You probably think there are no benefits of negative reviews. Because when a customer posts a negative review about your business, it hurts. You might wonder, what if it chases away potential customers? What if it turns off existing customers? What if the problem is something you can’t reasonably address?
All the what-ifs and the worry are some of the downsides of a bad review. But are there any good sides?
The answer is decidedly yes—there are benefits to negative reviews—and it has much to do with credibility. Today’s consumers are seeking authenticity in a business. They’re also much savvier about deciphering what’s real and what’s fake. Reviews are ground zero for making those determinations, to the point that the vast majority (95%) of customers will suspect censorship or faked reviews if they don’t see any negative reviews or low ratings.
If you want to relate to customers and show them your business is real, even if imperfect at times, then accepting negative reviews as a fact and having a game plan for how to handle them is essential.
Read on to learn about the benefits of negative reviews and how they impact your business, and what you can do about less-than-stellar feedback.
The Business Impact of Negative Reviews
First, let’s be honest about the impact of a negative review on your business, because you’re right to think it’s not all sunshine and roses.
Half of surveyed customers say they question the quality of a business if it has several negative reviews. Multiple negative reviews can also drive down star ratings on Google. The trickle-down effect is that, over time, too many negative reviews prominently displayed in search results could affect your revenue since potential customers may shy away from doing business with you.
Then there’s the interesting case of well-informed customers vs. less-informed customers who are reading reviews. In a recent study from Colorado State University, assistant professor of Computer Information Systems for the College of Business, Hamed Qahri-Saremi, found that for customers who are already informed about or experienced with a product or service they’re researching, negative information can have more of an impact than positive information.
That’s because, according to the professor, negative information tends to be more diagnostic and specific, as opposed to positive information—which tends to be broader and less specific. Therefore, informed customers who know what they’re looking for give the negative review more weight, making it easier for them to make a decision.
These are valid business concerns, of course—especially if you’ve dealt with an influx of negative reviews recently, or you’re worried that you won’t be able to convert informed customers who can vouch for the quality of your products and services and lend more legitimacy to your business.
But as you’ll see, it’s not all doom and gloom, either, there are three important benefits of negative reviews.
The Business Benefits of Negative Reviews
Remember the whole credibility and authenticity argument from above? This is the key to what’s positive about negative reviews. Since no business is perfect all the time—and someone, somewhere, will eventually have a real complaint—the appearance of a few negative reviews is actually pretty normal and healthy.
Here’s how negative reviews can be a good thing:
- They boost your credibility: When potential customers see authentic aspects of your business noted in reviews, including situations that went awry or customers that were disappointed, they know you haven’t unfairly, or undeservedly, laundered your online reputation. You automatically appear more credible, which matters to them. And if the issue in the negative review seems relatively minor, many customers will be happy to overlook it and do business with you anyway.
- They help you build positive customer relationships: Relationships built on trust are one of the foundations of customer loyalty. That’s why getting a negative review is an opportunity to publicly show empathy to the disgruntled customer and make things right with them. When the unhappy customer sees that you’re serious about correcting the mistake, they’re more likely to forgive and come back. When potential customers observe how you handled the situation, they’ll see that you truly care about your customers—and they may be more inclined to establish a relationship with your business.
- They help you identify necessary business improvements: Customer feedback shows you exactly where your business may be falling, so you can make necessary improvements that benefit your customers. Too many negative reviews about the same problem is a flashing red light that requires action. When you acknowledge and address a chronic problem, customers will notice and appreciate your efforts. And the improvements you make can have a direct hand in earning you more customers and sales.
In the end, it all rolls up to reputation management. How your business is perceived online is critical—which means how well you handle a negative review is a big piece of managing your overall reputation. It’s not about something bad happening so much as how you respond to it. To shape your online reputation in a more positive way, you can start by dealing effectively with negative reviews.
What to do About Negative Reviews? Reply!
Over and over, businesses wonder if they can remove negative reviews. The logic may go that if no one sees it, then it didn’t happen, and the business can keep their good reputation intact.
But the problem with this thinking is twofold: 1) You can’t just remove a review you don’t like, since Google has very specific rules for what content can and cannot be removed, and 2) Removing a bad review would set off alarm bells with your potential customers, who are on high alert for fakery.
That’s why the single most important thing you can do about a negative review . . . is to respond to it. Acknowledge it, understand it, take action—and do it promptly.
Still not convinced? Then consider the fact that 64% of customers expect a response to negative reviews. Furthermore, 67% of negative reviewers had an improved opinion of a brand when the owner responded well and 62% would give the company a second change if the owner resolved their problem. This suggests that customers are actually swayed by businesses that make the effort to respond to problems. And the icing on the cake—63% of consumers will update their negative review or low-star rating once an owner response resolves their complaint.
Bottom line: Responding to negative reviews can make a measurable difference to the audience you’re seeking (especially the well-informed customers who will scrutinize the details). In the long run, it makes a difference to your overall business reputation as well.
Help With Responses
But how you respond can understandably cause some trepidation. Not everyone is a wordsmith. You may sincerely want to say the right thing in your reply, but worry that you’ll end up making a difficult situation worse. And not every business has the time or resources to commit to review responses in the careful, considered way they’d want to.
In this instance, one of the best things you can do is to adopt a review management platform that includes AI-generated responses, such as GatherUp’s SmartReply. The responses match the sentiment of the review (negative, neutral, or positive) and are personalized to the individual reviewer while sounding authentic and human-like. AI-generated responses eliminate your worries about what to say while also saving you or your team valuable time.
Of course, you can always respond to negative reviews on your own if that’s your preferred approach. Here’s a quick guideline for the best results:
- Promptly apologize and take responsibility for the problem
- Counter the negativity with a promise or explanation of how you’ll prevent the problem from happening again
- Offer to make it right with a full refund or a future discount
- If necessary, move the conversation offline where you can ask more questions to help you further pinpoint the issue and settle on a solution
How to Reply to Reviews
The Opportunity of Negative Reviews
Finally, it’s understandable to take negative reviews personally. But resist the impulse to get defensive, and get curious instead.
When a negative review is legitimate—the customer is real, the problem really did happen—it almost always presents an opportunity to improve your business or customer relationships. Even if it’s simply figuring out how to respond to upset customers in a more productive way, there’s usually something you can glean from the experience that you can use to your advantage.
When you discover the opportunity and act on it, your business reputation and bottom line will thank you for it.
Turn a Negative Into a Positive
Negative reviews don’t have to harm your business irreparably. With an accurate understanding of how negative reviews can hurt and also help your business—and the best way to handle them—you can rise above the negativity.
With GatherUp’s review management platform, you get the tools and resources you need to manage and reply to all reviews of any sentiment, gather feedback from customers on an ongoing basis, and improve your online reputation. Most importantly, you have the ability to show potential and existing customers alike that you take their feedback seriously and are willing to make a bad situation better.
By recognizing the benefits of negative reviews, you can boost your credibility, build loyal customer relationships, and make necessary business improvements that attract more customers and earn more revenue.
To learn more about GatherUp’s SmartReply for AI-generated review responses, book a demo today.