SURVEY: Why Do Consumers Leave Reviews?

I have long wondered why consumers leave reviews. Using Google survey we asked 600 consumers that report being active online reviewers: When and why do you typically leave a review for a local business?

Why leave reviews Yelp

The short answer: Consumers typically want to reward excellent service.

They will call out exceptionally bad service but very few see that as a primary motivation. The survey results showed that a surprising percentage leave reviews as a help to the community, the business or other consumers.


To not bias the answers, we allowed the survey respondents to answer in their own words. We then categorized the results into the following common themes:

  • When Experience was really Good or really Bad
  • Only When the Experience really Good
  • Only When the Experience was really Bad
  • To Help Other Consumers
  • To Help Business/Community
  • To Inform Business
  • Other

When Experience Was Really Good Or Really Bad – 33%

The largest cohort of consumers, 33%, only report writing reviews on the extremes of their experience. They do not take the time to write reviews for those businesses that perform to the average.

Here are some typical comments:
If the employees are pleasant and good at their job I will leave a positive review. I will only leave a bad review if the person or service is exceptionally bad.

If I am totally unhappy, I will leave a bad review. If I’m totally happy, I’ll leave a great one. If the service was neither good nor bad, I leave no words.

When service/products are either particularly good or spectacularly bad.

Only When The Experience Really Good – 25%

25% of consumers report only leaving reviews when they experienced incredible service. This segment, noting just reviewing on the positive end, was nearly as large as those reporting as reviewing both extremes. They seem to be following their mother’s advice: If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all. This should provide business owners with some measure of confidence that many people are not just out to get them with a review.

Here are examples of the responses in this group:
If I get good service. I always review when I think it’s needed. Everyone needs to know they are amazing.

Amazing customer support. A willingness of the business owner to go above and beyond their call of duty to make the customer happy. This behavior, I believe, deserves to be rewarded!

When I have had exceptional service or a great experience.

Only When The Experience Was Really Bad – 5%

It might surprise business owners but very view consumers report using reviews strictly when they had a bad experience. Only 5% reported their reason for leaving a review having solely to do with a bad experience. Interestingly their comments were both shorter and less descriptive.

Typical responses:
bad business/ unprofessional

if I had a bad experience to warn others

Negative business experience

To Help Business/Community – 8%

A small but significant number of consumers, 8%, report their motivation as wanting to help the business or assist their community. These reviewers tend to leave good reviews only and show a strong dedication to small independently owned businesses and their community. Certainly if that description fits your business then you should leverage both your family owned status and your involvement in the community in your review process and marketing.

Typical responses:
I write a review if they are helpful/friendly. Most especially if they have a family vibe.

After visiting the business, usually because I want local business’s to succeed.

To thank them for a job well done and support local businesses.

They help to promote my community & build relationships.

To Help Other Consumers – 6%

People are social animals and even with the anonymity of reviews, many feel a need to communicate with others in their community a similar situation. These reviewers, 6% of the total, tended to again not report out on expected/average levels of services but those that were either good or bad.

Typical responses:
Because people need to know if the businesses are good or not.

To help inform other buyers on my experience with quality of the item and my interaction with their customer service.

To let potential customers know my opinion of said company before they choose to give them their business.

To Inform The Business – 4%

This one is interesting to me. Some users obviously use reviews to communicate with the business and let both the local business and the corporation understand better whats happening on the ground with an eye towards either improving or recognizing excellence. To me this indicates that every business should put in places processes and procedures for immediate and direct feedback.

Typical responses:
They should know how customers see them as whether positive or negative to help improve there business.

Because they need to know if they need improvement or simply that they are doing an awesome job,

Mostly if I have a suggestion.

Better customer service.

One Path To Business Success, Excellence

In the end, most consumers perceive themselves as an integral part of the society in which they and the business both exist. They are not out to “get the business” (despite what some business owners think) and are generally looking to find exceptional service or save their compatriots the pain of terrible service.

The paths this points to for all businesses are clear: Make it easy for your customers to give you feedback, ask early and ask often how you did, measure what you are doing so you can improve and strive to go beyond the average in terms of your products and services.

We are now in a world where there are no longer any secrets about your business, it is a world in which excellence will be rewarded and incompetence will be called out.

Going forward there is only one path to business success; excellence. You and the public both will be the happier for it in this new world of public reviews.



We'll help you build a better business

Our goal is to help you connect with your customers to gain valuable insight on what’s important to them. While you happy customers will help your marketing, your unhappy customers will point out where you can improve and our system will help you communicate with them to keep them with you.