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The Good News About Bad Reviews: Page 2

By James A. Martin     Feedback
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How to Get Customer Reviews
Yelp.com, Citysearch.com, and other sites provide a forum for consumer reviews of local retailers, service firms and other companies. Small e-tailers selling through Amazon.com or eBay receive feedback from customers. In addition, small e-tailers can also devote space on their own Web sites for customer reviews.

Facilitating and managing reviews on your site can be time-consuming. Third-party services can take the pain out of the process. PowerReviews provides its product-review technology to merchants at no cost. (The company makes money by driving consumers to its Web shopping portal, Buzillions.com, where it receives a sales commission.) PowerReviews' target customers sell $5 million or more per year or about 4,000 orders monthly, Chen said. While that might seem to eliminate smaller e-tailers, Chen said Mom & Pop shops still have low-cost options for getting product reviews on their sites.

Many product manufacturers are willing to share their product reviews with small authorized e-tailers, Chen explained. PowerReviews will facilitate the sharing between the manufacturer and e-tailer at no cost to the e-tailer, he added. However, the e-tailer will need to build a link to the PowerReviews system and add space to its existing Web site to accommodate the reviews, which is often about 20 hours of a Web developers' time, according to Chen.

Also, you may be able to share reviews with other e-tailers who sell similar products. For example, PowerReviews aggregates user reviews from a variety of small bicycle shops, so that each can share their customer product reviews to have a wealth of reviews posted on their own sites.

Bazaarvoice Inc. charges a minimum of $2,000 a month for its customer review technology services, which is targeted at retailers with $5 million or more per year in sales, said Hurt. Bazaarvoice reads every review at least twice to filter out those that focus on customer service rather than on the products themselves, he explained. Customer service-related reviews represent a small minority — less than 10 percent — he added. Those reviews are forwarded to the appropriate Bazaarvoice e-tailer client, so the client can reach out to the unhappy customer and make amends, if possible.

What to Do About Bad Reviews
What should you to do to reduce the chance of a bad review, or, help minimize the damage when it appears?
  • Proactively solicit reviews from all customers. Unhappy customers tend to be the most vocal. Encourage all customers to post reviews. That way, any negative comments will be balanced with positive ones, said Chen.

    Listen with an open mind and use the opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one. "Some retailers will offer customers free products if they retract their negative reviews," said Mulpuru. Of course, the danger is that you will inadvertently provide customers with an incentive to complain, so don't go overboard.

  • Set boundaries. If you invite customer reviews on your site, set up rules that define what is acceptable and what isn't, advised Hurt. For example, let consumers know that comments including profanity, personal attacks, sexist statements and such aren't allowed.

  • Go for quantity. Not having enough customer reviews can be a problem, warned Chen. "The consumer may feel that because there aren't many reviews on your site, other people aren't buying your products for some reason," he explained. If you're only getting one or two reviews a month, Chen said, it's probably better not to even offer reviews.

But there's a risk to this strategy. If your site doesn't offer reviews, consumers may "go to your competition, because it will look like you have something to hide," said Hurt.

The Best Defense
Above all, Mulpuru said the best defense against negative reviews is to consistently "offer good products, good service, and a full disclosure of a product's details during the selling process."

San Francisco-based James A. Martin has decades of experience covering technology and is a frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com.

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This article was originally published on October 17, 2007
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