Elena Shalashnikova
Elena Shalashnikova 29 July 2013

Brands make mistakes and lose? The most frequent mistakes in the work with negative reviews about the company on the Internet.

"You may have a feeling that the Internet is only used by inadequate people because you judge by inadequate content."

“You may have a feeling that the Internet is only used by inadequate people because you judge by inadequate content.”


Oleg Chirkunov, the governor of the Perm Krai for


According to the Ministry of Communications of the Russian Federation and All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) 49% of Russians useв the Internet in Russia at the end of 2011 and 30% did it daily. The penetration was estimated to increase by another 20 million people by 2013.


Reviews of the Internet are a good reason. Ideally, this is a reason for thoughts, decisions and actions. Negative reviews about a company may make this company famous, or may reduce sales manyfold (it suffices to mention a famous video about bugs in burgers or very recent story of broken glass in Nestle baby food). My experience with potential clients proves that the decision to work or not to with the reviews about the company on the Internet depends rather on the worldview of the company owner or CEO than on the objective necessity. While social networks are coming out in full force, we still consider ourselves an adequacy benchmark. Therefore, those who have accounts on social networks, may regard their contacts on the Internet as social elite, and for those who are still not present online they seem alien, inadequate people.


In August 2011 we conducted a research of 56 Russian companies of medium-sized and big businesses. 44% of the companies stated that they regularly monitored reviews on the Internet and responded to every negative feedback. However, the experiment in the same research showed that the majority of the reviews (72.8%) left on the Internet for those companies actually remained unanswered. 9.1% of the reviews were commented on within a day (including 2.3% of those on behalf of the company and 6.8%  - with the use of technical accounts) and 6.8% of reviews were removed. Thus out of 44% of companies which are confident that they are handling negativity, only 15.9% did actually respond to it. That is, of all the companies that participated in the research, only 6.9% of companies really work with reviews on the Internet, even if removing them.


This article is addressed to directors and marketers who admit social networks exist. I want to show the main errors in the work with reviews on the Internet, the correction of which will allow brands to avoid large and small troubles not only the Internet, but also in their financial statements (because one can influence the other in the most unexpected way).


1. No goal.


If you do not know where you want to head for, you are likely to sail where you do not at all want to. A clear goal helps to do the impossible, because it defines priorities for work. While working with reviews a lot of brands set priorities with an idea in mind like “if people really want, they’ll come anyway”. Quite a lot of them really believe that if a website has a feedback, follow-up or any other contact form, it is enough to satisfy everybody who is disappointed. Other brands stretch their attention beyond platforms and monitor reviews at company accounts in the main social networks. However, customers are not only able to write everywhere, they can also (which is the most unpleasant) read everywhere. That is why working with reviews left on certain websites of a limited number is the same as brushing only front teeth.


The nature of a review should make the basis for priorities. The nature of a review is determined by the reason behind it. For example if the goal of the work with reviews about a company on the Internet is to attract new customers, then among the first you will have to handle the reviews about the company left by its competitors. If retaining the loyalty of current customers is the goal, then you can make the competitor reviews your last priority because they do not contain any customer problem.


2. Taking values for goals.


You can often find a company representative arguing with an author of a negative comment, though it may seem there’s nothing to argue about. As a rule, it points to the representative’s attempt to defend the company values, which the author denies.  For example a situation when the author makes a barbed remark about something the company is proud of: somebody’s authority, service charges and the like. Arguing about values is natural yet pointless. We are not able to change other people’s values, no matter how heavily we argue. That is why the two consequences of such a dispute could be: waste of time and the risk of getting together people supporting not your values. This risk is lower on a company page (page subscribers usually share company values to certain extent), but it is quite high on other platforms.


3. Aggression or covert aggression.


Allegations, irony, sarcasm, sometimes insults ("This girl is herself a shrew") addressing the author of the comment can only result in increased negativity. By doing so you are deepening the conflict with the author (and it also means that his comment will be spread and read on several other platforms as well), and building your opponent’s support group (company’s aggression will put much more people against it than other types of reaction).


4. Excuses.


While reading reviews and comments company employees very often understand that the negative feedback is fair. It is emotionally very hard to be on the wrong side, and a company employee may answer a review with an excuse, thus finding a sort of a balance between his company interests and those of a complaining author. Excuses show the company’s weakness and trigger attacks. The Internet is a kind of a crowd, and you mustn’t show your weaknesses to a crowd, or to an animal. A company’s viewpoint and principles should be always strong.


5. Formalism.


"Dear Customer! We regret this situation and we would like to sort it out in order to prevent similar incidents in the future. Could you provide us with your order number, please? Thank you in advance for your answer!" When this response to the reviews is a lot of times repeated, and after an order number is given the company disappears, such a reaction increases the customer frustration even more than no answer from the company at all. As a result, the company has the money spent on work with reviews and the increased customer negativity.


The decision as to whether to work with reviews about the company or not, how, who and most importantly, why, is usually made by the company management on the basis of their personal experience. There are industries for which the work with reviews is highly advisable (pharmaceuticals, HoReCa, B2C brands, logistics, medicine, etc.). However, today work with reviews on the Internet is becoming a hygienic procedure for any company - tedious, boring, but necessary thing to ensure the company’s going in the direction set by its management.

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