Don't Dread the 1-Star Review -- Capitalize on It

Customers don't trust a business with only perfect reviews.

learn more about Ryan Bonnici

By Ryan Bonnici

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Let's say you're an entrepreneur behind a small but growing company. Business is going well -- so well in fact that tracking your leads is getting tough to do on your own. So you're starting to research CRM software to handle lead management. It will be a big purchase for your bootstrapped little team, so it's important you make the right decision to get your hard-earned money's worth.

Related: How to Deal With Fake Negative Reviews (Infographic)

You start into your research and check out the product reviews for two solutions you're considering. One has 15 reviews and a full five-star average. The other has 200 reviews with a 4.4-star average. Which would you trust more? The solution with 200 reviews likely seems more trustworthy to most, even if it does have a lower rating than the other.

When we see a five-star rating, our brains tell us there's something wrong -- we're more inclined to choose a product or service with more reviews, even if some of them are bad. According to a study from Reevoo, 30 percent of readers suspect censorship or fake reviews when all reviews are positive and 95 percent of consumers get suspicious of positive reviews when there are no negative reviews.

Review sites have learned this, and are building algorithms that mimic the way we think. These newer, smarter systems can take metrics like user history into account and can see through gimmicks companies use to increase rankings. So, how can businesses get the kind of reviews that bring in business -- and capitalize on the opportunity that negative ones present?

Related: California's Supreme Court Ruled Yelp Doesn't Have to Take Down Negative Reviews. What Does That Mean for Your Business?

The upside of bad reviews

Reading a one-star review about your own organization is never an enjoyable experience. However, once you get past the initial sting of customer complaints, the best thing you can do is to focus on the many benefits and possibilities that arise from receiving a poor review.

For one, maintaining a strong but imperfect rating strikes customers as more realistic than all perfect reviews. Reevoo also found 68 percent of consumers trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative reviews. G2 Crowd data supports this: One- and two-star reviews receive up to three times more clicks and views than positive reviews.

These customers who seek out low reviews turn out to be the best kind of customer -- both in terms of product knowledge and conversion. According to Mintel, 70 percent of Americans say they look at reviews before taking the next step to purchasing. Reevoo data shows that buyers who seek out and read bad reviews go on to make a purchase 67 percent more often than the average consumer.

When it comes time to optimizing areas of the business, feedback from unhappy customers can also provide insights into shortcomings with your product, implementation process or customer support services. If the same few gripes come up again and again in customer reviews, that's a clear sign that it should be prioritized in finding a solution.

On top of improving your business from the inside, a negative review literally provides a brand with a platform to improve the relationship with the customer. Ninety-five percent of unhappy customers will return to your business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently.

Related: Respect People's Right to Review Your Company Online, Even When There's Bitching Involved

Building a trustworthy review presence

Negative reviews aren't such a bad thing, but the real strength in a review section is quantity and balance. A review section that appears trustworthy to a potential customer is one that has hundreds of in-depth reviews -- not all of them perfect, but the majority positive.

To achieve a flourishing review section, you must champion the role of reviews. Here are a few tips on how to make review culture a central part of your brand.

Encourage reviews: There's no harm in planting a seed in a customer's mind by asking them to leave a review. Consider incorporating the message into your marketing automation cadence and creating a product or financial incentive for customers to contribute a review.

Interact with reviews: If you have an opportunity to connect with a customer over her recent experience with your brand, why wouldn't you take it? Whether taking the opportunity to say thank you to a glowing review or seeking to right a poor customer experience, responding to reviews helps your brand on its way to a highly interactive and thriving review page. Review interactions should only ever be done to serve the customer -- nothing is more off-putting than a business owner using a customer review as a space to retaliate.

Point potential customers to your reviews: The work you put in to build up your reviews page as an honest element of your marketing plan will pay off. So, why not directly point researching customers to the profile every chance you get? The fact you willingly refer someone to a resource that contains a balanced perspective of your brand will speak volumes to the researching customer.

Criticism is never fun, especially when it comes to our livelihoods. But, if we shift our view to see it as intel to the business, the results will present themselves. Customers can trust an imperfect brand, so embrace and learn from the imperfect experiences and do your best to make it right. In the long run, these negative reviews enable the business to get better internally while winning over the hearts and minds of new customers.

Ryan Bonnici

Chief Marketing Officer, G2 Crowd

Ryan Bonicci is the chief marketing officer of G2 Crowd, a leading review website for business software and services. Prior to joining G2, Bonicci served in key executive-level marketing roles with HubSpot, Salesforce, Microsoft and ExactTarget. He leads a team of creative marketers at G2 Crowd's headquarters in Chicago. He speaks regularly about the need for greater workplace flexibility.

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