Customer reviews are an essential part of doing business, as their feedback is of paramount importance to understand where you need to make improvements. However, the reviews are worthless if they are not summarized properly. Obtaining the input alone is not enough; you must take into account what the customers are trying to tell you and avoid being dismissive. Customer reviews come in a variety of forms — including those who are pretending to be angry to get something for free, and those who have legitimate information on how to improve. Both types of customer reviews offer ways to enhance your business.
Categorize the reviews, and ask where the customers are coming from. Much depends on the amount of emotion in the review. "Good" or "bad" are the two extremes, but most reviews fall somewhere in the middle and offer a variety of minutiae to analyze. Even the super angry customers can offer ways for you to improve. For example, if they are just pretending to be angry, is it because you have set a precedent for automatically giving away free items to pacify angry customers?
Look for specific incidents regarding the customers' experience. Whether they are happy or angry with their experience at your establishment is one thing, but the only way to truly improve, keep the existing customers and add new ones is to take into account the things that customers reference and appreciate. For instance, if a customer is thrilled that an order was delivered in a timely manner, acknowledge it, improve on it and train others in that mold.
Seek out ways to improve — despite the tone of the review or mood of the customer. Even the glowing reviews can offer ways for you to improve your business. If something about your business and customer service is exemplary, then use that information to keep up the good work. Obviously, any negative experiences are self-evident in terms of what needs to be done to remedy the situation. Remember that no matter how good or bad the customers' reviews are, you can always glean from the reviews ways to improve your business.
Share the reviews with others to receive their opinions and points of view, especially if you have been looking at reviews all day. For example, if you have seen a rash of negative reviews, you may inadvertently harbor a dismissive disposition and you may say: "Ah, they don't know what they're talking about!" before you even begin to read that particular review.
Propose a solution in the conclusion. A summary of a customer review does not amount to much if you do not have a plan in place to act on all customer reviews. You should continue to improve, as confirmed by the glowing customer reviews, and you should strive to remedy the situation and do better, in response to the poor reviews.
Dave Stanley has covered sports, music and hard news since 2000. He has been published on CBSSports.com and various other websites. Stanley is also a feature writer for "WhatsUp!" magazine in Bellingham, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Memphis.