How to handle bad reviews
March 01, 2017 | Shares:

The Ultimate Guide to Handling Negative Reviews
5 min.

Negative reviews aren’t bad news.

Many businesses fear negative reviews, without realizing that they are easy to deal with and can actually have a positive effect on your business.

In this ultimate guide, we will go in-depth as to how to best leverage negative reviews for your business. This guide will cover:

The Truth About Bad Reviews

It’s impossible to live in a world of 5-star experiences, so why are businesses so afraid of negative reviews?

First of all, let’s clear some things up:

  • Negative reviews don’t mean your business is bad
  • Poor reviews can actually help your business
  • Handling bad reviews is easy (we’ll share the technique below)
  • The best way to combat bad reviews? Get more good ones!

This is the comprehensive guide to negative reviews: what they mean, why you need them and how to deal with them.

We don’t live in a world of 5-star experiences, so accept that not all reviews are going to be 5-star.

Bad Reviews ≠ Bad Business

No one likes to see bad reviews online, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in negative feedback.

Maybe you got a bad review on Yelp, or someone wrote a scathing review on one of your products, or even just an email that detailed a negative experience they had — don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

The truth is, anyone who has a business has had to deal with at least a couple of poor reviews.

And if everyone who has gotten bad product reviews closed up shop, eCommerce just wouldn’t exist.

If and when you get a negative review, the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t mean your product or service is bad.

Most likely, the review was a result of mismatched expectations or simply a bad day on the part of the reviewer (or the business).

Now that that’s cleared up, we can get into the business of why you need bad reviews.

How Negative Reviews Can Be Positive

Believe it or not, there can be a lot of positive side effects to negative product reviews.

Negative Reviews Make Good Reviews Look Better

One of the best side effects of negative reviews is the positive light they shed on good reviews.

When a business shows all of their reviews, they prove they have nothing to hide. Sure, some people were unhappy, but the vast majority loved the product.

Negative reviews are good for your brand because they show that all of your reviews are real.

Brands with perfect reviews look inauthentic.

A 2013 study by Harvard Business School found the majority of consumers trust reviews more when they see a mix of good and bad feedback.

If the feedback is entirely positive, 95 percent believe the reviews are fake or company-screened.

Main takeaway: Shoppers know that no one is perfect, which is why customers value seeing honest feedback, even if it’s not all positive.

Bad Reviews Assist in Purchase Decisions

In addition to boosting customer trust in your brand, bad negative reviews give shoppers a real picture of what they can expect from your products and service.

One of the biggest challenges of eCommerce is providing potential customers with a realistic idea of what products are like.

And one of the main reasons customer write bad reviews is not because the product was bad, but because it didn’t meet expectations. Negative reviews can help with that.

In fact, a Yotpo study of 1.3 million reviews found that the most commonly used negative word in reviews – by an enormous margin – is “disappointment” or “disappointed.”

It’s mentioned almost 20,000 times, while the next most common negative word – “bad” – is mentioned only about 7500 times.

Disappointment happens when expectations aren’t fulfilled. Brands can use this data to better communicate what to expect to customers (ex. warning that shipping may be slow because an item is out of stock).

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Let’s say a clothing store gets negative reviews saying that the fit on a top was too small.

Shoppers who read those bad product reviews know that they need to order a larger size. Shoppers can see the reason behind negative feedback and then can use this knowledge to make smarter purchase decisions.

Shoppers don’t want to buy blindly. They want the whole story before making an online purchase, and real feedback from fellow shoppers gives them insight a product description can’t.

Plus, not all negative reviews are equal. Check out the below review, which shows that the customer’s complaint has nothing to do with the product itself, only the minimum price at checkout.

Negative reviews can sometimes encourage sales

In this way, your negative reviews actually encourage consumers to buy your product over others. Instill trust in shoppers who may be unsure about buying by giving them insight so they can make a purchase they believe in.

Main takeaway: Negative reviews give potential customers insight and advice that may not otherwise be available

Negative Reviews Create Buzz

Negative reviews can create a buzz around your brand that can actually increase eCommerce sales.

