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Jan Brady And The 3-Star Review

Consumers tend to write reviews for either a horrible or fantastic experience. But what about when they leave three-star reviews? What can you do with that?

Well, the insights buried in these middling reviews actually contain the secrets to stellar customer service. I like to think of them as the Jan Brady of the feedback world. 

While most “Brady Bunch” fans might be reticent to name Jan their favorite character, the middle sister brought plenty of substance to the ’70s sitcom. Ask anyone to name a key phrase from the show, and they’ll probably toss out the old standby, “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” That legendary quote might refer to the eldest Brady sister, but it came from none other than Jan.

In the same way, three-star reviews deliver the sort of insight that will stick with you long after the fact. People who take the time to write them are neither encouraging nor warning off future customers; they are simply documenting their satisfactory experiences. At the same time, though, thay are offering nuggets of operational insight that make the difference between good companies and great ones.

And by soliciting feedback—a survey by BrightLocal found that seven out of 10 consumers would leave a review for a business upon request—companies can glean honest opinions about customer experiences they can’t get elsewhere.

Here are three ways mediocre ratings can deliver five-star benefits.

1. Look for trends in the experience: Middling reviews are authentic. By analyzing the topics that repeatedly come up in these reviews, businesses can address persistent issues that annoy customers but are not deal-breakers.

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind., has mastered the art of answering questions before customers ask. The theme park prides itself on providing every morsel of information visitors could possibly want on its website. By listening to visitors and anticipating their needs, the theme park has managed to keep more than 90% of its 1,600 reviews at four stars or better.

Don’t spend so much time cleaning up one-star disasters that you neglect to address more mundane gripes.

2. Solicit more reviews for boosted SEO: When someone searches for your company, reviews appear on the first page. The more reviews you have, the more likely customers are to trust what those reviews say.

Google ranks companies with a lot of reviews more highly than businesses with a handful, so solicit observations from your customers to bolster the quantity of your feedback. Most people willing to take the time to leave a review will at least give you a three-star rating, which should boost your average score and help you climb the SEO ladder.

3. Develop best practices through feedback: By responding to common complaints, companies can develop best practices to address issues as efficiently as possible. It can also help you resolve minor complaints before they become larger problems.

When Le Pain Quotidien, an international chain of bakery-cafes, noticed a stream of seemingly trivial comments about the taste of its lemonade, it investigated the issue. The company discovered the complaints were correct: Multiple locations had botched the recipe, leading to the uncharacteristically tart flavor. What seemed like minor quibbles helped the company correct a problem, stem the tide of complaints, and provide a better product.

It’s natural to feel “meh” when you get a three-star review. It might be a passing grade, but nobody gets a cupcake for a report card full of Cs. Instead of taking these reviews as indifference, see the gold lurking at the heart of every three-star rating. Embrace the ordinary, and your company will reap the rewards.

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