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How Negative Reviews Help Your Business

Handling negative reviews isn’t scary, difficult, or pointless. It’s a critical task that you should take very seriously. (Sorry to add to your to-do list.)

If you’re in business, chances are that you have more happy customers than unhappy ones. However, happy customers are less likely to leave a review online. When people have a bad experience, they are 21% more likely to leave a review than if the experience was a good one. 

Chalk it up to tribe mentality: humans are simply trying to protect others from having something bad happen to them too. 

In one study, researchers found that 86% of the respondents said their buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. Yikes!

So how can negative reviews possibly help your business? Read on to learn how to turn any negative review into a great opportunity. 

Stop ignoring the power of reviews (including negative ones)

Unfortunately, too many business owners assume that online reviews don’t really matter. Perhaps they are so concerned with getting negative reviews they end up sticking their head in the sand and doing nothing. 

Even worse, some business owners mistakenly believe that since they didn’t sign up for a Yelp account, Facebook page, or Google listing, customers can’t review them there. This isn’t true. Unclaimed business profiles exist on all of these platforms and they continue to rack up reviews while their owners ignore them. 

Before we explore online reputation management (the practice of actively responding to reviews and collecting more), let’s first look at why reviews matter:

  • People read them. 86% of consumers across all age groups read reviews for local businesses, while 95% of millennials (people aged 18-34) do the same, and 91% of millennials trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. 
  • People base their decisions around them. There are all sorts of studies that demonstrate the influence of online reviews, including: 72% of consumers don’t take action before they read a few reviews; 70% of consumers need to read at least 4 reviews before they can trust a business; only 6% of consumers don’t trust online reviews at all. Let that sink in.
  • They have a huge impact on SEO. Your Google My Business page helps drive traffic to your website from organic searches. Gaining more online reviews is one of the top ways to improve your Google My Business listing, which can help you rank in the map view of high-value keyphrases such as “Fresno defense attorney” or “San Francisco credit union.”

Now that you understand how important online reviews are, it’s time for you to look at getting negative reviews in a different light.

The benefits of getting negative reviews

Reviews are important – even the negative ones! Now it’s time to make negative ones less scary.

There’s actually a silver lining to receiving negative reviews. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Makes your listing more realistic and trustworthy than only having positive reviews
  • Shows how you handle conflict (based on how you respond to the negative ones)
  • At the very least, when you respond, it shows that your business has a pulse and is managed by real people

Just think of some of your own recent experiences with searching for products and services online. When you discover a business with only good reviews, you might assume that many of these are fake, or were written by family and friends. 

Most people are reasonable and they understand that mistakes happen and life isn’t perfect. Your favorite restaurant probably has dozens of negative reviews from when the waitstaff was swamped, and yet it’s still your favorite restaurant despite occasionally long wait times. 

When potential clients and customers are checking out your online reviews, they don’t expect perfection. However, they will harshly judge the way that you respond to negative reviews. You have the opportunity to make a good impression on dozens or hundreds of people with your response. 

The impact of how you respond to negative reviews on Yelp or Google can be more impactful than a business with a bunch of good reviews.  

Tips for handling negative reviews

Your responses matter. 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, which gives you a critical opportunity to tell your side of the story. While some online platforms show the top review first (typically the longest and/or written by a top reviewer), many display them in reverse chronological order. 

Since 90% of people read fewer than 10 reviews to form an opinion about a business, that means that if you’ve gotten negative reviews recently, some readers won’t scroll down far enough to get to the good ones. Responding to negative reviews allows readers to form an opinion of your business that isn’t solely reliant on dissatisfied customers.  

In order to make a good impression on the people who will read your response for weeks or months to come, follow these online reputation management tips:

  • Don’t write canned responses
  • Don’t come across as defensive or aggressive
  • Don’t fail to address the issues brought up by the customer
  • Do respond within 7 business days
  • Do respond as the business owner, not an employee
  • Do get help writing the response from a sensitive, well-spoken employee if needed
  • Do have a system in place for making use of feedback (track similar issues monthly or quarterly in a spreadsheet so you can find common threads and fix problems in your business)

Have you ever received an insincere apology before? They’re very obvious. The same goes with how you respond to negative reviews.

Essentially, you want to write like a human: apologize for the issue or error and address it in a way that is personalized (not robotic or insincere). 

How to get more positive reviews

Reputation marketing isn’t just about responding. It also requires that you actively collect more positive reviews from your happy customers in order to balance out the negative ones. 

Getting more positive reviews actually represents your business more accurately. Since people are more likely to leave negative reviews, you’d be doing yourself, your business, and your potential customers a disservice by expecting your reviews to balance out all by themselves.

To get more positive reviews, send follow up emails, follow up SMS, or even run Facebook ads to a custom audience of your existing customers. Let your customers know how much online reviews help you and remind them that it will just take a few minutes of their time. 

One strategy we’ve used for many of our B2B clients is creating a postcard that outlines how to leave them a review on Google, Yelp, and Facebook.  This postcard is then giving out when the service is completed. While many people intend to go online and leave a review, most do not. So we have our clients call the customers back after a few days to follow up and ask how they’re doing.  Then they ask the customer to pull out the review card and they walk them through leaving a review.

One of our law firm clients has used this strategy so well that they’re now the top-rated personal injury attorney in California, with over 300 Google reviews!

Handling negative online reviews might never be your favorite way to spend an afternoon. But I hope you now feel empowered that getting bad reviews is not not the end of the world and actually, a great way to showcase your customer service.