By Prelini Udayan-Chiechi, VP Marketing EMEA at Bazaarvoice
Following news that Airbnb has been accused of blocking unfavourable reviews of properties by guests who chose to leave early rather than endure another night in sub-standard accommodation, it’s essential to remember that it is not only a consumer’s right to have access to positive as well as negative reviews, but also a business’ responsibility to ensure authenticity of content at all times. No one likes to receive negative feedback, yet when it comes to building and nurturing your customer relationships and protecting your brand reputation, transparency is key. Any effort to conceal lower-rated reviews will jeopardise relationships with customers, as they have a fundamental right to trust the content they encounter.
From a business’ perspective, hiding negative reviews is a missed opportunity; we have seen from research that customers are more willing to put their trust in brands and businesses that aren’t afraid to be transparent. By embracing negative feedback, businesses are able to gather insight into issues they may not have previously been aware of, and by taking both good and bad customer feedback on board, companies can make improvements to enhance their products and services. Consumers like to know that their voice matters and deleting a negative review or comment is not the way to demonstrate you value your customer base.
Authentic customer feedback has huge potential to positively influence buying intent and audience opinion. In fact, it’s the main source consumers consult before making a purchase decision. Contrary to business sense, brands still fear negative customer feedback; they consider it a threat to their image and reputation. This is because they simply cannot see the value behind displaying and engaging with negative content, and treat these as insights and opportunities to improve their offering. Consumer-Generated Content (CGC) is a precious form of R&D for brands and retailers, as it can provide valuable insight that can inform better business decisions, lead to innovation, and ultimately increase retention, conversion, brand credibility and ameliorate the customer experience. Furthermore, there is also a lack of education among internal stakeholders on how to gather, respond to and leverage that feedback, which requires more of a paradigm shift to be accomplished, a change in the brand’s approach to CGC as a whole. Additionally, given the cost involved and the technology required, some businesses may be reluctant to build a CGC-related strategy – that is why it’s crucial to be properly informed about the ROI of investing into CGC.
Manipulating reviews violates the most basic ethical practices a company can hold, as they can falsely affect consumers’ purchase decisions and damage the company’s reputation.Therefore, sharing authentic content is essential to building customers’ trust, particularly with today’s growing informed and connected consumers. Brands and retailers should consider displaying a trust mark along with reviews, in order to demonstrate their commitment to authentic consumer feedback. In fact, 47 percent of consumers say they “would be more trusting of reviews” if presented with such a trust mark, and 84 percent stated that they would feel more trusting if they knew reviews were screened for fraud, moderated, and displayed by a neutral, credible third party. Through this approach, and by ensuring negative reviews are either displayed or used as part of ongoing product and service development, brands and retailers will be able to increase consumers’ trust in reviews.