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How Businesses Handle Customer Reviews

With the internet making more and more information easily accessible, consumers have access to details that can influence how they spend their hard-earned money. They are also introduced to products and businesses they may have remained unaware of without information found online. 

But there can be a negative side to all of that free-flowing data. As people increasingly share their unfiltered views online, businesses can find themselves the subject of ridicule and criticism for perceived slights against customers, both big and small. 

To see just how impactful customer reviews are on businesses and how much stock consumers put into reviews, we surveyed over 1,000 people, including 352 employees responsible for monitoring business reviews and 698 consumers who’ve posted at least one public review in the past year. We also asked employees about their process for monitoring reviews and consumers about getting compensated for their complaints. Read on to learn more. 

Measuring the Impact

Customer reviews are an important part of building a business with a positive reputation. However, the business employees we surveyed indicated that reviews are also important to businesses’ success in general. Thirty percent said customer reviews have a major impact on overall business success, and just over 1 in 4 said reviews have a major impact on profits. 

While there are many important factors in running a business, maintaining a good reputation can be the key to helping it flourish. Online reputation management can increase a business’ visibility with customers and potential prospects while offering valuable information, such as contact information and location details. 

Monitoring the Internet

These days, there are many ways for customers to interact with businesses before placing an order or stepping in a store. In addition to general review websites covering a range of industries and business types, some industries have unique review platforms. For example, Yelp is a major source of restaurant reviews and information. 

Google was the top platform business employees reported monitoring regularly (67.6%). Facebook was the second most monitored at 55.1%, and Yelp came in third with 46.3%. 

Reviews can be particularly impactful when a business is just getting off the ground. Our results indicated that younger companies are more active in keeping track of customer feedback. Nearly 40% of employees working at newer companies (10 years old or younger) said online reviews were monitored daily, compared to just 18.5% for older businesses. However, more established businesses were by no means negligent of customer feedback: More than half said reviews were monitored on a weekly basis. 

Responding to Reviews

Because businesses are often busy doing business, it can seem like improper use of time to respond to customer reviews. However, taking the time to respond to customers who’ve used their valuable time leaving feedback can send positive messages to both reviewers and potential customers, such as showing you care about every customer. 

A third of business employees said they responded to some reviews, and another third reported responding to most reviews. Only about 12% said every review got a response. 

As for the sentiment expressed in reviews, a majority of businesses, both young and old, reported responding to positive and negative reviews at equal rates. However, older businesses were more likely to respond to negative reviews – perhaps because they have learned the true cost of negative reviews stacking up. 

While it’s natural to want to refute negative feedback or ignore it altogether, there are merits to responding to negative reviews, and there’s a good way to do it. First, try reaching out to the reviewer directly and privately. While waiting for a response, a generic response to the review about what further action is being taken can show you’re responsive and sincere. 

Handling Harsh Feedback

A majority of the business employees surveyed reported their business/employer typically attempts to resolve complaints from reviews (89.5%). 

Around 68% of young businesses and 76.6% of older businesses responded to negative reviews by attempting to contact the customer and offering a way to resolve the issue, whether with an apology or a refund for the service or product purchased. 

Over 52% of newer businesses said they make changes to the business after receiving complaints to prevent future issues. 

Customers Taking Advantage

Businesses can try really hard to right any wrongs and give customers a pleasant experience, but some consumers just can’t be pleased, no matter the efforts taken

Business employees seemed to share this sentiment, with nearly 78% saying they feel customers abuse businesses’ desire to keep their customers happy. Furthermore, 66.7% of business employees reported instances when they suspected a customer complained just for compensation through free products or services. Around 13% of consumers admitted to complaining solely in the hopes of getting something for free.  

Harnessing the Power of Reviews

Reviews – both positive and negative – carry a lot of weight and influence for businesses. Nearly 99% of consumers reported that reviews are influential in their buying decisions, and businesses need to plan accordingly. 

Our survey indicates that many businesses are actively working on their online presence and tracking how customers are rating them. A majority of business employees reported that online reviews were monitored on a weekly basis, and a third said they respond to most reviews, whether positive or negative. 

Managing customer sentiment is just one part of establishing a new business. ZenBusiness is here to assist in getting your dream up and running. From our low-cost formation service to banking and bookkeeping services, we’re ready to help. 

Methodology

We surveyed 1,052 people for this project in two separate surveys. One surveyed 352 employees whose job responsibilities included monitoring customer reviews of their employer. The other surveyed 698 consumers who had written a public review of a business in the last year. 

In the employees’ survey, respondents were 59.5% men and 40.5% women. The average age of respondents was 36.6, with a standard deviation of 10.6.

To qualify for the employee survey, respondents had to report that at least some of their job responsibilities involved monitoring customer reviews. 

Employees were asked to rate how much of an impact customer reviews had on different factors, such as overall business success and attracting new customers and clients. They were asked to rate the impact on the following scale:

  • No impact
  • Minor impact
  • Moderate impact
  • Major impact

Employees were asked to report which platforms were monitored most for customer reviews. They were instructed to select all options that applied. Therefore, percentages will not equal 100 for that data. 

Employees were asked if their employer/business typically responded to negative reviews. Respondents who said they typically do were then asked how those situations were handled. They were given a check-all-that-apply option. Therefore, the percentages for that data will not equal 100. 

Employees were also asked to report how many years their business/employer had been operating. We then grouped responses into two groups: operating for 10 years or less and operating for more than 10 years. In our final visualization of the data, we labeled these groups as “newer businesses” and “older businesses.”

In the consumer survey, respondents were 49% men and 51% women. The average age of those respondents was 37, with a standard deviation of 11.1. Respondents in this survey had to report they’d written at least one public review of a business to qualify for the survey. 

Limitations

Data in this project rely on self-reporting. Issues with self-reported data include exaggeration, telescoping, selective memory, and attribution. For example, businesses could have exaggerated the number of reviews they typically respond to.

Fair Use Statement

It’s become increasingly important for businesses to monitor what customers say about them on different platforms. You’re welcome to share this with people who might find this project useful as long as it’s for noncommercial reuse. Please link back here so that the project and its methodology can be reviewed. This also gives credit to our contributors for their work.

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