5 Ways Negative Reviews Are Good For Business

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.

Sound crazy?

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’!


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

28 Reactions
  1. Lisa hits it out of the park yet again.

  2. I’m a huge fan of sites like Yelp, and I do like to see a mix of reviews. If there are more good than bad, I’ll go. But if there’s only one really glowing, stilted review…not so much.

  3. I look for themes in negative reviews. If multiple people are mentioning the same flaws I will trust the feedback. One bad review isn’t enough because that person might have written the review in the heat of the moment and wasn’t fair.

  4. Great post Lisa, and a clever spin on how negativity can actually work to your advantage. One additional tip I can leave from a content perspective is that you have an opportunity to turn a dissenter or negative review into content for your community. One way I do this is by inviting that person to write a blog post or article summarizing their issue so it can be acknowledged and addressed (or possibly refuted if their information is inaccurate). This goes a step further in demonstrating your concern and willingness to change and it provides an excellent content resource!

  5. If you sell through a marketplace such as Amazon and have no control over reviews they can be potentially disastrous, if a malicious campaign is launched by a rival. Unless you have proof of abuse, they can buy your product, issue a terrible review, request a refund, then repeat. As long as they use different names and addresses each time, they can continue ad infinitum until your product becomes unsaleable. Sounds alarmist? I would have said yes until being at the receiving end of such skullduggery. How to counter such tactics I have no idea

  6. Always good when you can change the conversation. Thanks for the tips.

  7. Great post, Lisa. I especially like what you said about getting to see your weak point. I’m always striving to make my blog and content better so I openly welcome criticism because I know it’ll help me in the long run. I also loved what you said about giving your army a chance to respond. There’s nothing like seeing the out pour of support from your followers. It’s really encouraging and motivating in the face of negativity. Thanks for sharing this post with our community.


    • You are definitely on the right track. When I was consulting for for a large international company, we used to encourage negative reviews to refine our product. We often used the example of the automobile industry. Early complaints were usually regarding engine noise, lack of comfort, safety…Since then, the number one complaint is where cupholders are located. Those early complaints are no longer a factor. Because with each negative review, they looked at ways to improve their product and did just that. Great example of how an industry took negative feedback, refined their product and made it better. And continue to do so! Now if small business can take that model and use it to refine their product!

  8. Sadly, not all services allow responding to reviews, both negative and positive. As a video surveillance software developer we welcome any feedback which truly helps us better understand users’ demands and possible weak points in our software, and we do our best to reply to all reviews.

    Thank you for summing it up in the article!

  9. and one more thing: the key to successful communication with your audience is *actually respecting* them. Take reviews as if they were written by your friends. If the review is unfair, make sure to inform user about the actual situation in a non-offending manner. If the review is negative but still true, the user has every right to be angry/dissatisfied. You would be too in their place. Try to soothen it and do actually improve it.

  10. Great post Lisa!
    We find that a lot of people are panic stricken when we show them their review records out there. A lot of times they suspect or have seen a negative review or two but will ignore it as if the negative reviews will eventually go away. Doing nothing is the worst you can do. These are all excellent points to get them on the road to legitimacy and show the public at large they are proactive when it comes to their customers.


  11. This is called positive attitude..lol

  12. Beautifully written and applies to our small business, it used to be that a bad review can bring on an anxiety attack for me. However my humble little business has definetly made me look at life through focused glasses that give clarity and understanding to life’s obstacles and challenges… Obviously a business owner wants their customers to be happy, it’s all in our nature as we strive to be a good person, but good people make mistakes too, and it’s utterly impossible to please everyone.. so glad I found this Gem! Confidently can say 4.5 stars can be and is an excellent thing sometimes even trumps 5 stars! 🙂
    Check us out and read the positive and negative reviews;)
    Kisses and hugs and many blessings to you and your readers, May business always be booming!
    Remember zen boutique owner,