We all know the saying: “you can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Business owners know this more than anyone. And nowhere is that more clear than on review sites. So what do you do when you get a negative review? And how much does a negative review matter?

Firstly, understand that negative reviews are unavoidable, so don’t view them as a barrier. Reading your customers’ feedback firsthand is a useful way to know how your business is doing – and how it could do better. Sometimes the best business decisions can come out of a negative review. Here’s what you need to know about reviews and why the negative ones can actually be an asset.

Why do reviews matter?

Before we get onto the rating or content of a review, just getting reviews at all makes a vital difference. Customers nowadays, whether they’re a business or a consumer, will read up on a company before investing in a product or service. According to research, 87% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. That’s 20% more than ten years ago!

Your business might be listed on Trustpilot, Amazon, Checkatrade or any number of other marketplaces and review sites. You want to encourage your customers to leave reviews because that helps to build your brand, even if your score isn’t five stars. If a business has barely any reviews, customers are going to be less confident in what you offer.

So what should you be aiming for with your reviews? Northwestern University has done some research into the sweet spot for customers. Their study found that to maximise sales, the best average online score a business can have is between 4.0 and 4.7. Anything too high and customers can start to get suspicious.

A lot of review sites, like Trustpilot, offer free or paid contracts. The subscription option gives you more data to understand your reviews, and allows you to invite more customers to have their say. If you want to invest more in your review platforms then making sure you have the funds to cover the monthly fee is vital. A flex loan gives you access to cash when you need it most. It’s the perfect financial tool for covering regular costs like this.

All reviews build trust, even the bad ones

Although it might sound counterproductive, a negative review can actually help build trust in your business. No business is perfect in everyone’s eyes, and we all get things wrong sometimes. When a customer leaves a negative review, it’s a part of life. Potential customers researching your business will probably expect a mixed bag, so don’t worry too much as long as they skew mostly positive.

Accept that you will get negative reviews and instead focus your energy on how you increase the number of reviews you’re getting. This can help keep up a strong average. You’re unlikely to avoid negative reviews entirely, so making sure they don’t have as big an impact proportionally on your score is a useful tactic.

Sometimes negative reviews are simply unfair. When it’s clear that the complaint or score seems unjustified, try not to immediately see red. If it’s obvious that the review isn’t an accurate reflection of your product or service, chances are your customers will too. For example, eyebrows will raise if the situation sounds unlikely, or they’ve started a review by saying: “I’ve never used this service, but...” In fact, a 2019 study found that unfair negative reviews actually increase brand empathy. The key is in how you respond, so try to stay fair, transparent and measured. The way you deal with reviews will mark you out and further increase the trust customers feel they can have in your business.

How to handle a bad review

Don’t let a bad review sit there with no response. It’s not only helpful, but necessary to show that you’ve acknowledged the feedback by replying. Your tone shouldn’t be argumentative and you should always address the specific issue in question. If you can, come back with a solution to show that you’re taking the criticism seriously and demonstrate that you understand their frustration.

Making sure you have a person or team whose responsibility it is to monitor and respond to reviews has never been more important. If customer success or customer service is something you need to build up then work out what roles you can afford to hire. When you focus on increasing your reviews with a growing business, these customer service roles need to grow too.

If your business is expanding or starting to scale, you might also start to notice more hiccups than usual. Perhaps you’ve taken an RLS loan to help fund a pivot or your next business move. Once you’ve put the wheels in motion to reach a new level, you want to support your growth with great customer service. Thinking about other, supplementary funding like a flex loan to help fund the roles that keep your customers the focus of your business can be a lifeline.

Use negative reviews to boost your marketing strategy

As we’ve already acknowledged, your product or service won’t be perfect for everyone. But these negative reviews can be a useful “auto-reject” tool. Sometimes the reason a customer doesn’t get on with your product or service is because they’re simply not the right fit for what you’re selling. In this case, having those negative reviews up can steer the wrong customers away from your business, which can save you time and resources. Losing a sale is better than having that sale go to an unhappy customer.

More than helping customers self-select, negative reviews that aren’t about a universal fault can help you inform who you target. You might learn a lot about the kinds of customers who you should actually be trying to attract. Seeing this direct feedback could help you design a marketing strategy that makes more sense in the long run for your business. Ultimately, you want to find relevant customers who appreciate what you offer. Reviews can help you identify the groups you want to be talking to. Then it’s up to you to encourage these customers to return.

Negative feedback can improve the way you work

To improve your business, it’s paramount that you have a way of finding out what’s working and what isn’t. Negative reviews are a chance for you to see direct information about what people don’t like about your business. There will always be aspects that require progress, especially if you’re growing. It’s impossible to improve something if you aren’t aware of it being a problem. So take a negative review as an opportunity to improve and build your business with your customers at heart. If you view feedback as constructive, that sinking feeling when you get a negative review can be a useful opportunity to improve.

As much as you might not like receiving negative feedback, it can help you grow a business that stands the test of time and really serves its customers. The more you listen, the better your business can be. Building your conversations with customers will improve operations, user engagement and strengthen your marketing strategies. And that should lead to better conversions, more customers and healthier sales.

A few bad apples don’t make a rotten orchard

Obviously, you should always be striving towards good reviews. But when you get that inevitable disgruntled customer, don’t panic. Viewing a negative review as an opportunity to improve and excel is a good thing. Your customers are your most important asset. Monitoring what they’re saying and how they’re feeling is one of the most vital things your business can do to continue to strengthen and grow.

If you need help funding the next stage of your business or financing necessary improvements then find out more about our Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) loans.