Yes, you read that correctly: negative reviews can actually be a good thing for your business. Of course, you don’t want the 1-star reviews to keep rolling in and left unresolved, but a bad review here and there isn’t the end of the world.
It might seem counterintuitive, but negative reviews can actually help establish trust and authenticity for your business. This stems from the all-too-common “too good to be true” mentality: consumers understand that your product or service can’t be everything to everyone. So if you only have perfect, 5-star reviews, they might raise a red flag for prospective customers.
Before we dive deeper into how negative reviews can benefit you, we have to give a little bit of a backstory for this blog post. It all stemmed from an episode of one of our favorite podcasts.
You see, here at Engenius we’re big podcast fans. If you walk into our office on any given day, you’re likely to hear one or more of us sharing our most recent podcast obsession. Our tastes do vary slightly, but our preferences overlap when it comes to podcasts related to our industry.
Given our mild obsession with all-things-internet, it makes sense that one of our collective favorite podcasts is Gimlet Media’s Reply All. The show’s description speaks for itself:
“A ‘podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” – The Guardian
As employees at a web design and marketing company, it makes sense that we’d be huge fans of Reply All. But the beauty of the show is that it’s done in such a relatable and human way that we think everyone could enjoy listening to it.
So that brings us here: Episode #124: The Magic Store. This episode really stuck with us because it deals with one of Engenius’ key services: online reputation management. In the episode, one of the show’s producers shares a story about how she purchased a product from Amazon and received something completely different than she expected. The product arrived weeks late, looked old and damaged, and clearly didn’t match the image on the product listing. Annoyed, she took to Amazon to leave a negative review.
Within a few hours, she received a call from the third-party seller apologizing for her bad experience. Her pleasant surprise quickly turned to disbelief when the representative told her that they would only offer her a full refund if she removed the negative review from Amazon.
As soon as we heard this story, we knew we had to share our thoughts on the episode (and online reputation management in general) because it’s this oblivious behavior that fuels so many misconceptions about online reviews—including the idea that all negative reviews must be removed immediately. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Bad Reviews Are Inevitable
If you’re doing business in 2018, you need to face it: you can’t avoid bad reviews. They’re bound to happen at some point. Why? Because we’re living in The Age of the Customer. Customers want to feel empowered, and one way they do this is by gathering as much information as they can before they make a purchase.
In turn, customers want to help other customers make more informed purchases. This includes writing reviews (both positive and negative) if they think they can help someone with their decision.
You’ve probably dealt with an unhappy customer at some point—whether it was your fault or not doesn’t really matter. The customer is always right.
And in the age of online reviews, this statement rings truer than ever before. Records of bad experiences can exist forever on the internet, so you have to make sure you handle them appropriately.
The good news? Negative reviews aren’t all bad. According to a study by Northwestern University, purchase likelihood typically peaks at average review ratings in the 4.0-4.7 range, and then begins to decrease as ratings approach 5.0.
Yes, negative reviews can actually make your business’ products or services seem more credible.
Great! You Have a Few Negative Reviews…Now What?
Since some negative reviews can build credibility you can just ignore them, right? Not so fast! While it’s true that a few bad reviews can help humanize your business, you can’t just sit back and watch them roll in. The key to an effective online reputation management strategy is to be proactive. Always be attentive to your online reviews and respond when necessary.
How to Respond to Reviews: Dos and Don’ts
Responding to reviews is an art, not a science. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula that works for everyone, but there are some best practices you should keep in mind when responding to reviews.
Don’t only respond to negative reviews. This can make your business seem selfish. You should also respond to particularly positive reviews that may highlight an aspect of your product or service that customers wouldn’t otherwise know about. Thank the user by name if possible and let them know how much you appreciate their business.
Don’t respond to all reviews. There’s a delicate balance that goes into monitoring and responding to your online reviews. Just like you shouldn’t only respond to negative reviews, you also shouldn’t respond to all reviews—this can come off as disingenuous. A good rule of thumb is to respond to all negative reviews and a handful of positive reviews. And don’t copy and paste your responses!
Don’t bribe or threaten a customer to remove a negative review. In the episode of Reply All, the worst thing that the business could’ve done was exactly what they did: threaten to withhold part of the customer’s refund until she removed her negative review. This isn’t only a huge review faux pas, it actually violates the terms of service for most review sites.
Instead, handle the customer’s negative review tactfully and do everything in your power to remedy the situation. If the customer wants to remove the negative review after the fact, then so be it.
Do relax. This can be challenging. If you feel that your business has been unfairly targeted with a negative review, you may want to respond with haste. It’s crucial to take a deep breath and respond diplomatically to avoid any additional harm to your business’ reputation.
Do take responsibility. The customer took the time to right a perceived wrong. Even if their words seem ill-informed, unfair, or vindictive, they have created an opportunity for your business to learn and grow. When responding to a negative review, take responsibility and apologize for the customer’s subpar experience.
Best of all? You can do all of this without throwing your business or employees under the bus. Simply be appreciative, positive, and willing to accept some level of fault—even if you have to do so through gritted teeth.
Do try your best to make amends. Of course, you don’t want to give off the impression that your business rewards complaints, but sometimes compensating the customer is the right decision. Other times it may be enough to apologize for your mistake and ask for a customer’s contact information to handle the situation offline, either via a personal phone call or handwritten note.
Going the extra mile to right a wrong can make all the difference in a customer’s experience. Did you know that customers who have their problem resolved quickly and successfully are twice as likely to buy from you again? And since 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers perceive the way they’re being treated, you can essentially turn a negative experience into an overwhelmingly positive one. This means you can convert a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied, loyal supporter of your business.
Do make the resolution known. If you rectify a situation with a customer offline, make it known in your response to their review. Let readers know that the issue has been taken care of and outline what steps were taken to address it. Customers care about fairness and accountability, so it’s important to outline how your business handled a poor situation.
What if you’re in a specific industry like accounting? Learn how accountants should respond to online reviews.
The Moral of the Story: Negative Reviews Aren’t the Enemy
Sure, bad reviews can be scary. Nobody wants to see their business being attacked online. But it’s becoming clear that as long as you’re proactive, honest, and thoughtful in your responses, you can still effectively manage your online reputation.
If you treat your customers fairly and really listen to what they have to say, negative reviews can be a valuable learning experience for your business. One thing’s for sure: don’t make the same mistakes as the business in Episode #124 of Reply All. It could cost you!
Still worried about what customers might have to say about your business online? There are review acquisition tools you can use to request reviews and “screen” them via private emails before they end up online. Interested in learning more about these tools and how they can help you? Give us a call.