How Bad Online Reviews Can be Good for Your Business

Not only do bad online reviews scare customers away; they also strike fear (and understandably so) in the hearts of business owners conscious of their reputation.

That’s why, according to media-research firm BIA/Kelsey, as much as $700 million have been spent this year by US businesses on cleaning up their image and managing their online reputation.

Sometimes, though, negative reviews and low ratings on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google can actually be a good thing. Here’s how:

Bad reviews lend authenticity to your online presence. Think of it this way: in the era of astroturfing, you don’t want to appear too good to be true. If your business' page on Yelp and TripAdvisor consist exclusively of glowing reviews and five-star ratings, you actually run the risk of looking fake in the eyes of potential customers.

Bad reviews identify key areas for improvement. Even the most highly-rated businesses have weak points, areas to improve in and issues to address. But without valuable customer feedback, these may not always be readily obvious, especially in the daily craziness of running a business full-time. It may take a painful but truthful review to realize that, say, your receptionist needs more training, or your blackhead extraction services need gentler hands.

Bad reviews allow you to stay competitive. Business owners with a competitive streak will find that online reviews offer an opportunity to gain that crucial edge over their rivals. Moreover, being called out online can also serve as an effective motivator that will enable you and your employees to deliver a better customer experience next time. If, say, your ratings were merely average last year, you can set specific new goals this year to achieve higher ratings and stamps of approval like Best of Yelp, TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice, and OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice.

Bad reviews give you a chance to prove critics wrong. Many businesses adopt a helpless attitude when it comes to negative online reviews; they feel like the content, because it’s consumer-generated, is out of their control. But reviews can serve as a platform for changing the conversation about your business, and they provide qualitative data that may otherwise be difficult to observe. If you only look on the bright side, you’ll quickly be able to leverage the information in order to turn unhappy customers’ frowns into smiles.

Chris Campbell is the CEO of Review Trackers, a leading online review management and reputation monitoring platform for multi-location businesses looking to track, analyze, and generate reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Foursquare.

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