Are you really listening to your customers?
Updated: Feb 13
How online reviews can provide valuable insights to improve and grow your business
16 January 2020
Customer reviews, if handled well, can be of massive benefit to a business, but one thing that is often overlooked is the customer insight that they can also provide
Customer insight is traditionally thought of as coming from research surveys, but times have definitely changed... Customers are now more than happy to share their unsolicited opinions (good and bad) through multiple channels and particularly on review sites! If looked at carefully, these reviews can give you a wealth of information on what your customers think, what they want and what they would like you to do to make your product and their customer experience better!
Encourage your customers to leave detailed comments on all areas that will be really useful for you…
To get helpful customer feedback through online reviews, start by doing everything you can to persuade your customers to give you as much detail as possible on all aspects of your business you can do something about – whether their comments are good or bad, you can take action to improve on the negatives and build on the positives.
To encourage customers to give more comprehensive feedback, depending on the review platform, you may be able to categorise the review into sub-headings or you could simply ask them what they liked, or thought was good, and what they think should be improved. Here are a couple of examples from the hospitality sector but the principles apply to other sectors too.
How TripAdvisor does it…
And how Booking.com does it…
You could also ask specific questions to prompt for feedback on key aspects e.g. How was the product quality? How was the customer service? Were the prices reasonable?
Giving a bit of thought to how you can tease out more information can reap rewards by ensuring that you get more comprehensive reviews that address specific aspects of your product/service. There will always be things that customers comment about that are out of your scope or beyond your control but in the main, you should be able to put their comments to good use!
Analysing your reviews
At first sight, reviews may seem like a string of random and unrelated comments. But on closer scrutiny, there's a good chance that you'll be able to see some interesting themes and patterns emerging that will give you insights to help you to improve and boost your business.
So how do you find these valuable insights?
Firstly, scan through all the reviews that you’ve received within the last 12 months – good and bad – to get a sense of how diverse the responses are. If customers are giving you a wide range of feedback, then you may need to look at more reviews to see patterns and make it actionable. But if a lot of the reviews relate to a specific issue, then you’re likely to need to look at less.
Now it’s time to start the analysis. Read through each piece of feedback and start to form a list of ‘codes’ to give them that relate to the topics they are addressing and what they are saying.
The best approach is to use an Excel sheet to capture the data as this will make it easier to sort later when you want to identify recurring themes, patterns, suggestions.
The exact feedback codes you create will be specific to the product or service that the feedback relates to, but examples could be: customer service, product quality, the accuracy of product information, value for money, delivery time
If a customer mentions multiple points (e.g. two different feature requests), it’s useful to capture these two separate points in separate rows and it's fine to start with higher-level codes and break them down later too.
It's also useful to capture the sentiment of the review i.e. whether it's positive, negative or neutral so that you can sort by this as well.
Once you’ve coded everything, you can calculate the total amount of feedback per code. This will help you see which type of feedback is most common and what the patterns are in your customer feedback.
Now you can create a summary of your customer feedback data based on issue popularity, share it with your colleagues and decide what action to take. A good approach is to create a Top 10 list of positive aspects and one for areas needing attention so that you can prioritise your action plan.
Monitor your competitors
Whilst it's very valuable to know what your own customers think, it's also very important to see how well you're doing in relation to your competitors. You can do this by tracking their scores and the content of their reviews and analysing them in a similar way to that already described so that you can draw a direct comparison.
If you see concerns being raised about any aspect of their offering, this can be an opportunity to highlight how you offer something better!
Similarly, if your competitors are doing something particularly well, you know that you need to at least match them so that you don’t lose any customers... and you can focus on and promote what positively differentiates you in order to win their business!
To illustrate the value of analysing customer reviews here’s an example of how it made a real difference to a small family-run hotel…
Making it work for you
This hotel had been trading for a while and had received great customer reviews. It's located in a beautiful rural setting with large, very well-kept grounds. The outside and inside of the hotel have a lot of charm and the bedrooms are very well appointed. Understandably, all of these are features that the hotel is keen to highlight.
However, on reading the reviews in detail it became apparent that there were some specific things that guests really loved about the hotel! One was the excellent breakfasts cooked by the owner who they referred to by name and another was a very cute Scottie dog who was also referred to by name and was seen as very much part of the family. Neither of these things had been particularly highlighted on the website or social media.
So they started posting pictures of the owner in his ‘chef’s hat’ cooking his great breakfasts and the Scottie became more centre stage with an emphasis on how dog-friendly the hotel is. Both of these got lots of engagement and new customers have mentioned these as specific reasons for choosing the hotel over others in the area - little changes, big results!!