A Complaint Is a Gift – Dealing with Negative Online Comments

A complaint is a gift – that was our motto in the Community Relations office for Fairfax County Public Schools when I worked there though the early 2000s. The idea was that a citizen who took the time to complain was interested enough in the school system that a meaningful response would probably have more relationship value than trying to reach those who made no contact with the system.

Recent data indicates that retailers who embrace this philosophy can gain brand advocates. According to The Retail Consumer Report, commissioned by RightNow and conducted online by Harris Interactive in January 2011, more than ever, unhappy consumers are turning to the social web to share their complaints. Of those who received a reply in response to their negative review:

  • 33% turned around and posted a positive review.
  • 34% deleted their original negative review.

The data further highlights that experiences shape consumers’ decision to buy or not to buy from a specific retailer. After a positive shopping experience, half of consumers cited great customer service and/or a previous positive experience as influencing their decision to buy from a specific online retailer; 31% of consumers purchased more from the retailer.

However, after a negative shopping experience with an online retailer, 21% of consumers decided not to buy anything from the retailer.

See the complete Customer Experience Impact Report 2010.