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Embrace the Suck: 3 Reasons Why Negative Online Reviews Are Helpful to Your Brand

By | January 13, 2014

Some of us in digital marketing are old enough—just barely—to remember a time when options were limited for anyone who wanted to broadcast a bad customer experience. Aside from word-of-mouth or writing a letter to the local paper, there just weren’t many ways to publicly voice consumer discontent.

drill_sergeantToday, of course, online review portals and social media allow customers to quickly air grievances to a huge audience. Rather than worrying about negative online reviews and trying to make them go away, though, digitally-savvy companies are much better off embracing them.

When I was in Army Basic Training, our drill sergeants often yelled a motivational phrase at us when we were tossed into a particularly difficult task: “embrace the suck.” It wasn’t just a taunt meant to annoy us (although it sometimes accomplished that, as well). “Embrace the suck” embodied a way of life based on experience; it reminded us that difficult situations exist, and that it’s better to deal with them quickly and view the experience as an opportunity to better yourself.

Dealing with negative online reviews isn’t a pleasant task. But public criticism, if approached the right way, can even be helpful to the long-term health of your brand. Here are three reasons why you should “embrace the suck” and look at negative reviews as opportunities, not as roadblocks.

1. Solving grievances will showcase your dedication to customer service

service_bellShowing the public that you’re committed to quickly correcting mistakes and satisfying the needs of even the most disenchanted customers will lend your brand significant credibility.

You shouldn’t admit to being in the wrong if you weren’t, and you don’t need to give away a gift card to every person who writes something critical. But rather than deleting negative reviews, try solving them instead. If the customer’s complaint is reasonable, bend backwards to them know that you’ll do everything necessary to fix the problem . . . and always follow up to make sure they were taken care of properly.

You’re never going to make everyone happy. But remember: other potential customers are watching these online interactions. Responding to negative reviews directly — and offering legitimate solutions to grievances– will earn your business a lot of respect.

2. Negative reviews make your digital footprint look more legitimate

GenuineWhenever I see a Google Plus local business page that has a large number of nothing-but-five-star reviews, one word comes to my mind: “fake.” No company gets a 100% satisfaction rating from every customer they’ve ever done business with (unless your customers consist solely of your friends and family members).

You shouldn’t encourage your customers to leave positive reviews . . . you should encourage them to leave honest reviews. Not only does it come across as more legitimate and natural, but it will also give you an opportunity to identify problems and improve your customer service skills.

In fact, there’s significant evidence that excessively positive reviews can actually do harm to your online conversion rate. This great study from Unbounce showed that visitors to Amazon.com were less likely to purchase a product if it had too many glowing reviews, and that their decision to buy had a lot more to do with the variability in star ratings.

3. A larger quantity of genuine reviews will make you more visible online

binocularsHaving disproportionately positive reviews won’t just hurt your conversion rate . . . it can also hurt your online visibility and organic rankings.

Although Google keeps its algorithm close to its chest, there is ample evidence that Google Plus local business pages will rank higher for relevant keyword searches if your reviews are more genuine (yes, their algorithm can detect those kinds of things now).

There are even some benefits to getting critical comments from users on social media sites like Facebook. While you shouldn’t encourage criticism, keep in mind that the more comments and activity a post gets, the more news feeds it will show up in. Excessively negative Facebook feedback isn’t a good thing, but posts with higher engagement get more attention for your brand.

1 Comment

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About Phil Van Treuren

Phil Van Treuren is a Senior Account Executive at Fathom, and has been with the company since 2009. He specializes in digital marketing strategy for the manufacturing and home improvement industries, and has worked for clients including Eaton Corporation and Owens Corning. He is a graduate of Southern Utah University, with Bachelor’s degree in English. He is also a graduate of U.S. Army Officer Candidate School.

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  • Metz

    Negative reviews. Hmm, you can turn it into positive since it will serve as a guide for you to know if your product or services are good or not. You might feel down because it is negative, but stand! It isn’t the last day, you still have time to make a change.

    I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the Internet marketing social bookmarking and networking site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

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