It is important to understand that constructive, unbiased criticism comes from a place of wanting to help. If you are the recipient of constructive criticism, it is possible to perceive those comments in a negative way. However, if you embrace those comments as a means of instigating change across your business, you can revitalise customer perception, and turn the feedback you receive into something positive. Here is an example of a brand responding to unbiased feedback, based on a national survey, and Maybe*'s own findings regarding their approach.

Seemingly unfazed by the results of a recent Which? survey, WHSmith responds to claims it represents the worst of the high street. The brand argued that the results were "neither statistically relevant nor meaningful, relative to our loyal customer base”.

Maybe* listened to the online conversation created about WHSmith to understand whether WHSmith is right to be confident in their customer experience. In the second part of our series, we look at what’s working.

The findings

  1. Pricing, plastic and the Post Office are problems

2) Authors and literature drive high sentiment

Looking at the detail

Literary review

WHSmith actually enjoys double the amount of positive content than they do negative. Over 61% of content online about the brand is positive. The brand’s literary and book offering really boosts the brand's perception by consumers.

See how your customers feel.

Getting on the same page

Through May 2019, WHSmith created 279 pieces of content on social media sites Facebook and Twitter. Whether deliberate or not, WHSmith’s content demonstrates relevance and alignment to the positive conversations created about them. The brand also focuses on books and in-store events.

The What’s Being Said Report for WHSmith from Maybe* highlights the terms used most frequently in any conversation.

See for yourself what messages your organisation are publishing.

Authors are advocates

WHSmith’s content does not enjoy particularly high engagement with approximately 5 engagements per day and less than 1 engagement per post. 

However, author interaction is high as they promote their publications or upcoming in-store appearances. Authors’ fans are quick to engage with this and reshare it boosting sentiment for WHSmith in the process.

See the engagement for your own content.

The key takeway

Focus on what’s working for you. Ensure that your content is aligned to what your customers respond positively to online. Align your organisation in the direction of what your customers want from you, not what you want from them.


We started this series to investigate whether recent customer satisfaction surveys were a fair reflection. WHSmith placed little importance on the results and said so publicly. Who won our sentiment smackdown? Well, we found that the pain points that customers voiced online did seem to align with what Which? had to say. 

Interestingly however, the negative trend was more likely to impact the eats and treats offering and the Post Office, who came off none too well.  Equally, there is a literature-loving customer and community whom the brand is serving, and serving well, not just with the products on offer, but with events and a bit of theatre. 

The brand may be confident that they clearly enjoy a loyal customer base, but they should not be complacent. Bookworms are more likely to be fans of authors rather than the brand itself.

The customers tell us that there is work to be done. There are obvious trends around pricing, food and beverages and the post office concession. Dismissing that as irrelevant may be a miss for the retailer, who, if prepared to listen and understand the context behind some of the complaints, could improve its positioning significantly.

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