Got 1 Star? Here’s How to Use Bad Business Reviews to Your Advantage

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Are you considering enabling the review feature on your website or eCommerce platform? Many businesses are hesitant to allow reviews of their products and services, primarily because they’re concerned about the impact of bad reviews.

Here’s the truth: bad reviews are unavoidable in the world of business. Restaurants, retail stores, eCommerce websites and service providers all encounter them regularly. There’s no business on Earth that hasn’t garnered a few poor testimonies in its time. It’s virtually impossible to keep every single one of your customers happy one hundred percent of the time.

So, if you can’t avoid receiving negative feedback, then how do you handle it? 

Head-on and proactively! That’s how.

Don’t avoid negative reviews or shy away from them. You need to show your dissatisfied customers you’re willing to hear what they have to say and do everything in your power to correct your mistakes and shortcomings. 

This guide will show you how to use negative reviews to your business’s advantage, increase your customers’ trust and awareness of your brand, and improve your industry reputation.

Busting myths about negative reviews

Businesses of all sizes and industries dread poor reviews, but the fact is that nobody is immune to them. Even the world’s most successful companies haven’t earned 5-star reviews across the board. So you don’t need to be wary of them either. 

There are plenty of myths saturating negative reviews too. Contrary to popular belief, 1-star reviews don’t mean that you have a bad product or that your business isn’t up to scratch. They can actually help your business rather than harming it. As long as you handle them in the right way. 

How to Use Bad Business Reviews to Your Advantage

Some businesses might also be of the opinion that you should delete or ignore negative reviews instead of addressing them, but this is not an ideal approach. In fact, the best way to combat 1-star reviews is to satisfy your unhappy customers and attract more positive reviews in the future!

It’s never pleasant to find bad reviews on your website, and it’s easy to let your emotions get the better of you and passionately defend yourself and your brand. This is particularly true for customers who leave rude or scathing feedback for your services or products, or even an email that describes the poor experience they had in excruciating detail. 

You might feel tempted to retaliate, but hold your horses! 

Just because you’ve received a bad review doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. If every business that received a couple of poor reviews closed their doors for good, the commercial sector would be significantly less diverse than it is today.

Negative reviews most commonly stem from mismatched expectations on your customers’ part. And some of the reviewers may simply have been having a bad day or caught you on a bad one. 

Why customers leave negative reviews

You need to understand why customers leave bad reviews to understand how you can handle them in a way that benefits your business. There are plenty of different reasons someone would offer negative feedback. You can usually separate these reasons into three main categories. 

1. Customers drop reviews to warn and protect others

Most people will check out the reviews of a product or service before they decide whether or not to pay for them. Some folks will leave negative reviews to warn others of the experience they had, even if they only encountered a minor issue or inconvenience. 

If they feel your offerings let them down, they may leave a review telling others to be careful before investing in your wares.

2. They are seeking financial compensation or reimbursement

Some people leave bad reviews hoping they will be financially reimbursed for a product they were not satisfied with. Whether you’re willing to provide refunds is up to you entirely, and you may wish to do so on a case-by-case basis.

3. They want to catch your attention and receive a response

Some reviewers simply want to attract your attention, start a conversation, and perhaps receive an apology. Responding respectfully to bad reviews can make a world of difference in retaining these customers. It may also ensure that they don’t spread the word about your inadequate or non-existent response to their complaints.

Why bad reviews can be good for business

Now that you know why customers give negative feedback, you should know that bad reviews can actually be great for your business. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Here’s why poor feedback can actually be a blessing in disguise for business owners and operators. 

You and your brand will appear more authentic and prove that you have nothing to hide if you are willing to show your negative reviews. Your customers will trust your positive reviews more if they see a combination of feedback on your site. 

  • Poor reviews can guide your customers’ purchasing decisions. These reviews give your customers a true, down-to-earth picture of what they can expect from your services and products. This can help to reduce the incidence of receiving bad reviews because your products did not align with your shoppers’ expectations. 

Here’s an example. Let’s say that an online fashion retailer stocks a line of trousers whose sizing is vastly different to common sizing standards. Customers who read reviews warning them to buy a larger size than they usually would will know what they need to do to avoid disappointment in the product. Shoppers can use the negative feedback on your site similarly, deciding whether or not your offerings will meet their needs and making smarter, more informed purchases. 

