Sales & Marketing

Bad reviews: why they're good for business

5 min read

24 January 2012

Bad reviews are good for business. Here's why, and here's how to take advantage of them.

Every business has the occasional unhappy customer. But bad reviews and other negative feedback bring a host of benefits to a business: from greater customer satisfaction to improved product development.  

Better yet: bad reviews are one of the most effective conversion tools out there, boosting conversion rates by almost 70 per cent for the shoppers who seek them out. Here’s why, and here’s how to take advantage.

The impact of bad reviews

Customers value peer reviews because they trust them. But that trust vanishes when every review on your site gives full marks: 95 per cent of consumers will suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores. A few bad reviews give consumers a reason to believe all your good ones.

Twice as many consumers actively seek out negative reviews as look for positive reviews. 

Relax: they’re doing pre-purchase research to ensure they make the right choice – fewer than one per cent of consumers leave a retailer site after seeing one badly-reviewed product. People who seek out bad reviews stay much longer on your site, and view almost four times as many pages. And the longer consumers stay on your site, the longer you have to convert them.

Why do consumers value negative reviews?

Reevoo’s extensive research into consumer attitude to negative feedback have thrown up some surprising conclusions:

  • The presence of bad reviews doesn’t put consumers off, it’s the ratio of good to bad.  A few bad reviews carry much less weight alongside dozens of good ones.
  • A bad point to one purchaser is often irrelevant to another. Imagine a hotel where one guest felt there were “too many” children – to someone planning a family holiday, that’s an advantage.
  • Consumers want complete information: they want to know the few negatives so they can weigh them up against all the good points and make an informed choice.
  • Consumers notice when there are no bad reviews. They don’t assume your product or service is perfect – they’ll assume it’s so bad you have to censor customer feedback.

Make bad reviews work for you

Understand the positive effects of negative reviews. Products that are genuinely of poor quality will attract negative reviews, but publishing such reviews ensures fewer consumers will buy something that disappoints them.  

Fewer disappointed customers means increased loyalty, repeat business, less demand for post-purchase support and fewer returns. You don’t lose sales by showing bad reviews: you steer consumers toward purchases that won’t disappoint them.

Listen to criticism from your customers. Ignore bad feedback and you’ll face increased returns, lower customer satisfaction and brand damage. 

Listen and respond, and you can change the aspects of your products or services that are attracting criticism before they start losing you money. And a negative review is a great opportunity to convert a detractor into a brand advocate with your excellent post-sales service.  

Responding promptly and publicly to negative feedback doesn’t only boost your brand equity with the reviewer, it also demonstrates to all the browsers wavering on the edge of purchase that you care about your customers and the quality of service you provide.  

Employ the right systems. Too much negativity and you risk damage to your brand and bottom line. Your choice of review collection system is very important here. 

Passively relying on visitors leaving reviews opens the floodgates to negative feedback: most customers motivated enough to spontaneously write a review will be driven by disappointment and their views will predominate, giving other consumers an inaccurately negative view and resulting in fewer sales.

Proactively inviting customers to review their purchase gives them they nudge they need to get them reviewing. 

By collecting reviews from these customers, the bad reviews are properly diluted by the crowd of satisfied purchasers. Statistics bear this out: with passive collection systems, 26 per cent of reviews are bad compared to six per cent in proactive systems.

Richard Anson is founder and chief executive of Reevoo.

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