.
The result is a frustrated customer who withdraws all trust from the store in question and is desperate to vent his disappointment. A bad rating is as good as certain.
Ideal solution with a tool: If the store and warehouse are automatically synchronized with the software, this mishap is almost impossible. Items that are currently out of stock are removed from the store in real time, or a notice is displayed that indicates longer delivery times or allows interested parties to be informed about availability again.
If a particularly sought-after item is sold out of stock due to extremely high demand – think, for example, of the run on high-tech electronics and the current chip shortage – nothing is lost. All parties involved, from customer support to the customer, are notified immediately and automatically of the problem and can react accordingly, or do not experience a disappointing and fruitless wait.
#2 A shipment is delayed
The standard without a tool: If unforeseen delivery problems occur, perhaps because the goods are stuck in customs clearance or a pandemic and a damaged container freighter are keeping the world on tenterhooks, the most customers have available in the standard case is a tracking ID from the carrier.
The status of this ID usually does not change in the event of problems; for days it simply says “Your package is on its way to you”. The irritated customer has no choice but to contact the supplier or the store’s customer support. However, no further information is available there either. The customer service department can’t do anything more than call after the shipment itself. This not only ties up valuable working time, but also results in frustrated shoppers and poor ratings.
Ideal solution with a tool: The situation is much better if the fulfillment provider itself has a system that maps the status of each shipment, automatically detects delays and informs on them immediately.
Either an e-mail could be sent directly to the buyer, explaining the cause of the delay and giving a new delivery date. Or the customer support team is notified. The latter then immediately contacts the customer in person, proactively informs him or her of the difficulties and possibly offers compensation.
The second approach is somewhat more complex, but leads to an even better customer experience and thus to good ratings. However, both solutions safely prevent negative reviews.
#3 Timing of an evaluation prompt
The standard without a tool: Without intelligent software, evaluation prompts are sent on a fixed schedule, for example, three days after the item is shipped. If this message then reaches the buyer before the purchased item due to unforeseen difficulties, it is a sign of unprofessional service.
Because, let’s not kid ourselves, in such a case the customer will feel quite fooled. He’s still waiting for his order, but he’s supposed to write about what he thought of his shopping experience? He certainly won’t leave any friendly words with five stars. Quite the opposite.
Ideal solution with a tool: It’s a different story if your fulfiller can track the status of each delivery with pinpoint accuracy and is automatically notified when a shipment reaches its final destination.
Because this allows perfect timing for sending the evaluation request. Not too early and possibly even before the goods arrive, nor too late when the customer has long since mentally finished with their shopping experience, but shortly after the delivery has been received. In this way, the buyer is still aware of the process, and at the same time has enough time to take a good look at his new possession. A good rating is as good as certain.
In the worst case scenario: Responding correctly to a bad review
With the help of an appropriate software, it is possible for you and your fulfiller to prevent the typical causes of a negative review from arising in the first place. However, if something does go wrong and a customer leaves a bad review, you need to respond appropriately.
Under no circumstances should the criticism go unanswered. Because with the right feedback, you not only suggest to potential buyers that you take the concerns of your customers seriously; many a negative review can be turned into a positive one with a good response.
Pay particular attention to the following:
- Always respond personally: never give disgruntled customers a standardized answer made up of text modules, but instead explicitly address the stated problem.
- Take responsibility: Whoever is to blame for the misery, the customer is king. Ask for an apology for the circumstances that have arisen, even if you are not the cause.
- Provide reasons: Don’t leave your apology in empty space, but explain why something went wrong. People respond much more understandingly when they understand their counterpart’s motives.
- Present a solution: Asking for forgiveness is only the first step; the next step is to present a solution. What this looks like depends, of course, on the problem described. If a shipment is lost in the mail, for example, you can offer to resend the goods.
- Offer compensation: Sometimes it really is too late for a solution. Then tempers can be calmed by offering a small compensation, such as a free item or a voucher.
- Show willingness to improve: No one wants to experience the same debacle twice. Therefore, wherever possible, explain how you will avoid repeating the problem in the future.
- Express gratitude: Even if criticism hurts, gratitude for feedback is an important part of any successful response. Therefore, conclude your text with appropriate wording.
- Speed counts: If you delay too long with your response, no customer in the world will be interested in giving you a positive review after all. You should respond after seven days at the latest.
A good response to a negative review might look like this:
Please accept our apologies that the Nontondo game console you ordered did not arrive in time for Christmas. We understand how great the disappointment of your children must have been. (Empathic Apology)
Unfortunately, the shipping volume is huge, especially in the run-up to Christmas, and our carrier – additionally weakened by Corona – was not able to deliver as quickly as it normally does. (Reason)
As a small compensation we took the liberty to send a credit card for the Nontondo e-shop on its way to you. Perhaps this small gesture will console your children a little about the lost time. (Reparation)
In any case, thank you for your honest feedback and we will work with additional parcel services for next Christmas. (Thanks & Reparation)
Lisa, Customer Service
In your reply, always make sure not to include any of the customer’s personal information. Also, do not include the name of your own company, because search engines might pick it up and play the negative review directly in the front results.
Of course, answering every single review personally is a time-consuming task for your customer support. But here, too, the automating software helps. Because where fewer standard cases have to be processed, there’s much more time for personal handling of the difficult ones.
Digital is the solution to better customer feedback
The best way to get more positive reviews is to use a smart digital solution for your fulfillment. It enables your customer support to respond promptly and proactively, while providing customers with all the information they need.
As a result, and thanks to the automation of repetitive tasks, far fewer tickets end up on your customer support desk, freeing them up to take on the really complicated cases. The result is more positive reviews or previously negative reviews that can be turned around with a good response.
Cover image by Yan Krukov. More images by Monstera.