  • Bad reviews provide you with an opportunity to build trust in your brand. When your customers see 1-star reviews on your website, they look to see how you responded to those testimonies. Diplomatically interacting with shoppers who have had undesirable experiences shows other customers that you are willing to address their problems head-on. This will help to build trust in your brand and attract more business in the future.
  • Negative feedback helps you to improve your business. Are you receiving bad reviews about similar issues time and again? It might be time to rethink your products or operational strategies.
Why bad reviews can be good for business

Poor feedback can offer you insight on the areas of your business, products or services that need improvement. If dozens of customers have complained about shipping delays and missing orders, for example, it may be time to partner with a different courier so that you can better meet your customers’ needs. 

Even bad reviews will usually contain specific keywords that are relevant to your brand, which will help search engine users to find your business when searching for similar products or services online. Hiding your negative reviews hinders your potential and prevents you from attracting valuable traffic to your website. 

How to handle negative reviews

The first step to handling bad reviews is never, ever to ignore them. This goes for rude, sarcastic and passive-aggressive feedback too! 

Here’s how to handle negative feedback in a way that benefits your business: 

  • Don’t let bad reviews stress you out. They won’t necessarily impact your business negatively and can help it if you are proactive in implementing your solutions.
  • Avoid hiding your bad reviews. Publish them all! It may be tempting to remove them from your website, but remember it is completely normal to have some dissatisfied customers. Posting your negative reviews shows that your brand is transparent and trustworthy.
  • Respond publicly and politely to negative feedback. This shows all of your customers that you care about their experiences and will resolve issues publicly. Your customer service will enjoy a boost, and you’ll be better able to keep customers in the long run.
  • Be willing to learn from your bad reviews. What can you take away from the feedback on offer? Do your products, services or customer support strategies need some work? Addressing recurrent issues may help to prevent bad business reviews in the future.
  • Follow up with unhappy customers. Check back in with reviewers after they have left poor reviews on your site to ensure that they’re satisfied with your resolution of their issue. Doing so will help to ensure that you can turn a negative customer experience into a positive one and retain those customers despite their poor initial experiences.
  • Attract more 5-star reviews. According to research, a whopping 86% of reviews on the web are 4-star or 5-star testimonies. This means that it’s easy enough to gain more positive reviews for your products and services. You simply need to ensure that they are being marketed effectively and that your website is attracting as much traffic as possible. 

Common types of bad reviews and how to respond

Most bad reviews come from customers who are simply dissatisfied with your products, or found that they didn’t live up to their expectations. However, there are several different types of poor reviews, and there are different best practices to use to address each one proactively. 

Here are the three most common types of negative reviews and how you should handle them.

1. Your customer didn’t like your product or service

This can be a challenging type of review to handle, because there isn’t much you can do to make a customer like a product they don’t enjoy. What you can do, however, is offer them an alternative that you think will better match their expectations. 

Throw in a generous discount to ensure that they are satisfied with your resolution.

2. Your customer encountered issues with your customer service or delivery

This is a far easier issue to handle. Customers who enjoyed your products but had poor experiences with your shipping and delivery solutions will be likely to shop with you again if you can rectify these problems. 

Offer them a discount, and give them an alternative contact number or email address to speak to representatives who can solve their issues for them. It’s crucial that you ensure they won’t encounter the same problems in the future if you want to keep these customers. 

3. Your customer did not like your business policies

Refunds and returns can wreak havoc with your cash flow and your bottom lines. By having clear policies in place you can protect yourself from the pitfalls of having to issue refunds for returns when you can least afford to. But just because you list your business policies, shipping charges and return information on your website doesn’t mean that your shoppers will read them. 

If you earn a bad review from a disappointed customer who wants to return a product but hasn’t done so within the return window, you can respond by reiterating your policy on returns and encouraging them to contact customer support for further advice. This makes your policies clear to other shoppers who are reading reviews, and it shifts the complaint offline. 

The formula for a good business response

Regardless of what kind of bad review your business has earned, your response should always include a few key elements.

The formula for a good business response

You should offer your unhappy customers an apology, a statement reiterating your commitment to their satisfaction, and a method of moving the issue and the conversation offline. 

Bad reviews are not the enemy

Negative reviews are not the enemy—and nor are the customers who write them! Bad feedback can be good news for your brand, and is often quite easy to handle, provided that you have the right knowledge and skills to do so. 

Once you’ve addressed bad reviews, you can combat them by simply earning more positive reviews from customers satisfied with your services and products. 

About the author 

Kristie Wright

Kristie Wright is an experienced freelance writer who covers topics on logistics, finance and management, mostly catering to small businesses and sole proprietors. When she’s not typing away at her keyboard, Kristie enjoys roasting her own coffee and is an avid tabletop gamer.

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