Jonah Berger, a Professor of Marketing at UPenn, did research that found that negative buzz can increase sales.

Negative publicity can increase product awareness because getting press for something negative can put you in the forefront of the consumers mind.

Remember the saying negative attention is better than no attention? Surprisingly, it’s true.

Negative feedback can also remind consumers who haven’t interacted with you in a while who you are.

Botto Bistro, a California pizzeria, perfected the concept of using negative reviews to their benefit.

They offer discounts to customers who write bad reviews on Yelp.

Why?

They wanted to fight back against manipulative reviews.

The effects have been positive for them – they’ve made a name for themselves as “Yelp’s worst reviewed pizzeria” and gotten a tons of publicity from their efforts.

Botto uses bad reviews to their benefit

Main takeaway: Responding positively to negative reviews can actually increase sales for your business.

How to Deal With Bad Reviews?

 

Step 1: Don’t Panic!

Negative reviews are not that bad and they can actually help your business.

Step 2: Publish Your Bad Reviews

Resist the urge to remove negative reviews.

It’s natural to have some unhappy customers, and posting your negative reviews shows you have nothing to hide.

It actually makes people trust your positive reviews even more.

Publish your negative reviews on site – it shows you have nothing to hide!

Step 3: Respond To Negative Reviews Publicly

Show that you care about the issue and have resolved it with a public response.

Customers pay attention to how you react to mistakes and problems, and they remember the results.

Example of responding to bad reviews

Research shows that hotels that respond to negative reviews actually see a big lift in revenue, an excellent customer retention tactic.

Step 4: Learn From Negative Product & Business Reviews

Is there anything you can learn about your products or service from the negative feedback?

Stop bad business reviews at the source by addressing any core issues.

It could be as simple as refining the content on your product pages or as drastic as discontinuing a product.

Step 5: Follow Up

Make sure to follow up after the fact to ensure the customer is happy with the resolution of their issue.

They will be grateful for your commitment and ultimately remember a positive online shopping experience instead of the negative one.

Top tips for handling negative reviews

3 Best Ways to Combat Negative Reviews

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: the vast majority of reviews are good reviews.

Our data shows that only 14% of reviews aren’t 4 or 5 stars. So you don’t have to worry too much about getting bad ratings and reviews.

Only 14% of reviews are 3 stars or less.

What is the average star rating for reviews

If you do get bad reviews, you know the best way to deal with them on an individual basis from the tips above.

But the best strategy for handling bad business reviews is this: Get more good reviews!

Since 86% of reviews are 4 or 5 stars, getting more positive comments is simply a numbers game — you just need to get more reviews period.

The data tells us that the majority of them will be favorable reviews anyway.

There’s a few things you can do to ensure you get more customer reviews:

1. Make the review process mobile-friendly

Yotpo has collected 16 million reviews, and 56% of those were written on mobile devices.

This means if you want to collect more reviews, you’re going to have to make sure it’s easy to get customers to write reviews from mobile.

If you make it super-easy for your customers to write, submit and share reviews from their phone or tablet, you’ll get more reviews.

2. Offer incentives for reviews

When your customers write a review for you, they’re doing you a favor, so it only makes sense to repay them. Businesses that offer small incentives — like a coupon or promo code — for writing reviews, see a big bump in the volume of reviews they get and it helps with measuring customer engagement.

Coupon request for reviews

3. Ask for reviews on the most expensive products

As the price of a product goes up, so does the number of reviews it has.

To ensure you’re getting as many reviews as possible, make sure you’re asking for reviews on your most expensive products. If a customer buys multiple products in an order, increase the chances of getting reviews by asking them for feedback on the priciest ones.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing you take away from this piece it should be this: Negative reviews are not that bad.

They can help your business, they’re easy to handle and you can easily combat them by just getting more reviews in general (because we know most of them will be good!).

So, if you’re afraid of negative reviews, you don’t have to be anymore — now you have the tools to fight them.

