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6 Good Things About Negative Reviews

Running a business is hard. The long hours, the unrelenting demands, the physical and emotional investment sometimes blind the business owner to the fact that things can and will go wrong. And while it might be easy as the owner to take these events personally, there are usually positives that can be gleaned from any problem.

negative reviews

This is no where more true than in the world of public reviews where, when the bad customer experience occurs, it can be seen by the whole world and feel particularly painful.

I know that it is often hard for the small business owner to take this perspective but there is often gold in that negative review despite its pain and in the end it may actually benefit your business and not hurt it.

Here are 6 good things about a bad review that you should keep in mind:

1- Greater Consumer Trust & Increased Conversions

As Matt McGee, the editor of Marketingland, has frequently said “we don’t live in a five star world”. What he means by that is that consumers realize that life isn’t perfect and expect to see some negative information about a product or place. In fact, research has indicated that star ratings do not influence purchases but review content does. “And while the star ratings themselves didn’t influence sales, the variability in star ratings positively influenced sales. In other words, if a visitor sees nothing but 5 star reviews, they get suspicious”.

2- Better Prospect Qualification

If a negative review provides helpful information about what you do and why you do it that way, even if it wasn’t a good fit for that particular reviewer, you have a better chance of being found by potential customers that are a great fit for your business.

3- If it’s not so bad, it’s good

Many review readers glance at the overall score for confirmation of general quality and then go immediately to the negative reviews. There they look for a pattern of outcomes that will help them figure out if they can live with the worst scenarios. If they can live with whatever worst cases occurred then they will frequently decide to do business with you.

4- Chance to impress prospects and future customers

Customers know that bad things sometimes happen even in the best of businesses. What they can’t abide by is an owner that is arrogant or not helpful. When you respond to negative review, you have the chance for future prospects to see that you handle even bad situations well. They can then have the confidence that if something does go wrong with their future purchase that you will be reasonable and work towards a satisfactory solution.

5- Opportunity for outreach & education

Sometimes customers are frustrated by the outcome of having dealt with your business but don’t feel comfortable asking for a resolution while they are dealing with you. Responding to the negative review either publicly or privately gives you one more chance at satisfying that customer. And if that is done successfully then there is a chance that not only will they continue to be a customer but that they will rewrite their review. Even if that doesn’t happen, clear & honest public communication about the problem can help future customers understand better how you do business.

6- Meaningful improvement

Not all negative reviews are helpful and sometimes they are written in a huff because the person writing them had a bad day. But if your business has a pattern of negative reviews there is likely to be something about the way that you do business can actually be changed and that you are not meeting consumer expectations. Miriam Ellis did this great post: How To Do Review Audits That Turn Clients’ Worst Reviews Into Actionable Solutions detailing how to extract the most from your reviews to improve your business.

For the small business owner, fearing reviews has never lead to good outcomes, it all too often immobilized them and kept them from participating in the very important review process at all. But when dealing with reviews it seems that to achieve maximum success in the market place you need to embrace not just the benefits of 5 star reviews but of negative reviews as well.

About The Author

Mike Blumenthal is a co-founder of GatherUp and helps oversee our research, industry insight and agency offering. Mike has long been regarded as the foremost expert on local search and Google Maps, earning the nickname “Professor Maps”. Mike also co-founded Local University, which provides small business and agency training in sustainable local search marketing. His motto: All Local All the Time.  He writes at his blog and does a twice a week LocalU podcast about Local marketing.