Brands have to review their consumer engagement strategy – Lessons from the Erisco tomato paste saga.

Brands have to review their consumer engagement strategy – Lessons from the Erisco tomato paste saga.



Consumers have a right to offer reviews to brands on traditional or on social media and whilst negative reviews aren’t the end of the world, it’s not to be encouraged. Businesses must evolve in their consumer interface systems as it is no longer sufficient to open social media handles without appropriate consumer management systems. Social media has been added to the battle field for sustaining a good brands reputation and the earlier businesses recognizes this, the better for the brands.

The consumer’s increasing awareness to get value for money in this era of scarce resources can also propel quick irritation on products or services which ordinarily can be overlooked. Hence, the need for brands to connect with their consumers even at peace time. The need can not be overemphasized for businesses to enlighten their customers periodically. This is the new addition to business cost, which often times not provided for in corporate budgets, but eventually, becomes a huge cost, plus reputational damage when the shit hits the fan.

Believe it or not, customers don’t actually want to leave a bad review – they want great service, a quality product and reliable delivery. So, when bad feedback is given, it’s usually warranted.

The most-common complains are bad service, problems with products and policies they disagree with and when it comes to voicing these complaints, most customers do so to inform other consumers or give feedback to the business, with very few doing so out of anger.

–              Using the case study, there are three broad lessons to be addressed –

1. Prevention is better than cure

2. How and how not to handle consumer feedbacks/reviews

3. Guide to Responding to Unfavourable Reviews and

4. There can be benefits in negative reviews.

Prevention is better than cure
Prevention is better than cure

–              Prevention is better than cure

Below are some preventive solutions for brands to Prevent Negative Reviews. This will not eliminate negative reviews, but can minimize them.

  1. Deliver exceptional service

Prioritizing customer satisfaction should be the core focus of all your actions. By embedding this principle into your business model from inception to completion, the likelihood of receiving negative reviews will be significantly reduced. Here are some straightforward methods to ensure your customers feel appreciated, well-cared for, and less inclined to express their grievances online.

  1. Act as your own consumer

When was the most recent instance you patronized your own store or attempted to utilize your own services? You might believe you’re excelling, but without stepping into your customers’ perspective, it’s impossible to be certain.

Conducting routine evaluations of your company’s brands from an external standpoint is a reliable approach to uncover any issues that your customers might encounter, potentially leading to negative reviews. Engage in the complete process, from making a purchase to interacting with customer service and awaiting delivery, and rectify any inconveniences you encounter along the way. How often do you do a product sampling before launch, get consumer feedback on product or services for improvement? These are some of the preventive consumer management processes.

  1. Be easy to contact

No consumer is flawless, and even the most impeccably managed businesses occasionally encounter setbacks. The crucial aspect is to be ready for such situations by ensuring you are readily reachable. Telephone numbers and emails on products are most times in smaller prints than the brand name itself. Those that are in bigger prints are either never reachable or not responded to.

Every business should establish some form of accessible customer service, whether it’s a call center or an online chat platform, as effective communication plays a pivotal role in this regard.

By affording your customers the chance to communicate their concerns to you, you provide them with an outlet to express their frustrations directly instead of resorting to online platforms. It also grants you the opportunity to address their issues with effective solutions, consequently averting the emergence of negative reviews.

  1. Add more lines of communication

Building on the previous point is increasing your lines of communication. If possible, don’t just offer support via email, but also a functioning dedicated line – often people prefer to hear someone’s voice when dealing with a problem. Another great addition is live chat – this is one of the quickest ways for your customers to get answers and to avoid negative reviews left on impulse.

The more opportunity you give the customer to contact you, the more confidence they will have in you as a business and the less likely they are to panic if things do go wrong.

  1. Respond quickly to issues

Giving your customers these opportunities to contact you is great, but if they have to wait 48 hours for a response it’s no good. 95% of unhappy customers will return if you resolve there issue quickly so speed is key here. The case study at hand took a while before a response was given, in fact, it had to first go viral for it to get attention.

