This is the sixteenth in our series of key takeaways from some of the presentations and panel discussions offered at the Social Commerce Summit in May 2008.

Here, Scott Muhlig, Bazaarvoice Content Operations Manager, spoke about the value of negative reviews, and learning to love the ones who “hate” you.

There are two types of negative feedback – that which gets rejected, and that which is published. Both are critical to your business.

Approved/published negative reviews, as long as they are not profane or violate other rules of moderation, such as mentioning price, service, or litigation issues, among others, are valuable to the company and consumers. Negative reviews show credibility – if there are nothing but 5-star product reviews for your products, consumers get suspicious about the authenticity of the content. Negative reviews also give objective feedback and help retailers uncover blind spots. Perhaps there was a breakdown in a process, an unforeseen change in a vendor’s product, or some misinformation in the product’s description on the website. Direct feedback from your customers is the most transparent way to uncover these issues and get them solved quickly.

Rejected negative feedback is also incredibly valuable. When people are upset with a purchase, they sometimes get angry, which can cause them to violate the terms of reviews, use profanity, or go off on a tangent – all things that can lead to rejected content. It’s important not to negate this information, because if you can communicate back to them, uncover and solve a legitimate problem, and complete the circle, it makes it less likely that they will spread their rancor to blogs, forums, and other places where you are unable to see, control or address their comments.

It’s important to review all negative content to look for trends in the negative comments, so you can uncover product or system improvements to improve future customers’ interactions. Here are just a few ways to use negative or rejected content.

1. Use rejected content to handle legal concerns proactively

Content that is rejected due to possible legal concerns constitutes less than 2% of the average 11% of all content that is rejected. Try to have a member of the management team review this content, and engage legal counsel early when appropriate. Major retailers create a liability team to review such issues. Rejected content guides this team right to potentially harmful products, which they then investigate proactively.

2. Use services complaints to save customer relationships

Very often, people just want to know a company hears them. E-mails and publicly posted responses are both inexpensive ways to let your community know you listen while potentially saving a customer relationship. Through trend analysis, retailers can pinpoint whether certain customer complaints surface from particular products, which they can then discuss with manufacturers.

3. Use negative reviews to hold vendors accountable, improve products

Through trend analysis, retailers can pinpoint whether certain customer complaints surface from particular products, which they can then discuss with manufacturers.

7 Responses to “Bazaarvoice Summit Cliffnotes #16: Negative Reviews: Loving the Ones Who Hate You”

  1. I completely agree on these methods, and we have used all 3 of them effectively.

    I would add to this that monitoring reviews of your company’s service and products on 3rd party sites is critical. Identify those 3rd party sites where people review your company (Epinions, Buzzillions, etc.) and subscribe to the RSS feeds of this info. Then, apply these same 3 tactics to reviews you find there.

    Another tip: monitor blogs and Google search results (using Google alerts) for other negative reviews of your company and apply these 3 tactics to those reviews too. These bloggers want to see you attempt to resolve a bad situation!

  2. I completely agree on these methods, and we have used all 3 of them effectively.

    I would add to this that monitoring reviews of your company’s service and products on 3rd party sites is critical. Identify those 3rd party sites where people review your company (Epinions, Buzzillions, etc.) and subscribe to the RSS feeds of this info. Then, apply these same 3 tactics to reviews you find there.

    Another tip: monitor blogs and Google search results (using Google alerts) for other negative reviews of your company and apply these 3 tactics to those reviews too. These bloggers want to see you attempt to resolve a bad situation!

  3. As a publisher of a review driven magazine, The Absolute Sound, I found your article fascinating. it is true that writing “honest” reviews helps consumers decide wyhich product merits attention and in turn worthy of a visit to a retailer.

    However when you live in a very subjective environment the other challege we have as publishers is how negative reviews effect our bottom line. Readers love megative reviews, but advertisers detest them. so its a fine line we walk between honesty and our P & L.

    Overall we are extremely careful when we reivew expensive equipment, but at the same time are acutely aware of our primary role as content provider to our subscriber base, which in the world of consumer publishing are king.

    Thanks for a great perspective on this subject.

  4. As a publisher of a review driven magazine, The Absolute Sound, I found your article fascinating. it is true that writing “honest” reviews helps consumers decide wyhich product merits attention and in turn worthy of a visit to a retailer.

    However when you live in a very subjective environment the other challege we have as publishers is how negative reviews effect our bottom line. Readers love megative reviews, but advertisers detest them. so its a fine line we walk between honesty and our P & L.

    Overall we are extremely careful when we reivew expensive equipment, but at the same time are acutely aware of our primary role as content provider to our subscriber base, which in the world of consumer publishing are king.

    Thanks for a great perspective on this subject.

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