Replies Can Change Customer Minds


customer reactionIt’s axiomatic that you find out how good a business really is when it has already screwed up once; the speed and nature of the fix show the firm’s true nature. After shipping you the wrong item, do they just offer to refund your return shipping? Do they overnight the correct item to you, no questions asked? How quickly do they resolve the problem?

It turns out that the way companies respond to bad online reviews makes a difference, too. As reported by Mediapost, a Harris survey showed that 18% of those who posted a negative review of the merchant and got a reply ended up becoming loyal customers and buying more.

In addition, and perhaps an even bigger surprise, nearly 70% of those consumers receiving replies reversed the negative content either by deleting the bad review or posting a second positive one. Considering the power of word of mouth, and in particular negative word of mouth, that’s a stunning accomplishment.

While salvaging one out of five unhappy customers is a laudable goal (and, I suspect, a lot cheaper than prospecting for new customers), I have no doubt the benefits extend far beyond that number. Countless other buyers reading reviews will see a proactive response to a problem instead of an unanswered (and apparently ignored) complaint. (Indeed, when I’m evaluating an online purchase I usually visit the firm’s forum to see how quickly and effectively they respond to problem reports. Unanswered complaints are a huge red flag.)

Without a doubt, this issue is a no brainer. Monitor where your customers post – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, review sites, etc. – and engage them quickly and constructively. Don’t try to win an argument about who’s right; remember, you may have just ruined important plans, and the customer is upset. Offer a simple but sincere apology, and state how the problem can be resolved with minimum customer pain. Not only do you have chance to retain that customer, but you’ll have influenced many others as well.

  1. Steve Jones says

    Great point Roger. Negatives are impossible to avoid. Every business in every walk of life will encounter them. It is how brands handle negatives that really defines how their customers will see them.

  2. Jennifer says

    This really is a no-brainer which is why I’m always so mystified by a company’s poor or nonexistent customer service. It just makes sense to make things right, it shouldn’t even have to be a defined strategy.

    It would be like needing to whip out a playbook in the grocery store when you’ve just accidentally run over someone’s toes with your cart.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Well, some companies operate with no brains, Jennifer. (Big surprise, right!?) Even after “United Breaks Guitars” went viral, UA still wasn’t interacting in SM. I’ve heard that has changed, but haven’t given them an opportunity to tick me off lately. All my past complaints went unanswered.


  3. Jennifer says

    Oh, agreed. It’s just not any less astonishing to me. 😛

  4. Alain Nonyme says

    The United States Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment is a twelve-point plan developed by the Emerging Technology Division of the US Air Force’s Affairs Agency that illustrates how US Airmen should respond to online blogs. The plan provides in a detailed and specific way how it is that Airmen should respond to blogs. It was created to combat blog posts that have negative opinions about the U.S government and to bolster support and credibility for positive blog posts.

  5. Stanley Stanev says

    I concur! I have been always a believer that we should be polite and patient with any customer out there. I’ve seen many cases where angry customers for one or another reason are nicely transformed into loyal customers for a really long time after spending some time with them, listening, and helping.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Definitely correct, Stanley. I operated a mail order company for years, and was surprised at how often an enraged, hostile customer could be calmed down and ultimately turned into a loyal buyer. Avoiding arguments, staying calm, being empathetic, and offering a real solution were the key to accomplishing this.


  6. Carolyn Maul says

    What a great post. This very situation just happened to me re: a poor review I gave a restaurant on Yelp. The Director of Marketing’s straightforward apology and willingness to remedy the situation made me want to give this restaurant a second chance (and who knows, I may still have a bad experience there second time around, but this is a second chance I wasn’t otherwise willing to give):

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Great anecdote, Carolyn. Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Billy Kirsch says

    Contact with customers whether before or after a sale or completion of services is the most important thing for my business. We all want to feel like we’ve been ‘heard’ and that’s what great customer service should be about.

  8. Josh says

    Its how Zappos has become so successful. If the customer has already purchased from you, you’ve accomplished the most difficult feat: finding the customer. Why any company wouldn’t want to satisfy that customer to justify the cost of obtaining that customer is puzzling.

  9. Mary Poul says

    On-line brings the benefit of spreading the halo effect of responding well to a poor customer experience. In researching what customers value for a project, all of the subjects I interviewed rated a company as their best-in-class supplier over us and others. It turns out that this company routinely screwed up orders that they shipped. But they made it so easy and pleasurable to call and get the problem fixed that they left an overall good impression. And since they screwed up often, they had a lot of opportunities to fix and create a good impression. This company was rated more positive than mine and others that rarely or never created problems to fix. Go figure, getting it right created less opportunity to engage and help the customer. And we were not viewed as favorably.

    So, if your company insists on getting orders right and doing things well the first time, remember that customer touchpoints still count. How else can you be serving your customer like a hero on a regular basis?

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Interesting anecdote, Mary. While they say that you can tell how good a company is by how they react to their own screw-ups, few companies thrive by demonstrating their screw-up expertise on a regular basis!


  10. The Child says

    Good Point. After all, it’s all about first impressions these days. Replies to customers can be considered “first impressions”. It’s sad how surprised people are when they are treated like a guest these days. I suppose it’s a good idea to always be tactful and diplomatic to everyone. They could be anyone in the future.

    The Child

  11. Daniel Smith says

    Nice post Roger – I always suspected this was the case, good to see some numbers behind it though. I think just the fact that they’re connecting with a real person rather than the brand is what leads to the ongoing loyalty..

  12. Rich Norton says

    Agreed, this is an obvious point, but once so often overlooked. Once a negative image of a company takes hold online it causes an awful lot of work to reverse the perception. It can be done, but it’s much better to prevent things ever getting to that stage.

  13. […] to folks who message you, especially if they complain.  In Replies Can Change Customer Minds neuromarketing author Roger Dooley describes how well social media like Twitter lends itself to […]

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