Negative reviews can disproportionately impact how a brand, product or service is perceived. Having just a small number of them can really take the gloss off a bunch of more positive reviews, especially if they’re recent.
We look at how to reduce the number of negative reviews you receive so that they represent a smaller overall proportion.
What is a negative review?
A negative review is a publicly shared record of a person’s negative experience in relation to a product, service or brand. Negative reviews (also called ‘bad’ reviews) arise when something causes the person – a user or customer of the product or service in question – to hold a negative opinion of a recent experience. For example, being treated unfairly, given substandard products, or not having their expectations met.
Negative reviews can be found on various platforms such as online review websites, social media platforms, and web forums. They can range from being very short on detail, such as a simple score (e.g. 1 out of 5 stars) to highly detailed stories. Some of the more extreme and unfortunate stories can go viral and be reposted thousands or millions of times. People who leave negative reviews are often motivated to do so as ‘payback’ for a bad experience, in the knowledge that their review is likely to influence the opinions and decisions of other prospective customers.
In rare instances, negative reviews are posted maliciously by parties who choose to lie about or exaggerate the negative aspects of an experience.
What’s the difference between negative feedback and a negative review?
The primary difference between negative reviews and negative feedback is that one is public and the other is private. That has implications for how each of them can impact the market perception of your products, services and brands.
Negative feedback refers to any critical comments, suggestions, or complaints provided by customers directly to the company. Like any customer feedback, most is generated by the company proactively asking for feedback. However, negative feedback can also be unsolicited. Feedback can flow via a variety of channels such as email, phone, in-person interactions and feedback forms.
Negative feedback can cover any issue related to the customer’s experience. It is generally considered as an opportunity to address the concerns of individual customers and rectify their situation. It also enables organizations to improve their products or services, and how they treat customers, in general.
A negative review is different because it is a customer’s public expression of dissatisfaction rather than one directed at the company. Customers who write negative reviews are often motivated to inform and warn others about the perceived shortcomings they’ve experienced. However, the desire to achieve a resolution (by more effectively ‘getting the company’s attention’) can also be a motivator.
To summarize, negative feedback encompasses any critical input provided directly (and therefore discreetly) to the company, while a negative review is a more public expression of dissatisfaction shared with a larger audience.
What’s the impact of a negative review?
We all know the terrible feeling of seeing a negative review about your organization or its products/services. But what’s the tangible impact? Here are a few facts about the effect of negative reviews on a business.
- You miss out on a lot of potential business. One study found a single bad review can lose a business 30 potential customers, and making up the deficit takes 12 new positive reviews. Other research shows a bad review can lead 86% of consumers to stop buying from a business.
- It hits the bottom line. A Yelp survey found that gaining a single star on your overall Yelp score increases revenue between 5–9%, so losing a star can have the opposite effect.
- It makes you a less attractive place to work. Research by Glassdoor found 86% of job seekers research reviews about an organization and use it as a factor when deciding whether to apply for a job
- Ratings filters can make you invisible. According to ReviewTrackers, 70% of consumers use ratings filters to narrow-down search results of the most reputable providers. The most common filter is 4-star and above.
- You’re compared unfavorably with competitors. Customers will perceive you in the context of competitor offerings, so it’s bad news if you get more negative reviews than others in your market.
- It tarnishes your reputation. Negative reviews and experiences and more likely to be shared. The typical unhappy customer tells 9 to 15 people about it.
- It erodes trust. Consumers read, on average, 10 reviews before trusting a business. And trust is unlikely to result if too many of those reviews are negative.
Can negative reviews be beneficial?
While negative reviews are generally seen as detrimental to an organization, they also have beneficial aspects. This is where the distinction between negative reviews and negative feedback is especially important. All negative feedback is valuable to learn from. It’s just that negative reviews are doing it the hard way!
Here are some reasons why negative feedback is beneficial, even – in some cases – if that comes in the form of a publicly visible negative review.
