How Much Do Negative Reviews Affect Your Business

It used to be that the only things that got reviewed were movies, cars, and fancy electronics. Nowadays though, everything gets reviewed. Restaurants, barber shops, dentists – even consumers who ride with Uber! Whether it’s through online marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy, dedicated review sites like Yelp, or even just a simple tweet, if there is a business, product, or service you can find online, you can probably also find reviews to go with it.

So what does all of this mean? Should you be obsessively scanning the internet at all times for any mention of your company, good or bad? Do you need to be a vigilant defender of your company to protect your image across the internet? Can you even be expected to notice or care when customers leave reviews for your company?

The answer to all of the above: Yes… and no. Let me explain.

Bad Reviews Happen

The first thing you need to understand about reviews is that getting some bad ones is a matter of “when” not “if.” Once the reviews start, it is only a matter of time before you hit some bad ones. It is basically inevitable. It doesn’t matter if your products are perfect, your style is impeccable, and your customer service is the most personal and friendly in the world. You simply cannot please everyone. So, you have to be prepared.

Why Bad Reviews Matter

We’ve written before about why online reviews are important, but the gist is, almost everyone reads online reviews before making a purchase, and most people trust online reviews almost as much as they would trust a personal recommendation. That means online reviews are essentially as powerful as word-of-mouth, which has long been held as the most powerful form of advertising.

Some of the stats can feel pretty abstract, but there are some real dollars-and-cents impacts of bad reviews. If you take Social Media, just one small sliver of the online review landscape, you can see this play out in very simple but powerful ways. As Christine Jane points out in this article on Inc.:

Consider the fact that the average person on social media has more than 300 friends. So if you sell a product that costs a mere $10, that negative review just cost you $3,000 dollars in potential business. Because I promise you none of those friends on Facebook will ever buy from you again.

And that’s just Facebook. If you multiply that across other social media platforms, those numbers start to stack up fast.

Bad reviews can also have a negative impact on your SEO in Google and other search engines. Not just in terms of ranking (which can hit especially hard in local results), but in the long-lasting effect of the negative reviews themselves. A negative article, for instance, might live on the internet and in search results for your company for years and years. Not only will it be there for people to read, it will also be undermining your other SEO efforts.

What You Should Do (in 4 steps)

1.) Don’t freak out about a couple of bad reviews. In fact, some research suggests that having nothing but glowing reviews exclusively could backfire somewhat, as psychologically, a few bad reviews amongst mostly good ones better fits customer expectations. People aren’t idiots. They understand that no matter how hard a company tries, some bad reviews are to be expected. So if they don’t see any bad reviews at all, that can seem kind of suspicious and call into question the legitimacy of all the good reviews.

2.) Don’t ignore the bad reviews. While you shouldn’t be losing sleep over them, you also can’t let them just sit and fester. Especially if the customer has a legitimate concern or is telling you about a real issue, failing to address it will almost certainly lead to more bad reviews and eventually, lost business.

3.) You should engage. The internet makes it super easy to complain about things. The anonymity provided tends to embolden people to say things they might never otherwise say (or even feel) in person, and when they do so it will show up at the same “volume” as everyone else’s comments. Fortunately, you can push back against this by quickly and kindly reaching out. Letting a customer know that you have heard their concern and are taking it seriously can be a huge step in diffusing a bad situation. The goal is not to embarrass them, just let them know that you are a real human being, not a faceless corporation, and you care about what they have to say.

4.) Take them seriously. Taking a default position that your negative reviewers are just crazy or bitter or unpleasable is not going to be your best path toward good customer service. Really listen to the complaint and try to assess whether or not they are raising a legitimate concern. Perhaps their experience was a one-time, circumstantial thing. Probably not much to be done about that except ask for another chance. More worrying, though, is if the negative review is pointing to a pattern, either with a particular employee or within a particular system. If your negative review can help you make a positive change that helps your business run better, you should absolutely go for it.

Need help with negative reviews and how to handle them? Chat with 10twelve today!