How Much Can a Bad Review Hurt Your Business?

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Positive customer review can build your business and negative customer stories can break your business. How much can a bad review hurt you?

Some business owners seem to believe that any bad review is a personal reflection on the quality of their business.

Others argue passionately that there is no such thing as bad press, and that they don’t worry about bad reviews because bad reviews don’t hurt.

For sensible business owners, can bad reviews hurt your business income?

Related Article: Customer Reviews on Ecommerce: Do We Really Need them?

Does a Single Bad Review Hurt?

Depending on which study you look at, somewhere between 67 percent and 90 percent of consumers look at a product’s reviews before they decide to make a purchase. It might seem, therefore, like any bad reviews would immediately affect your sales in a negative way. After all, having a negative review shows that your company isn’t perfect, right?

How Do Bad Reviews Actually Help?

The truth is that any sensible customer knows that products, services, companies, and entrepreneurs aren’t perfect. Instead of showing that customers choose to only buy products or patronize businesses that have all stellar reviews, careful review of the available research shows that customers have more trust in companies who have a few bad reviews. Why is that?

Psychologically, since customers assume that nothing is perfect, a total lack of negative reviews means that companies are either burying the negative (not a good sign) or reviews are not legit at all, which can actually be even worse.

What Should You Do About Bad Reviews?

Good customer stories can build your business, but on the other hand, negative customer stories can break your business. So what should you do when your company or product inevitably gets some bad reviews?

  • Look for patterns. If you find that customers who come into your restaurant at dinner are having a markedly different experience than lunch time, it’s worth looking into your staff to see what might be the problem. If you find that all of your products are going over beautifully, but there’s a regular complaint about one function or detail, test it out yourself to see what could be improved.
  • For isolated incidents. Reach out to the customer. Apologize for their experience, and extend an invitation to call or email and speak to you directly about what happened. Your goal is to get the conversation offline so that you and the customer are freer speak. Once you’re talking to them, listen to their concerns and make notes; some of them may be valid and need to be addressed. Offer them a gift card or a refund so that they can return at a later date and hopefully have a better experience.
  • Let your customers know how much reviews matter. Suggest that they leave reviews on the sites that matter most to you, whether that be Facebook, Amazon, Yelp, or another site, and consider offering an incentive to customers who do choose to leave a review, whether it be positive or negative.
  • Don’t worry. One or two bad reviews aren’t going to tank your business. Focus on fixing what went wrong and collecting more positive reviews.

Related Article: Find Your Biggest Customer Service Opportunities in These 3 Places

When Should You Be Concerned?

There are of course a few situations where you should be concerned about bad reviews.

If a customer alleges sexual or racial harassment of any kind, your goal as a business owner must be to immediately address what happened with your associates. You should read out to the customer and get as much of their story as possible, showing them that you’re serious about their complaint, and want to make it right.

If you can pinpoint the issue to a particular employee, immediately meet with that employee to make it very clear that this behavior will not be tolerated, under any circumstances. It’s not a bad idea to ask the employee to apologize (in a supervised manner) to the customer who issued the complaint.

If a customer alleges theft on the part of the employees, you similarly should follow up immediately.

What if you feel a review is defamatory? For example, calls all of your employees idiots or insults them on racial or sexual grounds or if it engages in libel actively making untrue statements about your business as if they were facts most review sites have opportunities for you to either respond to the complaint, or flag it to request removal. Be very careful with your language here; be polite, and stick to the facts.

For example, you might say, “Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review regarding your experience. However, I noted that you said you were at our store Monday morning, and if you look at our schedule, you can see that we are closed until 2 p.m. every day. Is it possible this was for another business?” But avoid insulting the reviewer or demanding that they take the review down; that language won’t get you anywhere.

Related Article: Easy Ways to Get Happy Customer to Write Online Reviews

If ultimately, you have serious concerns about a review, the right place to go is a lawyer. But for all but the most inflammatory reviews, just let them go with the knowledge that the reviewer may have actually just given your business a boost.

What do you do when you read negative reviews?

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