Customers usually leave business, product or service reviews when they're feeling particularly moved to do so. This might be because they've just had an exceptional experience and want to share it with the world! Or, it can be when they are at their most frustrated, disappointed or even angry. Either way, the reviews your customers leave about your business can be extremely revealing, and serve as social proof for other potential customers who are considering using your brand.
So, what is the right thing to do when your negative reviews start to outweigh your positive ones and the imbalance is very clear to see? Four out of five consumers have changed their minds about making a purchase after reading negative online reviews, so it's easy to see why simply removing the negative reviews can be tempting. However, there are pros and cons to removing your negative business reviews, which we will debate in this article.
Removing negative business reviews – the pros
When three negative reviews pop up in a search query, the potential for lost customers increases to 59.2%. Avoiding this situation completely by removing and deleting negative reviews might seem like the easy way to keep new customers coming into your business – you can remove the negative reviews within a few seconds and a few clicks of a button. Keeping on top of removing negative reviews will lead to a lovely collection of glowing positive reviews.
The second pro to removing negative business reviews is that it means you can delete any reviews that are not only negative but also fake. Open review websites welcome reviews from anybody online and do not require proof or certification that the consumer in question is actually a true customer of the business. This means that disgruntled customers can leave negative reviews under many different names, and competitors can bring your overall rating down with extremely negative – and extremely untrue – reviews.
Removing negative business reviews – the cons
Even in light of the two points above, we have to argue that, actually, there are no real pros to removing your negative business reviews. Yes, in theory, page after page of great reviews looks good – but consumers will quickly pick up on the fact that this isn't natural at all. No business is without its flaws, and deleting your negative reviews will only look suspicious and shady to potential customers. If the negative reviews are legitimate, you also face some major backlash if the customer in question realises that their review has suddenly disappeared. The same is true for eagle-eyed potential customers who spot negative reviews one day that then disappear the next.
Keeping your negative reviews live and visible for all to see is a great way to position yourself as a business that welcomes customer feedback and is willing to publicly handle complaints and take on negative comments as constructive feedback. Respond to your negative reviews in a timely manner with a professional, friendly message that shows you are sorry for the customer's grievance. If you can, resolve their issue. If you can't, reply with why this is the case. This way, your brand will come across as helpful and fair.
Fake negative reviews can be frustrating, but deleting them isn't the answer. Instead, switch to a closed review platform that collects feedback from genuine customers. This will ensure that even though you will still come up against negative feedback, you can guarantee that you're dealing with a real customer and their honest feedback.
You should also use negative feedback and reviews to make your business better. Deleting them is just like burying your head in the sand and pretending that problems within your business don't exist. Analyse the negative feedback and look for recurring themes and trends. The aspects of your business, products or service that keep generating negative reviews are the aspects that you should be working to improve. You can use these trends and themes to build a roadmap for improvement, which you can share with your customers as you make progress and positive changes. Not only will this show your customers that their feedback is listened to and appreciated, but it should also help to naturally bring down the number of negative reviews you receive (as the issues are fixed).
Another way to prevent negative reviews from accumulating is to keep in regular contact with your customers, gathering data and insights across the customer journey to spot potential problems before they arise. Reach out using online surveys, on-page surveys, polls and customer focus groups to get a tight grasp on how your customers experience your brand and what improvements can be made to prevent negative reviews from popping up further down the line.
Negative feedback is natural and is the product of a real business – one that makes mistakes sometimes and has room for improvement. No consumer expects you to operate perfectly and serve exceptional customer experiences every time. They do, however, expect you to be honest about your flaws and will be looking to see how you handle the complaints you receive. Negative reviews that are dealt with promptly, professionally and fairly should be enough to reassure any potential customers that you are poised and ready to receive and act on negative feedback. Pre-empting negative reviews by initiating a dialogue with your customers and creating a feedback loop will help them to feel involved with your business, and will help you to flag any potentially big issues before they really have an impact. For the issues that have already hit and are generating negative reviews, reassure your customers by acknowledging the problems and showing them how you are going to resolve them and improve the experience.
Deleting negative reviews can look suspicious and can open your business up to an even bigger problem if – or when – you are caught out. Be confident in your company, be appreciative of the feedback you receive and use your negative reviews to show the world that you are receptive, reliable and ready to work on the things that need improving.