Did you know that 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business? And that 86 percent of people hesitate to do business with a company if it has negative online reviews?


There’s no doubt that negative reviews can leave a dent in your reputation, and can chase away business before it ever walks in your door. But did you know there’s a flip side to this? It’s true: Negative reviews can actually be helpful. Really – and in not just one, but actually three key ways. Here’s why you might want to rethink your approach to – and feelings about – the negative reviews your business gets on review sites.

1) They give you a chance to learn and grow.

First and foremost, if someone is complaining about you, you should know why. Many people take the time to leave a poor review about your brand if they’re extremely riled up. And oftentimes, being so upset causes these individuals to rant and rave… and leave a lot of useful information as a result. So, your best course of action if the review looks to be legitimate, is to gather the information provided along with it. Review it, study it and analyze it.

You’ll probably learn a whole lot. You might find that several subpar reviews all point back to the same customer service person, or you may discover that customers are repeatedly frustrated because what they see online is not what they see when they open the product box. Knowing what has triggered a storm of unhappy comments helps you improve and fix common issues.

Bonus tip: Be sure to create a process around sharing these comments with your team so they can improve.

2) They open the door for connection. 

When you look at negative reviews and use the insight to improve your business, you’re doing something really valuable for your company. But reviews should not be passive, one-way mechanisms for improvement. Instead, they should prompt a dialogue. Even if the reviewer is angry or seems difficult to deal with, you owe it to them to respond directly to their review.

In fact, 30 percent of individuals surveyed said that the way in which businesses respond to other reviewers (and whether they respond at all) is very important to them when judging local businesses. Train your team on how to diffuse emotional situations, and how to portray empathy and understanding in their public responses. You may not be able to fix the situation completely, but at least trying to do so will go a long way with damage control.

This type of effort also shows other prospects what they can expect from engaging with your brand. Someone who has never ordered from you might see the gracious way you dealt with an unhappy customer, and feel assured that you make things right even when it’s hard. Transparency in this way establishes you as ethical.

Bonus tip: Keep a record of negative review and your response. If it happens in the future, your team will know how to respond or can potential avoid the problem that caused the negative response in the first place.

3) They paint a realistic picture that can be trusted.

You might think that having nothing but five star, glowing reviews about your brand on review sites is the holy grail of a digital reputation. But when reviews look completely rosy, consumers often get suspicious. It looks too good to be true, and they question whether the positive reviews are even real. In fact, 40 percent of B2B buyers went so far as to say that negative reviews build credibility for a product. And 72 percent say that negative reviews give depth and insight into a product.

If an interested consumer goes to read reviews about your brand, they might spend extra time sifting through the negative reviews. If they find that the comments aren’t that bad, and perhaps speak more to the reviewers’ lack of sophistication than the products’ pitfalls, they could be even more encouraged to give it a try. If nothing else, seeing a mix of positive and negative reviews shows that the company is being fairly and honestly evaluated, and that the picture being painted online is likely credible.  

Did any of these benefits of negative reviews surprise you? If so, you’re not alone. Many savvy business owners and marketers have been conditioned to feel defensive, upset or demoralized about negative reviews. But when you shift your focus to what this type of feedback can give you, you open up a lot of valuable possibilities for yourself and your company. Contact us if you’d like to learn more, or if you’d like help establishing a digital reputation strategy.