We talk a lot about online reviews. We talk about how important they are in influencing buying decisions, how SMBs need to respond to them, and how Google is starting to give more weight to reviews as social signals. But in doing that, we also create a lot of fear around the reviews that exist out there about our businesses.
There’s the sense that a single bad review can kill your business. Or that a handful of unhappy customers can send new customers away and ruin your brand in the search engines. And while it’s important for a small business to build an online review strategy, it’s equally important to remember that we’re all human. A few bad reviews won’t kill your business. In fact, those negative reviews may even help.
Below are five ways negative reviews can actually be good for business.
1. They give you legitimacy
What would you think when checking out a new business and saw nothing but glowing reviews and five stars? You’d think the reviews were fake. Or paid for. Or written by the business owner’s mother. We don’t trust businesses that appear “too good to be true” because we know that we’re all human. We all make mistakes. And we all have bad days. If your online reviews are a true reflection of who you are, they’ll account for some of those bad days.
The simple fact is we trust a business more if there are at least some negative reviews because it helps us feel like we’re seeing both sides. We want to know the soup was cold or that the dress didn’t fit. As a consumer, these reviews also help us feel more prepared. If we can see the problem points in the service or product, we can determine whether they’re “deal breakers” for us. If they’re not, we feel confident making the buying decision.
2. You identify (fixable) weak points
As noted above, consumers look for negative reviews to identify weak points in your product or service. Maybe your dresses run small and they should order up. Or maybe your waitresses don’t spend enough time tending your customer’s needs. Consumers value this information so they know what to expect. As a business owner, this is valuable information so you know what to fix.
Negative reviews help your business to improve by showing you areas where you can do better. Instead of fearing these types of reviews, welcome them as an unfiltered look into your business. Once you know what’s not working or areas where customers got tripped up, you can solve the problem and make the experience better for everyone. Instead of fearing these comments, thank the people who leave them.
3. You show off your customer service skills
Yes, that’s right. I just said you should thank your customers who take the time to let you know where you can do better. This is invaluable information. It also gives you a chance to show off your customer service skills and let onlookers see how much you value your customers. Consumers can tell a lot about a business by how they respond to criticism. If you handle the situation with grace, maturity and (when appropriate) humor, it tells them you’re a business confident in what you offer and how you treat people in business. If you get defensive or argumentative, it tells consumers you’re a business they may want to avoid. So respond wisely.
4. You give your army a chance to respond
If someone has left a negative review on your business that you feel is unfair or undeserved, show it to some of your biggest supporters and ask what they think. If they feel the review is warranted, they’ll tell you and then you can fix it. But if they don’t, they’re likely to go respond to that comment for you and help set the record straight. They’ll actually come to your defense and serve as an army of support for your brand.
Consumers are passionate about the people and the places they do business with. If they see someone talking badly about “their” coffee shop, they’re going to hop into that conversation and fight for you.
5. You can change the conversation
As much as we don’t like to see negative comments left about our businesses, they do give you the chance to change the conversation and that person’s experience. By responding maturely, validating the critique, and offering a promise to do better, you can significantly increase someone’s impression of your brand. And, really, if someone is unhappy with your service, don’t you want the chance to make it right?
Reviews are important and the more positive reviews you have, the more likely it is a new customer will feel comfortable taking a chance on your business. But negative reviews also have their place and can offer some benefits to any business.
Speaking of reviews, the holidays are coming. Have you created your holiday online review strategy? Get crackin’!