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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Online reviews called into question

Friday October 22 2010

Businesses believe negative feedback is even more important to getting things right

Businesses believe negative feedback is even more important to getting things right

 

More than 80% of website reviews are fabricated by the company itself, edited so only positive reaction is visible or written by someone who has never experienced the service, a campaigner has claimed.

 

With the related row over TripAdvisor showing no sign of abating, Andy Mabbutt, director of the independent feedback forum Feefo, said it was time the internet cleaned up its act.

 

Mabbutt said consumers were sick and tired of attempts by companies to pull the wool over their eyes.

 

Feefo works with hundreds of companies across Europe including Gant, MandM Direct, Fat Face, The White Company and Crew Clothing, and only allows customers who have bought a product to leave their feedback. Comments are unedited (except for profanities) and visible on the companies’ websites.

 

Honesty proven the best policy

 

“When the company started, its purpose was to create a forum where honesty prevailed,” Mabbutt explained. “We have shown companies that feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, can help improve their product and their service immeasurably.

 

“Unfortunately many firms think the way forward is to fabricate feedback or delete all the negative comments in an attempt to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

 

“If the High Street treated customers the way the internet does there would be no shops left at all. Consumers are not stupid so they shouldn’t be treated as such.”

 

However, Mabbutt added that the tide was beginning to turn. “Every single piece of feedback you get allows you to improve your service, refine processes and improve a customer’s shopping experience. It needs to be viewed as raw, unedited and clearly not a thinly disguised advertisement.

 

“Producing a dialogue with customers rather than the usual corporate diatribe means that the customer feels valued. Customer loyalty starts with a problem and a voice in the wilderness. If you listen and respond positively, you not only save the sale, you win the customer for life and many of their friends forever too.”

 

Two of Feefo’s biggest advocates are retailing power couple Nick Wheeler and Chris Rucker, founders of Charles Tyrwhitt and The White Company respectively.

 

Maintaining online reputation

 

Rucker said: “Any online business that cares about their customer service and reputation should be a member of Feefo.

 

“It has made a profound impact to our operational focus, our service delivery experience and the way in which we measure our own performance internally. We use Feefo every single day. It gives us an immediate and direct insight into how our products are performing and how our customers feel about customer service.”

 

Wheeler added: “Looking at customer feedback has become an important part of my daily routine as it provides an instant snap-shot of the ‘state of the nation’. The response from customers has been fantastic.

 

“Our website has experienced an increase in visitor numbers due to the feedback that we display. We have more than 100 unique new visitors per week from ‘long-tail search’ terms as a direct result of the feedback that customers leave.

 

“Feedback also clearly increases sales – website visitors that look at comments from previous buyers have a conversion rate three times greater than those who don’t. Our repeat order rate was also five times greater, showing that customers are also more likely to buy from us again.”