Turn Negative Reviews Into Sales Learn how to harness the positive impact of negative reviewsGet your free copy
Talia Shani
Talia Shani, Head of UK Marketing @ Yotpo
In Talia's past life she was a cook, but now she prefers to focus on eating. Right now, she's probably thinking about what she'll eat next or taking a long walk around Tel Aviv.
  • Joe

    interesting post considering I left a 2 star review on Doc Artisan’s website (which uses yotpro) and the review never showed up online. I was contacted by the company, who then never followed through so they know I wrote the review, but other customers are unable to see this review and use it to make buying decisions. Kind of the exact opposite of what you suggest in this post, interesting isn’t it?

    • Hey Joe,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      Over 120,000 stores use Yotpo for reviews and, for obvious reasons, we can’t control what each one chooses to publish or not on their site.

      Still, you’ll hear this from us again and again: It is a best practice to post all reviews, including negative ones, to get the most out of having reviews.

      Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment, Joe.

      -Talia

      • Thanks for the write up Talia.

        Negative reviews represent a solid opportunity for merchants to uncover satisfaction drivers and get a feel for the store’s corresponding performance.

        Also, congrats to YotPo on 120,000 stores! I would love to write some content around YP for our blog. Is there any data I can reference regarding these figures? Is that 120K active stores?

        All the best,
        Matt

        • Hi Matt,

          Thanks for getting in touch!

          Since my last comment was written over a year ago, we’ve actually grown to more than 200,000 stores : )

          We’d be honored for you to write about us on your blog — please feel free to reach out to me at talia@yotpo.com so we can organize it.

          Thanks again!
          -Talia

  • Confused consumer

    I too have left a negative review because I received dangerous baby equipment from baby travel Ltd. This review was not published and the staff are very rude. I also rely on honest customer reviews when I make a purchase. I now feel like I can’t trust reviews anymore.

  • Clean Sponge

    Hi Talia, great article! I have a dichotomy that I’d love for your to address. I use Yotpo for my website http://www.getcleansponge.com and have published all of my reviews. I agree whole heartedly about contacting negative reviewers however since my company is new and I can only afford yotpo free I don’t have that option. Not being able to contact reviewers looks inattentive, which in turn impacts sales. So as a negative feedback loop new businesses can’t grow quickly or provide the customer service they’d like to. What do you think about Yotpo offering a free response per month or something to this degree? As a company grows they could then pay for two or more responses. This would encourage businesses to grow faster through better customer service and therefore would provide your company with more paying customers by giving them an entry level free platform. Thanks, Adam

    • Hi Adam,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      We really strive to offer a variety of packages to suit businesses of all different sizes and needs.

      We’ve just released a new plan that costs $49/month and allows you to respond to reviews. If you’d like to check it out, please contact our awesome Support team via this link: https://my.yotpo.com/contact_support and they can answer any questions you have.

      Thanks again, Adam!

      -Talia

    • Jules Carlito

      Clean Sponge – think you had better use a dictionary for the word ‘dichotomy’. You don’t have one, what you have is champagne taste on a beer budget. If Yotpro does not provide what you need at a price you can afford then you need to find a product that does or else change your expectations. And also, as you are new in business, I might add that one of the things a business does NOT need is customers telling them they should give away stuff for free ….. seriously?

  • Hey @TaliaShani:disqus ,

    You have a lot of great advice here and important for business owners to understand 100% positive reviews can be just as harmful because it isn’t natural and eats away at consumer confidence in the reviews.

    One point really stood out to me as something we’d advise clients to avoid – your second recommendation for getting more reviews. You recommend offering incentives but this goes against best practices for most platforms, including Google’s, and is specifically forbidden by others, like Yelp. These are just 2 specific examples but probably 2 of the 3 most influential review platforms used by consumers.

    “Paying” for reviews, in my opinion, is never a good idea. If caught doing this you could permanently harm your business in where you are found in local search results and the marginal gains from playing outside the lines would be dwarfed by penalties if caught.

