Now that a New York court has dismissed claims against Yelp by a New York dentist based on a (very) negative review and on Yelp’s alleged removal of positive reviews, this might be a good time to think about what makes a review “negative” and what negative reviews mean to – and for – your business. You may think that negative reviews are just angry people taking shots at you. Here are four other ways to look at it:
Readers recognize – and discount – outliers. Positive or negative, excessive emotions in a review diminish their credibility. It’s great to get an exceptional review for exceptional service. But if the glowing adjectives are out of proportion to a typical customer experience, readers are likely to apply the old saying: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Same thing with negative reviews. The surest way to lose credibility IS TO WRITE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS WITH LOTS OF PUNCTUATION!!! These are actually the best negative reviews you can get, because even if they are accurate, who will believe them? It’s true that some people write reviews to blow off steam, but readers know that, and respond accordingly.
Mixed reviews are not necessarily negative. Have you ever used Rotten Tomatoes to decide whether to see a movie? The site’s “Tomatometer” rating is based on whether published reviews were positive or negative. However, a review can only be either “fresh” (i.e., positive) or “rotten” (i.e., negative), no matter how mixed or qualified the review might be. For “Going the Distance” (51% rating), the fresh reviews include “solid but totally forgettable” and “hilarious in many individual scenes [but] less than the sum of its parts”. Rotten reviews included “funny but forgettable” and “The laughs kept me involved … but after I left the theater, it occurred to me that this slight comedy hadn’t gone very far at all.” Hmm. Many reviews – of anything – are mixed enough that it would be hard to give them either a thumbs up or thumbs down rating. So don’t consider every mixed review a thumbs down.
A mixed review is often more thoughtful, detailed and nuanced than an outright rave or pan. A customer who writes a review that contains some negative feedback isn’t venting, she’s helping. These are the reviews your customers will take seriously – and you should do the same. When you respond to reviews like these (easy to do on Zavee) you can use the review as the basis for an ongoing relationship. If you want a second chance at the customer and a more positive review the second time around, being proactive is the only way to get results.
Yes, competitors can try to hurt your business with fake reviews, but there are reasons you don’t hear about it happening very often. If you are running a good business deceitful reviews are unlikely to harm you, especially if you are actively communicating with your customers. Why? First, as discussed above readers will tend to discount rants whether or not they are malicious. Second, users of social shopping sites tend to be very skeptical of reviews that differ greatly from what most (real) customers experience. The unusual experience is another kind of outlier. On the other hand, negative reviews that go into detail about the experience and/or are written by a reviewer who has demonstrated credibility based on other reviews may well be taken seriously, but how many of your competitors are willing to invest that much effort just to undermine your business? If you are actively communicating with your customers you should be able to deflect even the most sophisticated malicious review. Finally, social shopping sites are trying to safeguard against malicious and fraudulent reviews. At Zavee, our system will reject a review unless the author has had a transaction at that merchant within 30 days of the review. Could a competitor jump through all those hoops just to hurt your business? Probably, but how many would bother?
A negative review is a positive experience. On the most basic level, a thoughtful review that recounts a negative experience provides valuable information for your business. You can’t be everywhere, and if a waiter or a sales associate didn’t behave appropriately, or if a product or service fell short of expectations, wouldn’t you want to know? Of course you would prefer to hear it privately, but in our increasingly social world these conversations are being held in the open. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A negative review can be a positive experience because your handling of the situation – again, in public – gives you the chance to move the conversation forward: increasing customer engagement and loyalty, building your reputation and your brand, and even persuading non-customers to give you a try.
The Zavee takeaway:
- Readers are smart, and they are good at recognizing which reviews to take seriously.
- Negative reviews can hurt your business only if you ignore them or react passively. Especially on Zavee, where we make it so easy for merchants to interact with customers, make sure you respond to every review.
- Always follow through on anything you promise – and don’t forget to talk about it.