Getting positive reviews for your business is a powerful tool to gain trust and attention from new prospects who are searching for your product or service.
But would you believe us if we said that negative reviews can actually help your business too?
Though many business owners are upset when they get a negative review, they really aren’t as bad as you fear. Handling them isn’t scary, difficult, or pointless, but it is a critical task that you should take very seriously.
Chances are that you have many more happy customers than unhappy ones. However, happy customers are less likely to leave a review online. When people have a bad experience, they are 21% more likely to leave a review than if the experience was a good one.
Chalk it up to tribe mentality: humans are simply trying to protect others from having something bad happen to them too. Plus, the emotions they feel after a negative experience are usually stronger, so they’re more motivated to voice their opinion.
In one study, researchers found that 86% of the respondents said their buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. Yikes!
So how can negative reviews possibly help your business? Read on to learn how to turn any negative review into a great opportunity.
Stop Ignoring The Power Of Reviews (Including Negative Ones)
Unfortunately, too many business owners assume that online reviews don’t really matter very much.
Perhaps they’re concerned about getting negative reviews, so they end up sticking their head in the sand and doing nothing. Perhaps they just feel like they don’t have time to worry about reviews and that they aren’t very influential anyway.
At worst, some business owners mistakenly believe that since they didn’t sign up for a Yelp account, Facebook page, or Google listing, customers can’t review them there.
This isn’t true.
Unclaimed business profiles exist on all of these platforms, and they continue to rack up reviews while their owners ignore them.
Before we explore online reputation management (the practice of actively responding to reviews and collecting more), let’s first look at why reviews matter:
- People read them. 86% of consumers across all age groups read reviews for local businesses, while 95% of millennials (people aged 18-34) do the same. A whopping 91% of millennials trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
- People base their buying decisions around them. There are all sorts of studies that demonstrate the influence of online reviews. For example, 72% of consumers don’t take action before they read a few reviews; 70% of consumers need to read at least 4 reviews before they can trust a business; only 6% of consumers don’t trust online reviews at all. Let those stats sink in.
- They have a huge impact on SEO. Your Google My Business page helps drive traffic to your website from organic searches. Gaining more online reviews is one of the top ways to improve your Google My Business listing, which can help you rank in the map view of high-value keyphrases such as ‘Fresno defense attorney’ or ‘San Francisco credit union.’
Now that you understand how important online reviews are, it’s time to look start looking at negative reviews in a different light.
The Benefits Of Negative Reviews
There’s actually a silver lining to receiving negative reviews. Here are some of the benefits:
- They make your listing more realistic and trustworthy than only having positive reviews (believe it or not, conversion rates begin to decrease as ratings rise above 4.7 because more than two-thirds of users trust reviews more when there are a mix of negatives and positives)
- They show how you handle conflict based on how you respond to unhappy customers
- Your responses to both positive and negative reviews show that your business has a pulse and is managed by real people who care about customers (45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews!)
Just think of some of your own recent experiences with searching for products and services online. When you discover a business with only good reviews, you might assume that many of these are fake, were written by family and friends, or that negative reviews were censored. It can make even the most outstanding business lose credibility in the eyes of potential customers.
Most people are reasonable and understand that mistakes happen and life isn’t perfect. Your favorite restaurant probably has dozens of negative reviews from when the waitstaff was swamped, and yet it’s still your favorite restaurant despite occasionally long wait times.
When potential clients and customers are checking out your online reviews, they don’t expect perfection. However, they will harshly judge the way that you respond to negative reviews.
Negative reviews provide an opportunity to make a great impression on hundreds of prospects with your response.
Tips For Handling Negative Reviews
89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, which gives you a critical opportunity to tell your side of the story.
While some online platforms show the top review first (typically the longest and/or written by a top reviewer), many display them in reverse chronological order.
Since 90% of people read fewer than 10 reviews to form an opinion about a business, that means that if you’ve gotten negative reviews recently, some readers won’t scroll down far enough to get to the good ones.
Responding professionally to negative reviews allows readers to form an opinion of your business that isn’t solely reliant on a few dissatisfied customers.
In order to make a good impression on the people who read your response for weeks or months to come, follow these online reputation management tips:
- Don’t post canned responses — make sure each response is specific and tailored to the negative review
- Don’t come across as defensive or aggressive, even though you may feel that way
- Don’t fail to address the issues brought up by the customer
- Do respond within 7 business days or less
- Do respond as the business owner, not an employee
- Do get help writing the response from a sensitive, well-spoken employee if needed
- Do have a system in place for making use of customer feedback (ex: track similar issues monthly or quarterly in a spreadsheet so you can find common threads and fix problems in your business)
Have you ever received an insincere apology before? They’re very obvious. The same goes for how you respond to negative reviews.
Essentially, you want to write like a human: apologize for the issue or error and address it in a way that is personalized, not robotic.
For example, you may respond with something like:
Getting a negative review can hurt, but try to see the upside. You have an opportunity to see your business in a new light and discover issues you may not have realized were there. When something goes wrong in a customer’s experience, look at it as an opportunity to improve.
How To Get More Positive Reviews
Reputation marketing isn’t just about responding to reviewers. It also requires that you actively collect positive reviews from your happy customers in order to balance out any negative ones.
Being intentional and proactive about getting more positive reviews actually represents your business accurately. Remember, most people have a great experience with you, but they may not be incentivized to leave a review when they receive the great service they expect. Do right by your business and your potential customers by implementing a strategy to get more positive reviews.
There are many simple processes you can use to get reviews, including:
- Sending follow-up emails or text messages asking for a review (bonus points if you outline the simple process and share a direct link to your Google My Business listing)
- Run Facebook ads to a custom audience of existing customers
- Simply ASK customers to leave a review (your customer-facing team members should do this with every customer)
- Add a review link to your email signature
- Share positive reviews on your social media with a link for followers to leave their own
- Post reviews on your website and have a button that visitors can use to leave their own
- Put a QR code to your Google review URL on your business cards, company vehicles, or any printed marketing materials you create
One strategy we’ve used for many of our B2B clients is creating a postcard that outlines how to leave them a review on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. This postcard is then given out when the service is completed.
While many people intend to go online and leave a review, most do not. To overcome this, we have our clients call the customers back after a few days to follow up and ask how they’re doing. Then they ask the customer to pull out the review card and walk them through leaving a review.
One of our law firm clients has used this strategy so well that they’re now the top-rated personal injury attorney in California with over 300 Google reviews!
Harness The Power Of Reviews
Handling negative online reviews might never be your favorite way to spend an afternoon, but we hope you now feel convinced that getting bad reviews is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a great way to showcase the quality of your customer service.
If you’re struggling to find time to implement consistent systems to earn more positive reviews, reach out to our team. We’d be happy to help you strategize and execute an effective process so you can start showcasing the amazing work your company is doing.