March 1, 2011, 10:36 AM

Retailers can turn social media pans to praise—if they respond

A new report finds consumers react well when retailers respond to negative feedback.

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Retailers can’t give up on consumers who post negative reviews or comments on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Yelp. Rather, by listening and responding to those complaints merchants can turn disgruntled shoppers into brand advocates, according to a new Harris Interactive report commissioned by RightNow Technologies Inc., which provides customer data and contact center technology.

The report, which is based on a survey of 2,516 shoppers in January, found that many retailers are attempting to do just that. 68% of the consumers who posted a complaint or negative review said that they were contacted by the retailer.Using a negative comment or review as a springboard to engage consumers can be valuable, says Brian Curran, vice presidentof  web solutions at RightNow. For instance, the report found that following an interaction with a retailer, 34% of consumers deleted their original negative review, 33% posted a positive review and 18% said they became a loyal customer.

A brand or product’s online reputation is important to maintain because nearly a third of consumers research what consumers say on social networking and review sites while shopping online, according to the survey.

“Modern consumers are extremely skeptical with brands,” says Curran. “They look at what other people say about a brand or product before they go to the retailer’s site themselves. If a retailer isn’t part of the conversation, they can’t resolve any issues that emerge in those conversations.”

Despite a large number of retailers engaging consumers in social media there were still 32% of shoppers whose comments were ignored. And 61% of those consumers who didn’t hear from the retailer said they would have been shocked if the retailer responded. That shows that some retailers have work to do, says Curran.

“Customers are posting information out there and they’re still not getting the interaction they want,” he says. “That’s going to lead them to buy elsewhere.”

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