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Reviews play a key role in a buyer’s selection process. A total of 70% of Americans look at reviews before they make a purchase, according to an American Lifestyles report. Those customers are looking at all types of reviews─even the negative ones. (You probably do the same.)

In fact, buyers who seek out negative reviews are 67% more likely to convert to a purchase than the average consumer, according to a Revoo study. Those highly engaged buyers stay on pages longer and view nearly 4X as many products as the average visitor because they’re conducting extensive research.

Why Bad Reviews Can Be Good

The thought of getting negative reviews makes many businesses nervous. However, negative reviews can be a good thing.

Critical reviews generate interest in your company. For example, we know that G2 Crowd users click on the less-than-positive reviews two-and-a-half times more frequently than positive ones. (Full disclosure: I’m the CMO at G2 Crowd.)

You might think that’s not the kind of attention you want to share. However, 68% of people trust a company’s reviews more when they see bad ones mixed in with the good. That expresses the reality of most products─not every product is good for everyone. And it provides your company the opportunity to evaluate your perceived weaknesses and address them.

Critical reviews can provide valuable insight. When reviews are attributed and authentic, they help you build trust and engagement with your prospects. A recent Harris study found that 18% of people became loyal repeat customers after they received a brand’s response to their negative feedback.

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The perception is that brands that engage with customers after negative feedback are attempting to work with their customers and address the issue. A lot of the time those issues are actually a communication breakdown and are easily fixed.

A sincere response can win over more than just existing clients. People were 186% more likely to buy a product after they saw a brand respond to a customer who misused or misunderstood the product, according to Bazaarvoice. Those same new customers were 92% more likely to buy after seeing the company offer to refund, upgrade, or exchange the product.

The following tips can help you use negative reviews to create happy, engaged customers.

  • Respond. Read all reviews, even bad ones. Give yourself time to digest the information and investigate the issue or feedback. It’s ideal to reply within 48 hours. Be polite, and try your best to provide information to help resolve the issue.
  • Thank the customer. For every customer that complains, 26 don’t. Negative feedback is like a free consultation. Whether your customer is irritated about subpar customer service or a clunky software interface, his or her comment gives you an unbiased glimpse into what’s not working, and that’s worth a thank you.
  • Apologize. Even if you don’t think you or your team did anything wrong, tell all displeased customers you’re sorry that they’re unhappy. Avoid canned statements, and respond directly to details in customer posts.
  • Make it right. Offer to fix or replace a defective product, demonstrate how to use the product correctly, or give the customer a chance to connect an individual or team. If you’ve made changes because of an ongoing issue, such as fixing a bug in your software, give specifics.
  • Follow up. Check in with customers by phone or email to see how everything’s going and try to get ahead of any issues in the first place. Send satisfied customers a link to review their purchases. With your gentle encouragement, the customer most likely will engage with your sincere and appropriate efforts.

Bad reviews might be upsetting, but think of them as real insight into what is working and not working. And when an individual is engaging with your negative review, he or she is more likely to be a motivated buyer.

Remember that not all products are one size fits all. That’s what makes us all (and our products) unique. When you and your team respond thoughtfully and appropriately to critical feedback, your company ultimately wins the day.

Now that you understand how negative reviews influence the purchasing process, you may be more concerned that your product does not have a balance of good and bad reviews. The solution to that problem is simple… Begin encouraging your customers to review your product on third-party review sites. It’s the evolution of the purchasing process. Embrace transparency and reap the benefits.

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