It’s therefore essential not only to have support in place but a support system that’s well staffed and functional. This can be outsourced so the business can face its core function. Make sure you can keep up with demand – providing slow, unreliable support is arguably worse than not providing any at all. Our last call centre data review shows over 70% of callers abandoned after 25 seconds of waiting. If every unanswered caller was to go on to leave a negative review, you’d see a pretty devastating drop in star ratings.

  1. Show a personal touch when addressing problems.

Customer service encompasses more than just resolving the customer’s issue; it’s equally about portraying the brand in the most favorable light. If you send your customers generic, templated responses, they are unlikely to perceive themselves as truly heard or appreciated. Regardless of whether their problem is resolved, this approach may lead to unfavorable sentiments and potentially result in negative reviews.

Personalized responses are pivotal for achieving success in customer service. They should make customers feel acknowledged, valued, and exceptionally well cared for, ultimately paving the way for those coveted 5-star ratings.

  1. Encourage customers to leave reviews

When’s the last time you left a review? Left to their own devices, customers can be quite passive when it comes to reviews, with many more reading them than leaving them. However, in our market, our research has shown that about 44% (unlike over 70% in the U.S or Europe) of customers are willing to leave a review if asked. By actively collecting reviews, you’re likely to see positive feedback flooding in with customers eager to reward and thank you for your good service.

Whilst this won’t prevent negative reviews perse, it will help to cloud them and encourage customers to put them into perspective. After all, one negative review amongst fifty looks much better than one amongst three.

  1. Pay attention to your critical feedback.

Gathering reviews isn’t sufficient; you must take action based on the feedback you receive. Customer feedback stands as one of the most valuable assets for your business. When you encounter recurring complaints, take proactive steps to address and rectify them, thereby safeguarding your business against negative reviews in the future.

Establishing an effective system for managing negative reviews is crucial to pre-empting their occurrence down the line.

  1. Ensure closure of complaints

Negative reviews happen but they’re really not the end of the World. In fact, often the most important thing is not the negative review itself, but the way in which a company deals with that review. Ensure a closure on every engagement, no open-ended discussion. Be the pest on the customer until a zone of possible agreement or understanding is reached.

–              How and how not to handle consumer feedbacks/reviews

There are ways on how to handle negative reviews and you might even be able to turn that negative into a positive. Very importantly, negative reviews do not define you and what’s written in the reviews isn’t what matters – your response is what does. Hence, businesses should leave a consumer who gives negative review of a criminal nature to the hands of the law and not take laws into their hands. So, its important for businesses to:

  1. Avoid making negative reviews, a personal matter.

It’s a critical review directed at your business, the one you’ve put so much effort into building – and it can sometimes feel like a personal affront. Pause. Take a deep breath. Taking a negative review personally, even when it appears to be personal, is not advisable. Keep in mind that the customer might have been going through a tough day, or bought your product with their last when they wrote it, or perhaps, their feedback could have some validity. Internalizing negative comments often triggers frustration, which may result in a response you might later regret.

  1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

Although there are some exceptions, negative reviews are rarely left without good reason and some are actually meant in good-jest. When handling feedback, it’s essential to see the problem from your customer’s point of view so you can respond and resolve appropriately.

Don’t just see their anger or frustration – read into the language used and try and identify where things went wrong.

This process will help you really understand the problem and be more empathetic, so that when it does come to responding to those negative reviews, you’ll be able to do so in the most professional and personable way possible.

  1. Conduct some investigation

Once you’ve accurately pinpointed the customer’s problem, it’s time to begin your research. If it was related to customer service, consider reviewing any pertinent correspondence. In the case of a customer journey problem, attempt to replicate the experience yourself to pinpoint the specific issue. For delivery concerns, reach out to your courier service for clarification. If the issue pertains to a product malfunction, initiate the necessary steps for a product recall or warranty resolution.

Collecting this information will not only enable you to respond comprehensively to negative customer reviews but also offer a solution to the dissatisfied customer, thereby transforming a negative situation into a positive one.