    Finally, you stated consumers are doing the business owner a favor and in a sense I understand what you are saying here as they are investing time to share their experience with your business. However the favor isn’t necessarily being done for your business. Often the favor is being done for other consumers who have yet to interact with this business or making a choice between this business and another. Yes, sometimes consumers reward companies with a good review that is intended as a reward for great service or experience. I’d argue that the intended value of most reviews isn’t for the business though, but rather it is for other consumers who reviewers are looking to inform, warn, help.

    • miss415

      I get what you are saying but think it depends on whether or not one has a product or a service. I also think there is a difference between offering an incentive for a honest review and for a 5 star review. If you sell a product on your own website and not on Amazon and have not had a review system in place, I think it’s a perfectly acceptable idea to offer past customers a discount on a future purchase to write a review on the product they purchased. Paying for a 5 star review is shady & dishonest but offering incentives for honest reviews can help companies improve their products & customer relationships as well as help potential buyers make informed decisions.

  • Nishant Gupta

    Amazing article. It is important to understand how a negative article can also help to convince a customer. How 5 stars actually look unnatural specially when you have alot of them.

    That’s reason We mentioned this article in our recent post “2016 roundup : The 16 best E-commerce articles of the year”. Hope you will like it http://blog.vizury.com/blog/2016-roundup-the-16-best-e-commerce-articles-of-the-year

  • Hey! Thank you for the interesting article. What is your opinion how
    reviews and responses effect the organic search results? There are like
    mixed opinions, but I believe that all relevant key words with your
    business can be helpful…

    • Hi Alex,

      I’m with you; I believe all keywords are good keywords.

      I’m no SEO-expert, but assuming the vast majority of your reviews aren’t negative, there shouldn’t be a huge effect from a few mixed responses here and there.

      Thanks for your comment,
      Talia

  • Stacy Kruzel Liszewski

    This is a well written article. I think the most important tip to give any business is to monitor their reviews and be responsive. All businesses will get poor reviews at some point. If handled properly, it can many times be turned into a positive review.

  • Hey,

    This is a kind of tricky situation. You have to handle it with care.
    There are a lot of people who just don’t care about anything and put the
    negative comments or give reviews.

    You should always be calm. Maybe you can hide them. Or just tackle them and give them a response.

  • negative reviews is bad for business and when someone post you have reply directly to the reviews then negative impression will got go on business, thanks for the best advice on the negative reviews.

  • Negative reviews can sink businesses and that will always be a challenge to deal with, no matter who you are.

    • Jules Carlito

      I agree, it is a fact of life. You can try to ‘spin’ it otherwise but if someone, or 2 or 3 people, wrote they got food poisoning at a restaurant last week are you really going to try and convince me that you’d take your kids there to eat this week?

  • Jules Carlito

    I think the real issue is avoided and/or downplayed and that is the
    issue of dishonest and vengeful people writing negative reviews for their own
    spiteful purposes.

    Prospective customers DO read negative reviews and the DO
    get put off by them, most especially if it relates to one of their own hot
    buttons.

    Your article assumes that reviewers and readers are ‘rational’
    and that unfortunately is NOT the case. Especially negative reviews, in my
    experience the worst, the most scathing and the most damaging are those written
    by angry and vindictive customers who don’t get their own way despite the fact
    that they know you don’t do what they are asking for.

    These are the ones that concern me, I have several negative
    reviews that are straight out lies and others that were written as revenge. I
    have a customer at the moment that is threatening to use every social media
    platform they can get their hands on to write a negative review if I do not
    comply with their demand.

    So what does one do about these cases? I have tried before
    to get a review or two of this nature removed and on both occasions the site
    had come back to me with a refusal. And I am not going to give in to blackmail /
    extortion either!

    • Michelle from Yotpo

      Hi Jules,

      Thanks for commenting! Fake reviews are frustrating. You can see our article on how to deal with them here: https://www.yotpo.com/blog/fake-reviews/

      While we do encourage users to publish and respond to negative reviews to increase credibility, you have options when it comes to handling fake reviews.

      Yotpo gives you full ownership of your review content, and moderation means you’re in control. You decide what shows.

      You can hand-pick reviews yourself, use our moderation services, or automate moderation using artificial intelligence.

      Hope this helps!

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