Six ways to deal with negative reviews
Many business stay offline because they fear the negative review. Is there a case to be made for the benefit of a negative review? There is. Consider the following six concepts regarding negative reviews.
Allowing consumers to give a negative review is a statement of our belief that within certain parameters freedom of speech is a healthy thing. As we know, that can be misused or legally thwarted. For example: Should a company be allowed to threaten a consumer with disparagement for a negative review? As recently as 2015, this was a common practice.
Suppose you bought a smartphone and found that the camera didn’t work. You write a negative review about the poor workmanship of the camera. In that review, you state your disappointment in the company that made the smartphone. Prior to the Consumer Review Freedom Act, the company could have used a non-disparagement clause (gag clause) to prohibit you from criticizing them online. Often with a threat of a penalty fee attached. Because the Consumer Review Freedom Act was signed into law December 14, 2016, this is no longer possible.
Actually, the purpose of freedom of speech is to enable both sides of every story being told. Every story seems right, until you hear the other side. A business website that has no negative reviews is suspect. But if both sides to each story can be presented, the consumer realizes there is genuineness in the business. You earn the trust of the consumer by showing that your service, your product, can stand against the occasional negative review. In fact, a recent survey found that many people do not trust site product reviews that include no negative reviews. Letting the consumer know you have nothing to hide is a strong base for building trust.
Keep in mind that almost all review sites provide the site owner (the business) the opportunity to reply to the negative review to give the business side to the story. The objective in replying to the negative review is not to disparage the consumer, but to express genuine gratitude for the perspective, provide extenuating circumstances, and state realization of an opportunity to improve.
Negative reviews help educate the consumer about the product. It may well be that there is nothing negative in the product, but that the product is not what the consumer needs. Educating the buyer’s decision making process is a good thing. It is helpful to reduce the flow of return product, not to mention negative reviews! Consumer education reduces purchase disappointment, getting something other than expected.
The negative review closes in on exactly what the product does and does not provide. It is in the best interest of the business to enable the consumer to obtain product that fits the need. Reception of the negative review demonstrates the desire of the business to clarify the match between consumer need and product or service intent.
Too Good to be True
Welcoming the occasional negative review produces a more accurate picture of the product and the business. Conventional wisdom pictures the consumer bypassing companies who have no 5 star ratings. We assume they are turned away by too many 3 star ratings. While there is no reason to court lower ratings, when all the reviews are rated 5.0, the consumer sees this as too good to be true. An average rating of between 4.2 and 4.5 is considered more transparent and balanced.
Not everyone who gives a negative review is narrow-minded and vengeful. Some are analytical and insightful, providing helpful information regarding services and products offered at the site. Careful evaluation of what the consumer is saying in regard to weaknesses of the product, or elements missing that were anticipated, are valuable.
Consumer suggestions do not need be accepted as given. But a thorough evaluation of business goals in light of the suggestions made, may uncover helpful improvements. For example, when the reviews of a watchmaker never reached the 3.0 level, management discovered in the negative reviews a common theme – the watch band was weak. Working with their manufacturer, they improved the product and their ratings.
Another aspect of negative reviews has been the effort of companies to filter what reviews they are willing to receive. This is called review-gating, that is, the process of asking for a review by all customers, but accepting only those who indicated their review was positive. The review form asks whether the customer had a positive or negative experience at the top of the form. The company then chooses not to publish the negative experience.
However, on April 12, 2018, Google stated in their review guidelines, “Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.” When Google states a policy it is understood that they will take action on that policy. So if it is discovered that a business continues to practice review-gating, based on prior Google practice, it has been suggested that Google will likely remove all reviews from the April 12 date on.
Message of Excellence & Moderation
To businesses the clear message is to provide the best product and service you are capable of. To consumers, the message is that of moderation. Sometimes people get angry and express their feelings in a review. There are two things every reviewer should keep in mind. First, you are known by the reviews you give. Many review sites allow the reader to see what other reviews this person has left. If they are all negative, the lack of perspective is obvious. Secondly, anger is rarely constructive. Seek to warn buyers and alert business owners from your helpful insight.