  1. Respond professionally to Unfavourable reviews

When it comes to actually dealing with your negative reviews, one of the first questions you may be asking yourself is “should I even bother to reply?” The answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’. Replying to customer reviews is very important indeed -Our research show that over 60% of people are relieved when they get a response to their complaint, even where it was yet to be fully addressed.  After all, customer’s like to know they’re valued, they are not ignored and one way of reassuring them is to make every one of their problems, your problem.

However, there’s a delicate balance to strike – a business could potentially experience a drop in revenue if it starts addressing over 40% of its reviews. Therefore, it’s crucial to be discerning when it comes to responding to reviews. Avoid engaging with fake reviews or responding simply for the sake of responding. Instead, focus your attention on the negative ones.


–              Guide to Responding to Unfavourable Reviews

The critical aspect in addressing negative reviews is crafting a precise response. Here’s how to achieve that in straightforward steps.

  1. Express gratitude

If they didn’t tell you, how would you know? Starting with a simple “Thank you for your review” acknowledges that you appreciate constructive feedback and also demonstrates you’re prepared to admit to your mistakes – you don’t take the high road.

  1. Extend an apology

Offering an apology can have a significant impact. Despite the direct or passionate tone of negative reviews, it’s crucial to bear in mind that your customers aren’t adversaries and probably didn’t post a negative review without reason.

Regardless of their feedback and whether or not you concur with it, extending a sincere and empathetic apology is a means of fostering goodwill with your dissatisfied customer before addressing the underlying issue.

  1. Customize your responses to reviews

This is the guideline that often gets overlooked the most. Nothing irritates a customer or potential customer more than encountering a generic, unrelated response.

Rather than rushing to provide a response as swiftly as possible, invest some time in comprehending the customer’s problem thoroughly. This might entail consulting with colleagues in different departments and even personally experiencing the issue to pinpoint the specific challenges.

In your response, reply back to the specifics in the initial review and, using your findings, try to explain the reason for the issue. All of this may help to calm a frustrated reviewer.

  1. Offer a solution

In an ideal scenario, you would furnish each negative reviewer with a resolution to their issue. Although it may not always be feasible, it should be a guideline you aim to follow.

A resolution might take the shape of a refund, return, or possibly offering guidance regarding the product or service that led to the problem. By delivering a solution, you effectively transform a negative situation into a positive one, preserving customer relationships and demonstrating exceptional customer service in the process.

  1. Reiterate your company’s core values

After expressing gratitude, extending an apology, and making efforts to resolve the core issue of the negative review, it’s advisable to reaffirm your business’s vision. This helps demonstrate to the customer that the setback was not in line with your typical standards.

  1. Offer a follow-up

Before you sign off, reiterate the importance of customer satisfaction to your business by offering to discuss the matter further.

Something along the lines of “I have emailed you my contact details if you would like to discuss this matter further.” This shows your door is always open and that when customers choose to buy your product or service, no problem goes unresolved.

  1. Avoid putting compensation first

In general, compensation shouldn’t be mentioned in any review response. This usually opens the floodgates around trust and bribery. It could also set this as a standard procedure for your company, which is not what you want.

If you feel compelled to offer compensation, make sure it is in line with your you do this via a private email or call.


–              Negative review response tips

Negative reviews are part and parcel of doing business both online and offline. Even the world’s best-run businesses will be seen as doing something wrong at some point, which may lead to a customer leaving an unhappy review. But negative reviews are not the end of the World and should not be shied away from.

  1. When responding, it’s essential to be both professional and relatable. The wrong response could cause even more anger and frustration – continuing the cycle of negativity – whilst the right could completely turn things around for the unsatisfied customer and even your reputation.
  2. Remember that each of your customers, satisfied or not, is a human being. Each problem is unique and deserves some time and attention. For this reason, we strongly discourage the use of automated review responses.
  3. When dealing with negative reviews, it’s worth contemplating the option of responding privately. This encourages a more extensive dialogue and also permits dissatisfied customers to express their concerns, if needed, without the entire world observing.
  4. When managed effectively, negative reviews can actually become allies, aiding you in gaining a deeper understanding of your current customers and your business offerings, ultimately leading to improvements in the future. Let’s embrace the idea of turning negatives into positives.


