*The following is a guest post from the experts at ReviewTrackers.
Negative online reviews can be incredibly damaging to a business. Cone Communications found that 4 in 5 consumers decide not to purchase after reading bad reviews. Harvard Business School research suggested that a 1-star decrease in a company’s Yelp rating could translate to a loss of 5 to 9 percent in revenue. And ZenDesk found that negative reviews influence the decisions of 86 percent of consumers.
The story that these numbers don’t tell, however, is that sometimes, negative reviews and low ratings can be good for your business. They don’t always have to cause you to look for the Delete Review button (spoiler alert: there likely won’t be one anyway); in some cases, feedback from unhappy customers can even be useful as a key growth and revenue driver.
Here are 4 ways you can leverage negative reviews to deliver positive results.
1. Use reviews to identify areas for improvement
Five-star reviews help you build a five-star reputation. But they don’t necessarily help you become aware of what you might be doing wrong or what you could improve on. Negative reviews can do that; they’re a valuable source of feedback to help keep your finger on the pulse of your product, service, and customer experience, while also giving you an opportunity to identify areas where you can improve.
Reviews can also support your competitive benchmarking efforts by helping you determine what customers like or dislike about your product, service, or brand, compared to what they like or don’t like about your competitors.
So monitor your reviews and listen carefully to what your online critics have to say. That way, you can better understand your position in the market and gain insights needed to improve performance and set yourself apart from the competition.
2. Manage reviews to establish brand authenticity
If a business on Yelp, Facebook, or TripAdvisor looks too good to be true, it probably is — and consumers don't trust that. Gartner estimates that 10 to 15 percent of online reviews in 2015 are fake or paid for. This means that real reviews, no matter how harsh, can actually legitimize your business and lend it an extra measure of authenticity.
Encouraging customer feedback — even if this means getting negative reviews — is also more sustainable to your business growth than censoring feedback and stifling the voice of the customer. Show that you value feedback. Don’t be one of those businesses that turn to non-disparagement clauses and astroturfing. Not only do these practices pose a serious risk of getting caught by regulators; they can also damage your brand reputation beyond repair.
3. Develop relationships with review-writing customers, including critics
A straightforward way of driving revenue is bringing more people in the door. Your ability to get customers to promote your product or service is therefore crucial. But while it’s easier to build goodwill and develop meaningful relationships with those who are already happy with their experience, unhappy review-writing critics present an opportunity to increase your customer base, too.
Stay engaged with these critics. If you receive a one-star review, respond promptly and professionally. (Research shows that 78 percent of consumers feel that responsive businesses care more about their customers than those who do not respond at all to reviews.) This gives you the chance to prove them wrong and change their customer experience for the better.
4. Use negative reviews to motivate your team
A motivated, highly engaged team can drive sales and revenue. Sharing positive reviews with your team members makes sense, but so does sharing constructive criticism provided by customers.
Not only does this promote accountability in your organization; it also fosters a customer experience culture and gives employees a better understanding of where they may improve and how they can do better next time.
Receiving a one-star review can often feel like a punch in the gut, but smart organizations know how to look on the bright side. By embracing negative reviews and taking advantage of the unique opportunities they create, you can more effectively deliver a five-star experience and positively impact your bottom line.
Written by Chris Campbell.
Chris Campbell is the CEO of ReviewTrackers, a review management and customer feedback platform designed to help companies efficiently monitor online reviews, manage brand reputation, and enhance customer experience in ways that make a positive impact on the bottom line.