You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

-John Lydgate

In business, our reputation is everything. When you take reputation management seriously, great things can happen. But the trick is in knowing how to do it right.

Your business can get reviews from all sorts of places – Google, Facebook, Yelp, and more. We love the 5 star reviews and it’s great when we amass a good number of them with nary a waver.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned and eventually someone is going to have an unpleasant experience. Someone who is unhappy with your service is also far more likely to say something than someone who had a positive experience. The positive experience is the expectation from the beginning.

The Ratings Are Flawed and Skewed From The Start

There’s a huge gap between what ratings are supposed to mean and what they have evolved to mean. On a five star scale, three stars is supposed to represent a normal experience. I clicked, I paid, I got my stuff as expected. Or, it said it was this and I got what it said.

Anything below a 3 is supposed to represent a negative issue with the product or experience. It wasn’t what you thought it would be. Maybe it took too long to ship. After two weeks, they finally told you they don’t have it. Things like that.

Anything higher than a 3 is supposed to represent something above and beyond the norm. The product broke during shipping (not the seller’s fault, even) and the seller exchanged it for nothing. Maybe they ran out of something and offered you a better, more expensive one at the same price. Maybe they contacted you to tell you that they have a less expensive version that is really the same quality as the more expensive one you ordered.  Or, maybe the seller took one of the things that would have given you a bad rating and gone so far out of their way to make it right to you that it earned them something greater than “Good.”

The modern reviews system is flawed in that the topmost rating covers everything from “good” to “superb.” The only way to go is down. People looking at your reviews have no way of judging if you are just in the crowd, or if you stand out above it.

Bad Reviews Are Good For You

On top of the flawed rating system, studies show that the odds of a conversion peak at around 4.2 – 4.5 stars because a perfect 5 can’t be trusted. It also shows that while around 90% of shoppers consider reviews in their decision to buy,  97% look at them regardless. Also, and here’s the key, 85% look at negative reviews to influence their decision.

A good review is a good review. It doesn’t tell you if it was good or exceptional. The comments may help a bit, but really… 5 stars is 5 stars. A bad review, on the other hand, gives you an idea of the worst case scenario. “If I make this purchase, what’s the worst that could go wrong?”

Things do go wrong, of course, and here is your opportunity to leverage that into something positive.

How to Turn The Bad Review Into A Positive

Reputation management is the key. Almost all review sites offer a way for the seller to respond to a review. I’ve seen places who don’t manage this well. Ignoring it is one thing, but a lot of folks take things pretty seriously when someone attacks their livelihood. Resist that urge and do the following:

  • Own It: Honestly, even if it’s not really your fault. Own it. Sympathize with the customer, apologize for it happening and own up to the mistake. Don’t pass the blame on to someone else. Simply: Own it.
  • Show Desire to Make Things Right: Give the reviewer an indication that you are both willing and eager to make things right. Do it publicly and do it graciously. Ask them to contact you to go over specifics of what they want and what you can do – and make an honest effort to make good if they do reach out. Or maybe tell them to contact you before their next purchase so you can make sure you give them a discount or free shipping or some other gesture.

Now, in some cases the customer may become satisfied and will change their review to reflect it. Personally, if I get a sense that someone is going to do that, I ask them not to change the rating and maybe simply reply again with a “thank you” for resolving the issue in a positive way.

Now that Negative Review Has a Positive Value

If you stumble, make it part of the dance. - UnknownAs I said above – 85% of people look to bad reviews for their decision. Whether it shows as “resolved” or not, the person looking at that negative review can see that you owned up to the problem and did all that you could to make things right. That, says something – it says a lot more than a 5 star review that could mean anything from “Okay” to “Excellent.”

Sure, you don’t have 100% five star reviews anymore – but that’s good. People question whether they are fake or not if you have all perfect reviews – especially if you have a lot of them.

And what you do have, for those folks who are looking for the worst case scenario is: Worst case is that if something goes wrong they will their best to make things right.

That’s a pretty good worst case, yeah?


Thanks for reading and don’t forget to Like the Equestics Page on Facebook so you can get notices of updates to the blog. You can also follow me on Twitter @StockbridgeT or on LinkedIn. And, as always, help spread the word by sharing this post and all the rest with your friends, bosses, and coworkers.

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