The power of social proof: why customer reviews are critical to CX
Humans rely on word of mouth to validate our learning and our decisions. In the days before the internet, we had little choice but to talk to other people if we wanted to know how a specific purchase worked out for them.
These days, especially in the post-Covid era, we’re very comfortable with turning to the opinions of people we’ve never met in order to make or break a purchase decision.
The speed by which we can reach out to a dispersed network of people, all united by a choice to purchase a specific service or product, is mind-blowing. In just a few taps, one can narrow down several reviews of a single holiday package, complete with scores for key rating factors. Simply: we’re happy to make a purchase, if other people say it’s OK to do so.
Reviews are important to the prospect because they:
- Represent unbiased opinions from real customers
- Can fill missing information around the product or service
- Provide reassurance in purchasing decisions
Reviews are important to businesses because they:
- Give a detailed picture of customer buying habits, who they are and what they want
- Highlight areas for improvement, whether in production, manufacturing, customer services, fulfilment, etc.
- Empower customers to strengthen the brand
Reviews – for every organisation
This ‘social proof’ is incredibly powerful, whether you’re a large ecommerce company or a smaller B2B firm. An ecommerce company lives (and dies) on a large number of reviews, for as many SKUs as possible. A service-based industry selling high-value, complex service lines would benefit from a smaller number of quality case studies or testimonials. Regardless of your operating model, reviews will be important for driving sales, just as long as customers are happy to create and refer to them.
Reviews and the customer experience
Whether you call them reviews, testimonials or case studies, these online content snippets play an interesting role in the customer journey. Typically, reviews are given when the customer is at their happiest – or conversely, at their most dissatisfied. Capturing customer sentiment at this point is key.
What tools are available to help?
A review-specific platform can be a huge asset for businesses that rely on the power of social proof. Good candidates are ecommerce merchants with many products. A simple post-purchase review email can encourage customers to leave a positive review in under a minute, but the biggest benefit of using a dedicated platform is around data. With a dedicated reviews platform, you can drive data into so many different areas; turning customers into product experts that do much of the selling for you, with the following benefits:
- Self-serve content management
- Ecommerce firms are generally restricted to basic product descriptions gleaned from whatever the manufacturer can provide. What reviews can do is add real-life context to products by people who are using them. Using a dedicated review site, ecommerce firms can link up the user generated content uploaded to the platform as well as social media sites, creating ever-richer mini catalogues for customers to review.
- What this means is that customers can actually see how that fake plastic plant looks on a person’s bookshelf. They can see a video of how those size 12 leather trousers actually looked on a customer with the same measurements. It’s incredibly powerful.
- Website conversions
- These lovely customer nuggets can be pulled into your website and displayed wherever they will most likely convince the customer to part with their credit card: whether that’s on the homepage, or in a carousel display on the individual product page. A live feed has the advantage of keeping content as up to date as possible, which is critical in convincing customers – no-one trusts ancient reviews!
- More compelling loyalty schemes
- Integration with a reviews platform can add an extra dimension to your customer retention strategy. Let’s say a certain segment of your customer base responds positively to a request for a review – you could incentivize them to add further product details to build out product descriptions. This self-service element adds credibility to product profiles – for example, 80% of users confirm that the jeans fit ‘true to size.’
- More efficient product processing / returns
- With all this information at their disposal, customers are far less likely to order a multitude of the same or similar products online in the hope that one will hit the spot. They are more likely to ‘get it right first time’, reducing their own frustration and saving the company money processing returns.
- Upselling opportunities
- Furthermore, review platforms can share this data with customer marketing platforms to uncover new factors/attributes that customers share, and to market to them accordingly. This allows for more granular targeting. For example, by attributing review data to those buyers of skincare products with known specific skin conditions, we can automate the experience, meaning buyers are more in tune with the product and more likely to return.
The downfall of only showing 100% 5-star reviews
Some companies don’t show less than perfect reviews to guard their brand. It’s understandable. However, review best practice is not to pull the negative feedback, but to keep it there and respond in the right way. Here’s why:
- It’s good to know what’s being said about your company – and gives you an opportunity to fix it
- Responding in a timely and efficient manner to negative feedback is a great way to strengthen your brand
- It gives you a chance to engage with your customers in a way that you wouldn’t have done otherwise – to shine the spotlight on them, and turn them into ambassadors
Other than this, the problem with 100% positive feedback is, quite simply, that it looks dodgy. If you pull the negative stuff, people are less likely to trust you. Owning your customer complaints shows that you are a mature company to deal with.
And finally: how to handle negative feedback
Fortunately, technology is your friend here. A dedicated reviews platform can hone in on any negative sentiment and trigger an email to your team or specialist for them to handle. This seriously lifts the need to trawl through reviews, enabling you to manage by exception – at least, that’s what you’re aiming for anyway.