Opportunities for improvement
Negative review content includes valuable feedback on areas where the organization can improve its products, services, or customer experiences. They highlight specific issues or concerns that need attention – and addressing these will benefit all current and future customers.
Building trust and credibility
Paradoxically, negative reviews can enhance an organization’s trust and credibility if handled properly. By acknowledging and responding to negative reviews in a transparent and constructive manner, companies show how committed they are to customer satisfaction. Publicly responding to negative reviews also gives the opportunity to tell your side of the story, and that’s vital when dealing with a negative review that’s plainly ‘unreasonable’.
Nobody’s perfect, right? And the occasional negative review demonstrates that. Negative reviews certainly contribute to the perception of authenticity and transparency. Customers looking at a mix of positive and negative reviews gain a strong impression that the company in question has nothing to hide, and that the feedback provided is genuine and unbiased. Very helpful if positive reviews outweigh the negative ones – far less so if they are on par.
Customer loyalty and advocacy
Here’s another paradox – resolving negative reviews effectively can turn dissatisfied customers into loyal advocates; even making them more satisfied in the long run than if they never had cause to complain in the first place! When an organization proactively addresses concerns and provides a satisfactory solution, it can win back customers’ trust and loyalty. At the very least you get an opportunity to stop them churning; an opportunity you wouldn’t get if they never aired their grievance.
It’s important to view negative reviews as constructive feedback and an opportunity for growth rather than suffer a barrage of criticism. By leveraging the insights gained from negative reviews, organizations can make meaningful improvements and enhance their overall reputation and customer satisfaction.
The Customer Thermometer 4-step strategy for getting fewer negative reviews
So how do you get less negative reviews? The key lies in looking at negative reviews as a proportion of all reviews you receive and trying to get that number down. A great way to do that is by increasing the number of positive reviews that get shared in the public domain. Upping your positive review count will reduce the percentage of space left over for negative reviews that arise no matter what you do to stop them.
Step 1: Ask for feedback
The foundation for this strategy is getting as much feedback as possible from as many customers as possible. That means asking them for feedback on a regular basis and in the context of specific interactions.
You need to maximize customer feedback by finding the right balance – asking frequently enough to receive large quantities, but never to the point that you fatigue your customers by asking too much of their time and energy. We have a bunch of strategies to support you in doing that in our Ultimate Guide to Customer Feedback.
A key consideration is customer feedback response rate – the rate at which feedback requests are responded to. Success here lies in making the feedback process as effortless and engaging as possible. That way you’re asking for virtually no effort on their part, you take up virtually none of their time, but you still gain feedback. Making people OK with giving feedback means setting your sights higher: aim to make it a truly positive experience that they enjoy participating in.
Step 2: Gear your feedback survey questions to identify positive customers
The objective of getting more positive reviews requires you to identify likely candidates to post those reviews. This is what the feedback process can enable. Here are 3 simple feedback question examples that take different approaches to identify positivity and negativity among customers:
- How satisfied are you with XX?
- How likely are you to recommend XX to friends and family?
- To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement: “XX made it easy for me to complete my purchase.”
Step 3: Identify positive review candidates by segmenting feedback responses
However you design your question/s in Step 2, the upshot is that you can easily categorize all customers with the results and segment them accordingly. For example:
- Low scoring: a bad candidate for a positive customer review
- Mid scoring: an unlikely candidate for a positive customer review
- Mid-to-high scoring: a somewhat likely candidate for a positive customer review
- High scoring: a good candidate for a positive customer review
- Very high scoring: a great candidate for a positive customer review
A 0–10 rating scale is often best for precise and equitable segmentation. Applying this to the categories above would look something like this:
- Low: 0–5
- Mid: 5–6
- Mid-high: 7
- High: 8
- Very high: 9–10
Step 4: Guide positive respondents to post reviews
To be clear, the strategy here is to consciously ask only those customers that you know to be positive, for a review.