–              There can be benefits to negative reviews/feedbacks

In order to really reap the benefits and turn that negative into a positive, you’ll need to be proactive. Be proactive, and almost anything is possible. A brand can benefit from a well-handled situation and enjoy the following:

  1. Preserved relationships

About 90% of unhappy customers return if their issue is resolved. Reviews facilitate resolution and resolutions help you save customer relationships. Without reviews, it’s likely you’d never hear from disgruntled customers, would never be able to correct your mistake and thus, could end up losing customers as a result. That’s why, really, even negative reviews can be a blessing.

In order to save a damaged customer relationship, it’s imperative that you learn how to handle negative reviews professionally. to negative reviews isn’t as easy as simply apologising – every piece of feedback should be viewed and treated individually and given your utmost attention.

  1. Boost consumer confidence

The second benefit of negative reviews is a rather surprising one – it involves customer trust. Believe it or not, customers don’t’ fall for thousands of five-star reviews. In fact, they actually like to see some negativity.  After all, no product or service can be perfect for everyone, and customers know that. Anything suggesting otherwise could actually be a signal of untrustworthiness.

So next time you get a negative review, don’t try and hide it or shy away from it. Instead, remember customers don’t like perfection and embrace your flaws.

Negative reviews can also have a secondary impact on customer trust. Responding to negative reviews gives you an opportunity to showcase excellent customer service skills – a sort of second chance, to make a good impression.

When negative reviews are replied to professionally and apologetically and publicised alongside your current reviews, they can actually show your business in a really great light: you’re unafraid to admit to mistakes, proactively resolve them and care about your customers. Far from being deterred, other customers are likely to view such cases as positives.

  1. Helps you improve

The key to a good relationship is communication. If your customers don’t tell you what they’re unhappy with, how are you ever meant to know?

Feedbacks/reviews, whether bad or good, can tell you so much about your company’s performance by highlighting both areas of greatness and those to improve upon.

When you have a negative review about customer service, approach it with an open mind and you could learn a lot from it. The negative review can inspire you to change your current customer service channels, make some new hires or just implement some new training. All of these are likely to benefit your business in the long run and keep your customers happy and coming back for more.

  1. It’s a Proof

Expanding on the earlier point, negative reviews can lend significant weight to ideas and changes you intend to introduce. When not everyone is in agreement regarding alterations or enhancements within the business, customer feedback, whether positive or negative, can provide substantial support to your cause and align everyone’s perspective.

After all, the customer is always right, isn’t it? Genuine, verified customer feedback is challenging to dispute.

  1. Informing the customer

As mentioned earlier, the concept of one-size-fits-all rarely applies in the real world. It’s improbable that your business’s offerings will cater perfectly to every individual, and customers are aware of this fact. Frequently, customers turn to reviews, both positive and negative, to make informed decisions when making purchases.

While it’s true that feedback regarding sizing or suitability may deter some individuals from a particular item or service, it ultimately guides them toward a more suitable choice, ultimately enhancing long-term customer satisfaction. After all, the goal is to ensure our customers’ happiness, isn’t it?


In Summary

Although negative reviews might initially appear to be highly unfavourable, its hopefully demonstrated from the foregone that, when managed effectively, they can be quite advantageous.

Brands must understand that they may not have the resources in-house to deal with reviews/feedbacks generally and as such, should outsource the service.

Also, periodic training of personnel and review of consumer protection frameworks or policies are integral to online media management of customers.



Is a platform for consumer advisory services with a mission to be the most potent voice and go-to hub on consumer-related issues in developing economies.

The platform has helped several start-ups and companies to establish consumer protection policies and customer governance structures.

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