When Bad Reviews go Good

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When Bad Reviews go Good

I am a strong advocate for customer reviews on websites, Studies have shown that they are used by many consumers and have a direct impact on people making a decision, whether it is for a book, music, restaurant, or hotel.

However, I usually come up against a typical objection: what about bad reviews? bad customer reviews

We’ve all heard it. Business owners are horrified at the prospects of someone leaving a horrible review of their business. The helpful and positive reviews aren’t even considered because of the potential of a bad review.

Now, if your food is bad and the service is horrible, then a negative review may be justified and the problem is definitely yours as a business owner. What better way to get a pulse on the attitudes of your clientèle than by seeing their unbiased reviews?

If your service stinks, Bad reviews will be in your future.

On the other hand, we tend to think our strengths are in one area, but when listening to clients, they see our strengths very differently. For example, I worked with one business where they thought that their customer service was the reason they were successful and the main reason why people chose them. However, after surveys and customer interviews, it was because of the breadth of products and the knowledge and expertise of the salespeople. That was a shocking revelation to the company, but it helped them to know how they were actually viewed by customers rather than how they thought they were viewed.

There is no avoiding an occasional bad review, but it can also be a selling point. For example, when I go to New York City, I often read the reviews of the hotels. It is funny to see some of the reviewers complain about the size of the rooms and how small they are. This is funny, because it shows that the review was most likely written by a tourist who had never stayed in NYC. Of course the rooms are small. Any seasoned traveler will know this. If you want a large hotel room in NYC, be prepared to pay.

I was looking at staying in a historical Bed and Breakfast during one trip, one of the oldest in the city at 125 years old. One of the reviews was negative, complaining that the building and much of the furnishings were very old. Well of course!?! It’s a historic inn, with period furnishings – what else would you expect? This was a selling point to me, as I was looking for a break from the typical hotel experience.

What I am advocating is that negative reviews may also be helping to qualify your audience. The negatives can be used as selling points. Someone reviewing a movie may call it bad because of all of the violence; someone may see that review and want to see the movie all the more because of the action and violence.

The main point is that customers can miss the mark. They aren’t infallible. It’s about expectations. If someone’s expectations are misplaced, then a bad review may support the main goal of a business, and help them target someone who has the right expectations.

Related Posts:
Airline Delays and Word-of-Mouth
What’s the Customer’s ROI?
Are You Creating a Customer Experience?

About the Author:

Matt has taught Google employees how to understand and use Google Analytics, consulted with Experian on how to present data, developed online marketing training for both Proctor and Gamble and Johnson & Johnson and presented analytics methodologies to Disney, ABC & ESPN. As founder of SiteLogic, Matt teaches marketers how to create measurable and profitable strategic marketing plans.


  1. Chris November 19, 2008 at 4:56 am - Reply

    That’s quite the example of lateral thinking! Bad reviews may qualify your audience indeed and I have read many such reviews before. I stay at an old resort in northern NH every summer. I sometimes read bad reviews of this, my favorite place, and it just proves that you can’t always go by reviews. Just like with movie ratings in the tv guide.

  2. Chrissy Jamie January 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Bad reviews are now just a part of normal business IMO, you have to learn to deal with them regardless of the motive. Of course anybody can turn it around for good with the right customer service, but you have to focus on addressing the problem and not just covering it up.

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