Posted August 31, 2011 10:38 am by with 3 comments

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Negative service and product reviews are tough to handle on many levels. First and foremost it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average consumer to tell the difference between a genuine review and one that has been planted or is simply an over-reaction. In addition, just because someone posts a negative review has little or no bearing on if that person had a truly bad experience.

Bad customer experience is a relative thing. Some people gripe at miniscule “issues” and blow them out of proportion. Others scream and yell at anything as a way to derive some power in a situation. Still others are just people that most others don’t want to interact with anyway because they are just miserable human beings in every sense of the word.

For business owners, however, the truth is that no matter where or how that negative review came about it can have a potentially serious impact with the worst-case scenario being a lost sale or, even worse, lost future sales.

Cone, a marketing agency out of Boston, recently released survey data that will raise a few eyebrows for sure. It says that 80% of people have changed a purchase decision due to a bad review they saw. Ouch. This chart shows the power of reviews.

I thought that seemed a bit high but then reflected on my own buying patterns. I don’t rely on just reviews but reviews certainly taint my buying experience. The next chart shows some other influencers in the buying cycle when it comes to the online space.

This particular chart was fascinating in that it shows taking one’s quest to their social network as the least used way to get this kind of purchasing information. What was also very interesting is the resurgence of blogs as an influencer.

Why aren’t people looking to their social networks more? One reason could be that they consider asking a question to a wide group of people about a purchase is not efficient. It’s not targeted enough. Also, there could be purchases that people are not willing to let everyone know they are making. It makes sense but to read how social networks are so influential in purchasing decisions on some fronts, you would think the numbers here would be higher.

As for blogs? Personally, I like them 🙂 and seeing the increase in their use for this information is encouraging. What seems to be happening is that people are seeking out information that is as close to the source as possible. That only makes sense considering the volume of information that is available on the Internet. There is too much information for most to process so “cutting to the chase” is the modus operandi for many just so they can get something done and move on.

Social networks don’t always provide the specifics that people need in a hurry while in the middle of making a purchasing decision. It’s not that they don’t have value but their value may be limited in certain situations thus making people seek alternate sources for the information they are looking for.

To sum up, negative reviews may be more daunting than any of us would like to admit. It’s one thing to influence a purchaser to reconsider their buy but to make them simply NOT buy is troubling.

How do you handle this important piece of the Internet marketing puzzle? What do you do with negative reviews? Do you respond where possible? Do you let them go and hope they will go away? What advice would you offer others?

  • I do look up brands and products before I think of purchasing them, especially if it will be a huge investment. Though, in regards to people posting the reviews, I hope they’re not just bandwagon peeps. Hopefully they actually tried it and disliked it, rather than just hollowly chimed along.

  • Personally I believe no reviews. Being in the industry I see way to many planned attacks by unethical businesses and rouge individuals. It has gotten out of hand and is hurting companies not only in lost revenue but they also have to spend resources (time and money) to fight the untrue bad reviews and comments.

    An entire industry has been created because of this “Reputation Management”. It is just a crying shame.

    I ask myself – why do folks waste their time doing bad things when they could invest the time doing right and good things and be better for it. Maybe I live in a dream world.

  • Interesting piece of research. I am currently looking into writing a piece on how organisations should deal with negative reviews.

    Here is some conflicting research which points out that having a negative review is not always a bad thing – research by Reevoo (retail industry) stresses the importance for organisations to be wary of not sensoring all negative reviews as 70% of people trust reviews more when they can see bad reviews as well as good. Furthermore, 38% of shoppers are more likely to read the bad reviews than the good ones AND 95% of people said they will still buy a product with a bad review….