5 Unexpected Benefits to Negative Reviews

October 03, 2014

Some companies today fear the public customer review. After all, it seems like everywhere you look, there are customer reviews. Yelp, Facebook, Google – even the Better Business Bureau – these sites and more allow consumers to leave reviews online for businesses today.

It doesn’t take long for company executives to imagine these reviews take on greater significance than they actually have, and if you let your imagination go too far, you might start concluding that a few one-star or two-star reviews will destroy the business. That’s unlikely to happen.

Not long ago, I saw a self-employed author lamenting on his blog about a one-star review of his latest book on Amazon. He went on and on about how many sales he had lost because of that one-star review. However, this is an author with at least a dozen books and literally hundreds of Amazon reviews – the vast majority of which are positive four- and five-star reviews. Do you think he might have been letting emotion get in the way of objectively looking at that one bad review, out of hundreds of mostly positive reviews? Your company will survive some bad reviews, should you receive any.

In fact, you may even learn some things from negative reviews that ultimately will help your business improve and become better. In the long run, it may be one of the best things to happen to your business.

Here are five ways that bad reviews can help:

  1. Negative reviews help you see and improve your weaknesses. As business owners, we may be too close to our businesses to see what is glaringly obvious to customers. Instead of living in blissful ignorance, or hoping and praying no one notices or comments, isn’t it better to correct issues that threaten your business in some way? Listen, you built your business and you’re capable of solving problems, or you wouldn’t be in business. Business is a series of problems needing solutions. Look at the underlying situation as just one more problem to confront and address. It goes against human nature to think of criticism as a gift, but as business owners we have to have the self-confidence to think of it that way and not take it personally.
  2. You can show the lengths to which you go to make customers happy. What do you do when you see a negative review (or what do you imagine you’d do)? Chances are you are going to apologize and try to make things right in some way. Perhaps you will issue a refund or gift certificate or some other accommodation. This is an opportunity to shine when it comes to customer service. What better opportunity to show how much you care? Customers pay attention to how you respond when there’s a problem. They want to know that if they themselves have a problem, it will get resolved, and they will be treated fairly and professionally.
  3. Bad reviews serve as a catalyst for employees to change attitudes. We’d all love to think that everyone down to the last person in our organizations is wonderful with customers 100 percent of the time. Sometimes, though, our employees aren’t quite there yet, even if we as business owners see the need to improve. They may have difficulty putting themselves in the customer’s shoes. What’s worse, they may not have as much business experience and so don’t feel a sense of urgency to change anything. Hearing a complaint from a real customer who is unhappy enough to write about it online may get your team’s attention in a way that all the encouragement about “delighting customers” never quite manages.
  4. Some amount of negative reviews are more natural. Consumers tend not to trust reviews if they are too glowing and too positive. Sadly, reviews are easy to fake, and reviews that uniformly look positive have that look of being “too good to be true” about them. No company today is immune from at least slightly negative reviews. In a contrarian way, you need some variance among reviews in order for the public to take the glowing reviews more seriously.
  5. Getting negative reviews may propel you to develop a “review encouragement” mindset and processes. There’s nothing like a bit of a scare to cause us to focus. Today, every business needs to be encouraging reviews proactively. In other words, instead of sitting back passively and just letting reviews happen, you need to be encouraging your happy customers to leave reviews. Having positive reviews will temper the impact of a negative review. But we tend to treat reviews like “no news is good news,” when in fact, the opposite is true. It’s best not to have a small number of reviews. A single negative review drastically skews your average rating if you only have two or three other ratings. However, having a single one-star review among 25 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 would have far less of an impact. That one negative review won’t hurt nearly as much. Today, it’s really more about averaging star ratings online than about having perfect 5-star ratings.

We all want positive reviews. But in the long run, we can be better off getting that occasional negative review.

This article originally appeared on www.inc.com/comcast.

Some companies today fear the public customer review. After all, it seems like everywhere you look, there are customer reviews. Yelp, Facebook, Google – even the Better Business Bureau – these sites and more allow consumers to leave reviews online for businesses today.

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