Online businesses need good reviews to grow in the same way that cruise liners need water to float. In fact, studies have shown that as many as 9 out of 10 consumers look at online reviews before visiting a business. Further, 88% of customers put the same level of trust in reviews that they would in the recommendations of friends and family members.
Obviously, companies depend on good reviews to attract new customers. However, bad reviews are not necessarily death-dealing poison for an online business. Indeed, the reverse is true: negative online reviews can also help a business to grow.
This article will discuss 4 reasons why a few negative online reviews can be a net positive for your business. Plus, we'll offer some suggestions on how you can leverage bad reviews for sustainable growth.
Bad Reviews Can Enhance Credibility
We live in a world full of people ready to take advantage of others. It's no surprise that, with the passing of time, the average consumer has become increasingly skeptical of commercial businesses. Imagine, then, how the alert consumer must feel about businesses that only have 5-star reviews associated with their listing, especially since the April 2015 Amazon lawsuit against thousands of sellers of fake reviews. It would be very natural for an "it's too good to be true" attitude to creep in.
Since no legitimate business is perfect, it would only make sense for the occasional bad review to pop up. In line with this reasoning, one study found that businesses with an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5 outperform equivalent businesses that have a perfect 5-star rating. Ironically, a few bad reviews serve to make positive reviews more believable in the eyes of modern consumers.
So, instead of trying to scrub bad reviews from your record, allow them to highlight your good reviews.
Negative Online Reviews Offer Opportunities for Engagement
There are different kinds of bad reviews. First, there are reviews from completely unreasonable customers, who simply enjoy venting their anger on public forums. Next, there are "troll" reviews from people that crave attention, have too much time on their hands, and perhaps have ulterior (financial) motives.
Then, there are legitimate bad reviews: reviews from customers that have a justifiable reason to feel frustrated and complain about their experience. While there's not much you can do about the first two types of bad reviews, you can and should view the third type as an opportunity for you to showcase your company's strengths. How so?
Once you've determined that the bad review is legit, respond to that customer publicly and promptly. Apologize for any inconvenience or frustration that the customer suffered, and (if possible) offer multiple options to resolve the issue. Not only will this potentially win back a disgruntled customer, but it will indicate to anyone reading the review at a future time that your company really cares about each customer, and takes each complaint seriously. That in itself makes for a great public relations win.
Bad Reviews Can Provide Constructive Feedback
Perhaps some business owners don't like to admit it, but on occasion, bad reviews can show up some serious flaws in how they're running their daily business operations. For example, perhaps a checkout process has one too many steps, or a FAQs page doesn't address an important question. The list of possibilities could go on and on, but the bottom line is: customers are getting frustrated.
However, if you view bad reviews as a source of constructive feedback, then at the very least they can provide you with an excellent starting point for investigating potential improvements in your business model. In the long run, they could even save you some serious money: instead of sinking a ton of resources into focus group interviews or A/B testing, for instance, well-articulated negative online reviews can serve as handy market research "shortcuts."
Negative Reviews Help Prospective Customers Make Informed Decisions
This last point is perhaps the most subtle of the 4 reasons, but is also the one that is most impactful to your consumer base. When consumers research a product or service, they are not only interested in what their purchase should accomplish, but they also want to know the worst-case scenario if a purchase goes wrong. Negative online reviews can help prospective customers get a well-rounded idea of both the benefits and the "risks" that come with a particular purchase.
For instance, suppose that a negative review mentions that a product performs well overall, but falls short of its specifications in one area. Other customers reading that review will likely make a mental note of what to expect if they decide to purchase. In effect, the negative review helps set their expectations, which can actually lead to higher customer satisfaction.
Find More Ways Negative Online Reviews Can Help Your Business Grow
As you can see, a few bad reviews actually work wonders for customer trust, provide a valuable means of constructive feedback, and help set realistic expectations for prospective buyers.
Besides the 4 points that we've just tabulated, there is one final, complementary aspect of online reputation management that should not be ignored: the internal review. An internal review provides a safe, honest, and private environment in which to discuss specific service issues and work to resolve customer complaints.
While internal reviews are not typically intended for public consumption, they add a vital piece to any effective reputation management strategy. Many companies are available to assist with such an approach; for instance, ThumbsYup offers its clients a comprehensive reputation management solution that involves a thorough internal review process.
To learn more about the services that ThumbsYup offers, click here.