Visibility Magazine

Negative Reviews Happen

What do you do when you get a negative review? If you are in business today, it is extremely likely that you have received a poor review for a product or service. If you haven’t , it’s likely that you will at some point. There are a myriad of reasons someone may choose to draft a negative review about your company or service, but regardless of the motivation, it’s up to the business to leverage negative reviews for a positive outcome.

Why are reviews so popular? According to London based research firm Reevoo, “Consumers value reviews because they trust the unedited opinions of their peers far more than official information sources like advertising or sales assistants.” Customers desire information before making a purchase decision and as we will see, they are especially inclined to pay attention to negative reviews in the final stages of deliberation. Fortunately there are strategies companies can use to leverage negative reviews. Understanding how to leverage negative reviews correctly allows them to have numerous positive impacts on your business.

The Positive Impacts of Negative Reviews

Receiving criticism is not fun, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be productive. Studies have shown that negative reviews can improve sales, increase consumer engagement, build trust, and reduce the cost of business development. A negative review can be very useful to your business.

New York University Associate Professor Panos Ipeirotis set out to understand the impact that reviews have on sales and price by analyzing tens of thousands of reviews on Amazon. On an interview with O’reilly Radar , Ipeirotis was asked if negative reviews could ever be good for sales. He responded: “It can when the review is overly negative or criticizes aspects of the product that are not its primary purpose…it decreases [consumer] uncertainty about the product.” For example, a mother who drives a sedan may dislike a stroller due to it’s size, but this grievance would not apply to a mom with an SUV. The negative review allows consumers to make a more educated decision.

Negative reviews increase engagement. A study found that “Customers spend more than five times as long on a site when they interact with bad reviews, trust the reviews they see far more and convert nearly 85% more often.” (Reevoo, 2013) Not everyone likes the same things; understanding what is most disliked about a product allows a more informed choice and builds consumers’ faith in the honesty of the brand. The study also found evidence that consumers specifically seek out critical reviews when making a purchase decision;  customers are less likely to purchase when they cannot find negative information. According to Reevoo, “95% [of customers] suspect censorship faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores,” and we are led to conclude that negative reviews lend credibility to other, more positive information.

Finally, reading through all reviews, both positive and negative, for your company as well as your competitors allows in depth market research that once required months of study groups and analysis by third party market research firms. New York Times best selling author, Bill Tancer summarizes this concept with characteristic clarity: “Every valid negative point in a review has the potential for helping you improve your business. Think of it not as criticism but as data.” (Tancer, 2014, p. 59) Real analysis of companies and competitors is now available and the majority of it is interactive. Utilizing this information allows companies to make better decisions and compete more effectively in today’s market.

Respond to Reviews

People hate feeling like they have been taken advantage of by a company; they also dislike being ignored. Some reviews may not merit a response, but understand the context. Review responses are not conducted in a silo, but on the open Internet. Sites like Yelp have a 1/9/90 rule; one out of one hundred people who visit the site will write a review, but 90% of the visitors only consume and observe. This means you aren’t really writing a response to the one complainer, but demonstrating the post sale customer service you offer your customers. Andy Beal has written extensively on reputation management, and in his latest work, Repped, he offers the following insight:

The Information Highway is littered with reputation road kill–companies that delayed their response or tried to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Instead of admitting their mistakes and taking the financial hit needed to correct their blunder, they instead tried to sweep things under the rug. As a result, their reputation never fully recovered (Beal, 2014, p. 149).

Beal is on firm ground here, studies have shown that responses matter a lot to consumers and there is a science to responding to negative reviews. Tancer writes a detailed five step guide with a specific strategy that can be utilized to leverage negative reviews and contain the situation.

  • Be Gracious – Make sure you acknowledge that you take all feedback seriously and thank the author for taking the time to write a review.
  • Be Sincere – Draft an original response that expresses your honest feelings on the situation.
  • Be Specific – Explain the situation from your perspective in vivid detail. Take care to explain exactly how you feel that you failed to meet the customer’s expectations and what steps you intend to take to correct the problem in the future.
  • Be Conclusive – Don’t pose open questions or encourage further discussion. End your response with a conclusive statement that does not encourage a response.
  • Be Available – Offer to deal with the situation further in person. This allows you to avoid offering rewards or free products in response to bad reviews as this could encourage others to be equally compensated for being critical. (Tancer, 2014, pp. 169-171)

Utilizing this strategy should conclude the discourse, allow the business to rectify the situation privately, and demonstrate to any new customers who are researching your company that you take customer feedback seriously. A study conducted at the University of Washington found that people are least likely to do business with a company that ignores negative reviews, even preferring a company that responds to negative reviews in a confrontational manner. Responding properly is an effective way to leverage negative reviews. A well crafted response to a negative assessment allows businesses to correct situations and demonstrate outstanding customer service to potential patrons.

Generate More Reviews

At the conclusion of his research, Panos Ipeirotis was interviewed on Content26 where he astutely pointed out “It’s great to have people talking about your product, even if everything they say is not stellar…[Consumers] feel more comfortable about a product when they have facts and opinions about the product’s good points and bad points.” (Hartman, 2012) In fact, studies indicate that regardless of whether each individual review is positive or negative, more reviews are always better than fewer reviews. Inchoo reported a study which analyzed more than 2.5 million customer reviews and concluded “there is no cap on how many reviews add to your conversion rate. The more you have the higher the rate is.” (Anicic, 2011) The most effective strategy a company can employ is to encourage customers to leave more reviews.


Negative reviews happen to virtually every business at one point or another. Fortunately there are ways to leverage negative reviews to improve your business. Negative reviews are useful because they increase engagement, trust, and in some cases, revenue. Reviews also provide valuable feedback from real customers about their experience at your business and your competition. This data provides a great opportunity to improve strategy and service. Another way to leverage negative reviews is to use them as an opportunity to demonstrate exceptional post-sale customer service and show potential buyers how deeply you care about your customers’ experience. All reviews are positive reviews if your company is consistently generating reviews from satisfied clients. More reviews are better than fewer, and successful companies will leverage negative reviews to create positive outcomes.

How else has your company leveraged negative reviews?

Related Posts

Leave a Reply