Why Bad Reviews aren’t Necessarily Bad for Business

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Remember the ‘Snuggie’? The child of a poncho and a blanket (with sleeves). If you do, chances are you remember the infomercials. Smiling families in brightly coloured Snuggies playing on repeat for hours, taking daytime TV by storm.

It’s easy to see how Snuggies were not without their critics. In fact, they became a worldwide joke, generating hundreds of spin-off parodies. With such a widespread attitude of disapproval, surely the humble blanket with sleeves had no future?

But, while the public seemed to have largely negative perception of the product, the consumer acted in a radically different way. In 2010, Snuggie went on to sell over 25 million units.

The moral of the story? A negative portrayal of a product or service does not always entail poor commercial performance. The buying public make their own rules when it comes to quality control.

With the rise of social media and review forums your company’s visibility is global, 24/7, always turned on. So, what happens when your customers react poorly to what your business has to offer, and worse still, they react in the public forum of the world-wide-web?

Your gut instinct may be panic, “Delete the post. Censor the reviews. All hands on deck!” Instead, take a step back and read on.

Not only do negative reviews not always lead to poor sales, but as a small business they provide the opportunity to boost them. The Harvard Business Review conducted a study analysing the relationship between New York Times book reviews and their relationship to sales. When it came to well-established authors, bad reviews were felt the most, leading to a 15% drop in sales. But, for new or unknown authors, negative reviews have shown, in the long run, to increase sales by up to 45%.

However, studies have revealed that the customer’s tone negative reviews makes all the difference. If your online reviews are angry, your company risks a negative image, but if the reviews that offer criticism are polite, then people are more likely to think positively about your brand.

So, you’re on the receiving end of angry consumer reviews, what steps can you take towards ensuring a positive outcome?

Foster a culture of polite commentary. This starts with you:

  1. Don’t censor negative reviews, instead respond calmly and pro-actively. Find out what the customer wants and what you can do to serve them. Show that you care.
  2. Don’t look like a money-making machine. Engage with your customers on a personal level through behind-the-scenes blog posts that show the hard work put in by you and your team. Ordinary people make mistakes. Your customers will be more forgiving if you help them to see that.

Recognise how bad reviews can work for you:

  1. They can give you legitimacy. In the same way that the smiling faces on infomercials breed scepticism, a history of glowing reviews can make customers wonder how genuinely committed you are listening to real complaints.
  2. They can give you an opportunity to see your weak points and improve upon them. Make your business work better for your customer and for you.
  3. People talk about your brand. The Harvard Business Review’s study shows that the recognition of a product endures long after the memory of a slip-up has faded. Word of mouth is one of your most powerful advertising tools – use it.

The secret to your success is how you navigate the labyrinth of business building. Bad reviews don’t have to be bad news, if you handle them with the equal amounts of thought and action.

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