Up against traditional marketing channels, as a peer-based recommendation, online reviews have a lot more sway with consumers, and the influence of online information sources on shopping habits is growing, with 98% of consumers sharing that they search local businesses online in 2022, an increase from 90% in 2019.
Given the prominence of online reviews in the customer journey, it makes sense for us to analyze the latest online review trends and statistics so we can better understand their impact on the customer experience. Here I’ll share some of my takes on the data and discuss how businesses can learn from these latest patterns in customer feedback.
Emerging review trends and statistics
Let’s start by examining some of the current online review trends based on recent survey data:
Lackluster customer service is a major complaint
This year online review trends reveal poor customer service accounts for the majority of consumer complaints, making it the leading driver of negative feedback. This finding indicates that customers place great value on the quality of customer service interactions, and a bad experience here can cloud any other factors that contribute to their overall impression of a brand. Issues like long wait times, inattentive staff, and failure to resolve problems promptly can cause customer satisfaction to crumble and the resultant bad reviews.
Reviews sway purchases
Another assessment of online review data reveals that 94% of consumers consider online feedback and ratings to be more important than price and brand name. Trumping the belief that discounts and bargains are king.
Taking this priority further, 72.1% say they would abstain from a purchase entirely if they saw multiple poor reviews for a product. This substantial percentage demonstrates the strong influence reviews have on shopping behaviors, with even a handful of negative comments popping up in search having the potential to dissuade buyers.
Fake reviews weaken the credibility
While glowing reviews do bring in customers, across-the-board 5-star reviews can prompt skepticism towards their authenticity – perhaps highlighting that consumers feel that some fallibility reflects sincerity. This point is underlined by a survey showing that 30% of shoppers assume online reviews are fraudulent if there are zero negative reviews among them. It was also found that 72% of consumers believe that fake online reviews are ubiquitous these days, a realization that can lead some to dismiss online reviews altogether.
Indeed, the way some companies choose to manage their online reviews can cause consumer trust to be lost. Consumers say some companies had threatened or tried to coerce them into deleting negative reviews, and there are cases when consumers are asked to leave a review in return for a discount. To that note, these deceptive tactics will sabotage consumers’ faith in any business that tries to cut corners in such a fashion and diminish their credibility.
There’s high value in addressing criticism
The abovementioned online review statistics tell us that consumers prefer to support brands that visibly respond to criticism, rather than dismissing it with silence or solely sharing positive testimonials. That’s only slightly behind those who look exclusively for 5-star ratings when choosing where their money gets spent. The most instructive takeaway from the online review trends however is that customers try to contact the company in question before posting a review. Suggesting that this window of opportunity is what companies should be investing in.
Strategy to improve the customer experience
While paying attention to online review trends is advantageous, I find that the following touchpoints are evergreen essentials to success. Customer-focused companies should make them fundamental to their strategy to optimize their customer service provision and transform criticism into satisfaction:
- Provide continuous training to CS staff and make sure they have the requisite tools and resources to excel in their role. To this end, if AI doesn’t already have a place in your customer service setup, you might stay behind.
- Don’t hesitate to reach out to customers to offer support, especially in the negotiating stages of the customer journey where the data reveals bottlenecks/complications.
- If a complaint is received, respond right away.
- Allow your business the best chance of resolving issues by ensuring that your customer support is within easy reach across multiple platforms.
- Continuously analyze and implement learnings from online reviews. Don’t tread water.
- Welcome reviews. The more positive talk there is of your business online, the better the impact on its reputation.
- Always work towards exceptional customer service delivery, placing a focus on empathy and problem-solving.
Years in the business have reinforced my belief that the optimal means by which to succeed here is through training employees not only in the processes and procedures, but also empowering them with the ability as well as the confidence to think on their feet, and by that deliver a service that is individually suited to each and every customer request.
Be mindful of these strategies and look at areas in which your customer service could most benefit from them. Strive to develop a customer-first company culture and to arrive at positive outcomes for your customers.
There is no easy fix, consistently positive reviews, a healthy online reputation, and the flexibility to adapt to new trends will only come as the result of hard work towards a fluid customer relationship, transparency and openness, learning from feedback, and thus greater customer satisfaction.