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Learning from the Hawke and Co customer feedback mistake

The proliferation of online technology, social media, and instant access to information makes todays business world unique from days gone by. This social and digital revolution gives consumers a stronger voice than ever before and these networks, as well as a number of emerging online review platforms, enable direct communication between consumers and brands.

No more strongly worded letters that may never be opened or hours on hold with call centres, people are voicing their opinions louder and more often than ever before with comments very much in the public domain. Hawke and Co were recently reminded of the power at every consumers fingertips.

Online marketing can be a great way to build customer trust and showcase commitment to excellent customer service, but Hawke and Cos recent response to a dissatisfied customer shows how it can all go sour if businesses dont take online reviews seriously. Although an apology was swiftly issued, the speed at which it went viral demonstrates just how key it is to get it right first time before damage to the brand is done.

After a tweet was made by a disgruntled customer who mentioned that Hawks and Co had cancelled an order and then not honoured a discount on other products, with a recommendation to avoid the retailer added, the companys Twitter account replied with the line: Were sure your 320 followers will understand .

What followed was a backlash from other tweeters showing their support for the frustrated customer, with one eventually working out that most of the Hawks and Co Twitter followers were in fact fake. From a base of 320 followers, the tweet exchange had gone viral.

How businesses respond to consumer reviews, questions and feedback demonstrates their trustworthiness and transparency and, perhaps more importantly, the value they place on the thoughts and experiences of their customers. Get this right first time and businesses can add extra value to their brand. Get it wrong, and they may find themselves in crisis management mode.

Nielsens most recent ‘Global Trust in Advertising’ report proves that online opinions posted by consumers are now the third most trusted form of advertising. Therefore, businesses that understand the potential value customer reviews can bring to a brand will unlock huge opportunities for growth. In particular, and perhaps most pertinent, companies should make sure they dont shy away from negative feedback.

The Trustpilot ‘Trust Economy’ research shows that negative reviews can actually be a positive thing for companies. Honest and trustworthy responses have the power to change the minds of customers who might have been put-off by the experiences of others, with 15 per cent of online shoppers saying they would actually be more likely to shop with a company if they see complaints that have been successfully resolved. People accept that brands arent perfect, so negative reviews are to be expected. The acid test for businesses is how theyre handled.

In successfully handling customer feedback, it’s not just new customers that businesses need to consider. Taking the reviews of existing customers seriously is equally as crucial. Twenty per cent of a business existing customers generate 80 per cent of their future profits. Those consumers that enjoy brand affinity, good customer service and a personalised shopping experience will come back time and time again as well as openly referring friends and family, resulting in business growth both in reputation and the bottom line.

Consumers hold the power to define any brand in this new digital age and businesses must approach all reviews swiftly, intelligently and with respect. Its vital that businesses are proactive in their approach to managing brand reputation, and the value of knowledge garnered through social media and online reviews should not be underestimated.

Jan Vels Jensen is CMO at online review platform Trustpliot.

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