John Shieldsmith
John Shieldsmith 3 September 2019

How to Use Negative Reviews to Your Advantage

Online reviews carry almost as much weight as a personal recommendation for many customers. So, are negative reviews the end of the world? Actually, they can be used to your advantage. Learn how to navigate online reviews and manage the many types of negative reviewers using this visual from Fundera.

There was a time when word of mouth was all your business needed to take off. Now? Online reviews can practically make or break a business. 

To put online reviews into perspective, consider this: 91% of those ages 18-34 trust an online review as much as they do a recommendation from a friend. With Gen Z and Millennials making up much of the online demographic, reviews can be a huge influence on your potential audience. So, what are you to do when you get a negative review? 

You make it work for you. But first, let's take a closer look at why online reviews are so important. 

Why Online Reviews Matter

It's easy to dismiss online reviews depending on your business. For example, a local bakery may not think online reviews are all that important. After all, they sell mostly to locals, right? 

While you can build a loyal following in your immediate vicinity, you still need to be concerned with online reviews for several reasons. 

  • Reviews control the perception of your brand: First impressions are everything, and reviews can often create a great or terrible first impression. Like it or not, the perception of your brand is largely controlled by reviews.

    For example, if you have a boatload of negative reviews, people will read those and think the worst. If you have solid reviews with the occasional negative one, people will likely give you a chance still. (After all, every business gets a few negative reviews if they’re around long enough!)

  • Reviews act as free advertising: Paying for online ads can be spendy, and billboards are pretty much out of the question for most new businesses. Solid online reviews can translate into free advertising, so long as the reviews are positive.

    If people go online and see glowing reviews for your business, they’re likely to check it out, even if they didn’t have a lot of interest before. They’re also likely to tell their friends about your business if they have a positive experience, meaning you can still get that awesome, old-school word of mouth advertising in.

    Furthermore, enough positive reviews can result in your business showing up first on sites like Yelp if someone sorts by average rating.

  • People trust online reviews: Remember that stat from earlier? People simply trust online reviews. Sure, word of mouth can still result in people checking out your business, but positive reviews can sway those that have no personal experience with your business and ultimately result in you gaining customers.

Making Negative Reviews Work for You

With so much riding on online reviews, negative reviews can leave just about any business owner reeling. While negative reviews can sting, they’re not the end of the world. In fact, negative reviews can be pretty great for your company if you know how to respond. (And if you’re not getting too many of them.)

Here are a few of the ways negative reviews can benefit your business.

  • Negative reviews humanize your brand: Too many positive reviews can leave people skeptical of the validity of your reviews. (Paid reviews aren’t unheard of.) A few negative reviews here and there will show people that your brand is human and not being propelled to the top by fake reviews.

  • They open lines of communication: When someone leaves a negative review, you have a great opportunity to have an honest dialogue with a customer. Replying to these reviews in a personal, real manner can help you win back that customer’s trust. In some cases, this can result in an even more loyal customer, as they’ve seen how much you’re willing to do to make sure they have a pleasant experience.

Just be sure you reply with a real, human response and not something canned. A templated response can damage you far more than not replying at all.

  • They give you the chance to show you care: If someone is reading reviews of your business and sees that you reply to any negative feedback and offer solutions, they’ll see how dedicated you are. This can sway some people to check out your business, possibly even more so than a positive review would have.

    Any business can get a few decent reviews. The businesses that go above and beyond and reply to their unhappy customers, are the ones that stand out the most. 

Negative reviews don’t have to be the end of your business, nor do they even have to be a huge source of stress. You can easily make them work for you. To help make this process even easier, Fundera has created a visual that guides you through some of the most common types of negative reviewers out there. 

The next time you get a negative review, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, steady yourself, and reply in a manner that you as the customer would want. While you can’t win back every customer, you can at least rest assured knowing you did your part as a responsible and respectable business owner!


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