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How negative reviews could be a game changer for your business

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 26 Feb, 2020
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Hiding negative reviews does not breed respect. Instead, a mix and match of positive and negative reviews help build trust and credibility for your brand.

Negative reviews are frowned upon by businesses, so much so that 87% of them don’t take any pains to address negative reviews, not even for their most popular products.

Businesses might even protest that they are not in the wrong for ignoring negative reviews, that negative reviews showcase the company in a bad light.

But for all the notoriety associated with negative reviews, it’s worth keeping in mind that 5x more buyers seek out negative reviews over positive ones for the purchase of goods and services. On top of this, addressing negative reviews might miraculously change an upset customer into a happy one.

Further, Baymard research states that 53% of the users track down negative reviews before making any purchase decisions. This bumps up to a staggering 91% among consumers between the ages of 18 and 29. Not to mention, nearly 37% of the users factor in businesses’ responses to negative reviews before evaluating the reviews, the product, and the brand as a whole.

Product reviews

“I don’t want to just read the perfect reviews. I want to see what its shortcomings are.” 53% of users specifically seek out negative reviews on e-commerce sites.

To cut to the essence, ignoring or censoring negative reviews could lead to uninformed, unimpressed, and unpersuaded customers who may never return to your site. So, no matter what, it’s truly important for businesses to respond to reviews professionally, politely, and promptly - no matter how bad they may be.

Key Findings:

  • As per Baymard’s research, product images and user reviews are the most scrutinized part of product pages. Currently, 8% of sites don’t allow users to submit user reviews, much less negative reviews.
  • In some cases, users go by reviews and not product descriptions or spec sheets to make informed purchase decisions.
  • As per Yelp’s Data Science team, 33% of the Yelp users are more likely upgrade their reviews if businesses respond with a personalized message within 24 hours.
  • Marketing and customer experience keynote speaker Jay Baer noted in his bookHug your Haters,” that businesses experience a 16% boost in customer advocacy if complaints are answered on review sites. If not, the site faces a 37% decline in customer advocacy.

How quickly do businesses respond to negative reviews?

  • According to a study by reviewtrackers.com, 51.7% of consumers expect businesses to respond to their negative review within seven days.

In this blog post, we will discuss in detail the positive side of negative reviews and how you should style your responses to them.

The positive side of negative reviews: Why e-commerce sites should positively respond to negative reviews

Here let’s start with Neil Patel’s take on negative reviews:

Now, let’s discuss in detail how negative reviews could help e-commerce sites learn from their experiences and not damage their reputation as it has been generally believed.

1. Negative reviews by a few do not necessarily colour the opinion of thousands of other customers

Even the best of the companies have to face customers’ music sometime. You cannot be right all the time. Mistakes happen and mistakes breed negative reviews.

But what if you haven’t committed any mistakes and you're still bombarded with negative reviews?

Take the example of sugar-free Haribo gummy bears. The company manufacturing the sugar substitute gums has so far received no fewer than 600 negative reviews through no fault of its own.

Here are some of the most horrible Amazon reviews you may have ever come across on any of the review sites or product pages.

Example negative review


Second example negative review

The fact is: Haribo’s gummy bear clearly mentions on its packaging that an overdose of the gummy bears could lead to digestive issues. The customers who took the trouble to read the label consumed the candy cautiously and enjoyed the experience, while those who didn’t had to face the consequences of an upset tummy. The latter ultimately left negative reviews on the site.

The good news: Despite facing almost 600 negative reviews and the wrath of negative publicity in important publications such as Business Insider, Haribo has managed to keep its flag flying high. The company has managed to acquire a whopping 750 positive reviews and a decent three-star rating on Amazon.

So the point is no matter what precautions you take, someone somewhere will always be unhappy with you. In short, negative reviews are not entirely avoidable. You just have to give your best shot. That’s about it.

During repeated user review testing by Baymard Institute, it was found that a negative review by a few does not necessarily affect the opinions of thousands. Sometimes customers leave negative reviews merely because the product was not to their liking and not because the product was flawed. In short, an issue pointed out by a single user is less likely to bother thousands of others.

2. Quick response to negative reviews helps retain customers

According to an HBR article “How Customer Service Can Turn Angry Customers into Loyal Ones”, brands that are quick at responding to negative reviews are better at retaining customers compared to those who take considerable time.

Responding to customer complaints

Also, prompt responses to negative reviews could result in customers paying more for your products and services in the future.

As per a case study, airline customers would be willing to shell out $20 more on a ticket when the airlines responded to customer complaints in less than six minutes. Further, it was found that wireless carriers who got issues resolved were willing to pay $8 more for their wireless plans.

3. Negative reviews could mean more time spent on the site

As mentioned above, buyers seek out more bad reviews partly because they are not interested in the product. So, in a way, finding a bunch of bad reviews enables them to talk themselves out of the buying process. This automatically translates into more time spent on the site with buyers stacking up more and more negative reviews and also checking out their respective product pages as well.

So, when people start spending more time on your website, they are more likely to click on CTAs and are even prompted to fill in the contact info and so much more. These micro-conversions, over time, result in sales.

4. Negative reviews add more credibility to your brand

Trust me when I say there’s a direct correlation between negative reviews and brand credibility. Users generally believe that if reviews are all good, then such reviews are fake or your business is into buying fake reviews. According to studies by Reevoo, 95% of the consumers suspect fake or censored reviews when negative reviews aren’t found on the site. Meaning, even a single bad review could add to the trustworthiness of your product ratings.