It’s up to you where you draw the line, but the higher the score segment the better your chances of ‘converting’ positive customers into someone prepared to document that in a customer review. To convince and enable them, you first need to respond to their feedback, and you have only one chance to get this right. Here’s how you do that:
Start by being grateful
They just told you they were happy! Thank them, but be careful to express your gratitude for them taking the time and effort to let you know. You don’t want to insinuate that you’re only happy because they were positive. Be a company who values ALL feedback.
Ideally you’ll have asked for their feedback about something shortly after that ‘something’ just happened. For example, asking how their hotel stay was within an hour of them checking out. Now you need to move even quicker when responding to their feedback, for two reasons: 1) striking while the iron is hot and before their positive feelings start to wane, 2) getting a fresh take on what happened so that their review is rich and authentic rather than vague and generic.
The chances are that you’ll be operating this strategy at scale via email. Don’t fall into the trap of leaving it impersonal and perfunctory. Address customers by their name and reference their specific purchase or interaction. Showing that you value them as individuals can increase the likelihood of receiving a positive review.
Ask them (nicely) for a review
Politeness is key here. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask, but you should also recognize that you’re asking a favor. Consider positioning it in terms of their review… 1) helping future customers make better choices, and 2) acting as a boost for staff who work hard making customers happy.
Offering a small incentive such as a discount on their next purchase is appropriate here. Remember, you aren’t asking them for a positive review; just an honest one. But you’re winning because you’re only asking the happiest customers to do that. Just be cautious and ensure your approach aligns with the guidelines of review platforms.
Make it super easy to get the review done
Simplify the process of leaving a review. Provide clear instructions on where and how to leave a review, such as directing them to your business profiles on popular review platforms or providing a direct link to the review page. Maximize the review site options (Yelp, Google, Facebook, Amazon, TripAdvisor, etc.) to maximize the chances that their preferred site is included in your list.
Encourage engaging stories, ideally with pictures
Talk about their potential review as ‘telling their story’ so that the finished article is more likely to be readable and complete for uninitiated customers who find it later. Pictures and videos are fantastic to add to these reviews (where facilitated), and tend to be the ones that get read the most.
8 more ways to get fewer negative reviews
The strategy above is designed to decrease the proportion of negative reviews by increasing the proportion of positive ones. Below are some best practices for decreasing the overall number of negative reviews.
Deliver high-quality products and services
Focus on providing exceptional quality and value to customers, thereby reducing the likelihood of negative reviews stemming from product flaws or poor performance.
Conduct thorough market research
Gain a deep understanding of your target audience’s needs, preferences, and pain points. The key here is to align customer expectations with what you’re ultimately delivering.
Prioritize customer satisfaction
Make customer satisfaction a top priority in your organization. Train employees to provide excellent customer service, and set SLAs for addressing and responding to inquiries. Incentivize and reward “going the extra mile” to ensure customer happiness.
Encourage and learn from customer feedback
Actively seek customer feedback through surveys and other methods. All feedback is a learning opportunity, plus you can detect issues early and address them before they escalate into negative reviews. Analyzing feedback at scale also helps identify recurring issues, so you can take necessary actions universally.
Provide easy channels for customer support
Ensure that customers can easily reach out for support or assistance when needed. Reduce effort on their part as much as possible. Offer multiple communication channels such as phone, email, live chat, or social media, and ensure consistently high standards across them all.
Monitor online reputation
Regularly monitor online platforms and social media channels to track prevailing customer sentiment about your organization. This can reveal emerging issues you might otherwise not hear about until bad reviews start being posted.
Respond professionally to negative feedback and reviews
Promptly and constructively engage with people posting negative reviews. Acknowledge their concerns, apologize if necessary, and offer a personalized resolution. This shows all other potential customers that you actively address issues and are capable of turning negative experiences into positive ones.
Commit to continuous improvement
Embrace a culture of continuous improvement within your organization, driven by insights that percolate up from customers, employees and other stakeholders. Regularly evaluate and enhance your products, services, and processes based on evolving market needs and opportunities.