According to powerreviews.com, 4.2-4.5 is the ideal average star rating for purchase probability. In short, be open to all types of reviews so that users are able to glean a balanced opinion about your product.

Ideal average star rating

5. Negative reviews help customers boil down to the right product

If your e-commerce site is into selling multiple brands, negative reviews could act as a beacon of light. It will guide users to find the right product, from hundreds of thousands of similar products displayed on the site. In short, it keeps the users from choosing an inferior quality product.

6. Negative reviews act as an essential feedback mechanism

As it turns out, negative reviews are considered an important feedback mechanism. They allow businesses to be in customers’ shoes and see things from their side. More importantly, they empower sites to nail down brands or products that seem problematic and take appropriate measures against them. Not to mention spotlights gaps in their product offering.

For sites that deal only in single-brands, negative reviews could be a sign to seek out alternatives for inferior quality products.

7. Negative reviews prompt the customer care reps to get their acts together

As per Neil Patel’s blog “The Cost of Bad Customer Service,” providing lousy customer service is the fastest way to lose customers. Almost $1.6 trillion has been lost by American companies because of poor customer service and switching to competitors.

If anything, negative reviews offer a fantastic opportunity for customer care reps to improvise on their current systems. According to BrightLocal reports, customers who get their issues solved in their first attempt are more likely to purchase from that business again.

Granted, responding to negative reviews may not bring about a 360-degree change in view of the upset user toward your company. But it’s sure to portray the company in a good light that it cares for the user and that you are there for them in case of a bad experience.

It was also observed in a recent study that responding to reviews makes users think highly of your business.

For e-commerce sites dealing in multiple brands, a negative review may be for a specific product. So a timely intervention by a customer service rep will keep the users on the site, prompting them to look for an alternative.

8. Negative reviews could bump up your rankings in Google’s local search results

As per a study of 1.3 million local reviews by RevenueJump, more reviews mean higher rankings on Google’s local search results. The study found that the highest-ranked listings had around 38 reviews while the lowest-ranked listing had an average of only 14.3 reviews.

In short, negative reviews are good for your business for they add to the total quantity of reviews and, in all likelihood, could boost your local rankings.

9. Be on top of negative reviews by inviting more positive reviews

According to BrightLocal’s research, the majority of the people read nearly ten reviews before making their final purchase decision. This means you can counter any negative review by ensuring a steady flow of positive reviews.

Now the question is how to generate more positive reviews? First of all, make it easier for customers to leave reviews on your product or service pages. You can make use of review generation tools to invite more positive reviews and thereby build an exceptional online presence.

10. Responding to negative reviews build positive brand reputation

As per GoodFirms research on online reputation management, nearly 42% of the respondents cited that the way they handle negative reviews has a direct influence on their reputation. The research concluded that the faster the companies addressed the user grievances the better.

Positive reputation strategies

How to style your site’s responses to negative reviews

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.” – Jeff Bezoz

1. Apologize, apologize, apologize - the Jeff Bezos Way

For nearly three decades, Amazon has gained steady positive press because of its excellent customer experience and industry-altering experience. However, in 2009, an incident shook the very principles on which it stood: The company, without informing customers, deleted copies of ‘1984 ’and ‘Animal Farm’ from users’ Kindles.

The incident led to a public cry on the internet. Amazon press, realizing their mistake, quickly released a dry, inhuman apology. But, what tugged at the customers’ heartstrings was a heartfelt apology straight from the horse’s mouth. Yes, Bezos himself wrote an apology letter to his disgruntled customers.

Jeff Bezos apology

The result? The problem was quickly forgotten. More than that, customers applauded Jeff’s sensitivity for admitting his mistake.  This is how the customers replied to his apology note.

Response to Jeff Bezos apology

2. Personalize your apology

As per Yelp’s Data Science team, 33% of the Yelp users are most likely to upgrade their reviews if businesses respond with a personalized message within a day.  Further, their findings state that businesses experience a 16% boost in word of mouth publicity from answered complaints on review sites. On the other hand, businesses that ignore complaints on review sites such as Yelp and Trip advisor experience a 37% decline in customer advocacy.

3. Make it appear different from customer reviews

Remember this: The site’s responses to reviews should look different from the customer reviews on the page. Responses that look like reviews could be overlooked by the users and thus defeating the purpose of having them in the first place.

There are many ways you can create a difference between a user review and a site response:

  • Display your responses in a different style. You could play with different background colors, different fonts, and so on.
  • Display company logos or staff titles.

These are just a few alternatives available to differentiate between reviews and company responses. Styling your responses, differently, makes the information easily scannable and recognizable.

4. Take the offline route

When a negative review is posted on a public forum, it is always better that you respond publicly. But when you think that things can’t be handled appropriately on an open platform, it’s better to deal with the complainant offline. In fact, you should encourage them to connect with you on the phone, emails, direct messages, and so much more.

Check out how to Respond to Reviews on reviewtrackers.com to find review response templates to help you respond to all kinds of reviews, specifically negative reviews.

Wrapping up

If businesses ignore or hide negative reviews they will be considered as inauthentic and fake.

Embrace negative reviews. Look at them as a free piece of feedback, a gift, which you could use to improve and grow your business, and more importantly, retain your unhappy customers.


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