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This article was published on September 1, 2016

Your ultimate guide to handling negative reviews

Your ultimate guide to handling negative reviews
Talia Shani
Story by

Talia Shani

In Talia’s past life she was a cook, but now she prefers to focus on eating. Right now, she’s probably thinking about what she’ll eat next o In Talia’s past life she was a cook, but now she prefers to focus on eating. Right now, she’s probably thinking about what she’ll eat next or taking a long walk around Tel Aviv.

Negative reviews aren’t bad news.

Yet, many businesses fear negative reviews, without realizing that they are easy to deal with and can can actually have a positive effect on your business.

The truth about bad reviews

It’s impossible to live in a world of five-star experiences, so why are businesses so afraid of negative reviews?

First of all, let’s clear some things up:

  • Bad reviews don’t mean your business is bad
  • Poor reviews can actually help your business
  • Handling bad reviews is easy (we’ll share the technique below)
  • The best way to combat bad reviews? Get more good ones!

This is the comprehensive guide to negative reviews: what they mean, why you need them and how to deal with them.
We don’t live in a world of five-star experiences, so accept that not all reviews are going to be five-star.

Bad reviews ≠ bad business

No one likes to see bad reviews online, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in negative feedback.

Maybe you got a bad review on Yelp, or someone wrote a scathing review on one of your products, or even just an email that detailed a negative experience they had — don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

The truth is, anyone who has a business has had to deal with at least a couple of poor reviews.

And if everyone who got a bad product review closed up shop, eCommerce just wouldn’t exist.

If and when you get a negative review, the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t mean your product or service is bad.

Most likely, the review was a result of mismatched expectations or simply a bad day on the part of the reviewer (or the business).

Now that that’s cleared up, we can get into the business of why you need bad reviews.

Negative reviews can be good

Believe it or not, there can be a lot of positive side effects to negative reviews.

  • Negative reviews make good reviews look better

One of the best side effects of negative reviews is the positive light they shed on good reviews.

When a business shows all of their reviews, they prove they have nothing to hide. Sure, some people were unhappy, but the vast majority loved the product.

Negative reviews are good for your brand because they show that all of your reviews are real.

Brands with perfect reviews look inauthentic.

A 2013 study by Harvard Business School found the majority of consumers trust reviews more when they see a mix of good and bad feedback.

If the feedback is entirely positive, 95 percent believe the reviews are fake or company-screened. Shoppers know that no one is perfect, which is why customers value seeing honest feedback, even if it’s not all positive.

  • Bad reviews assist in purchase decisions

In addition to boosting customer trust in your brand, negative reviews give shoppers a real picture of what they can expect from your products and service.

One of the biggest challenges of e-commerce is providing potential customers with a realistic idea of what products are like.

And one of the main reasons a customer writes a bad review is not because the product or service was bad, but because it didn’t meet expectations. Negative reviews can help with that.

In fact, a Yotpo study of 1.3 million reviews found that the most commonly used negative word in reviews – by an enormous margin – is “disappointment” or “disappointed.”

It’s mentioned almost 20,000 times, while the next most common negative word – “bad” – is mentioned only about 7500 times.

Disappointment happens when expectations aren’t fulfilled. Brands can use this data to better communicate what to expect to customers (ex. warning that shipping may be slow because an item is out of stock).

Let’s say a clothing store gets negative reviews saying that the fit on a top was too small.

Shoppers who read those reviews know that they need to order a larger size. Shoppers can see the reason behind negative feedback and then can use this knowledge to make smarter purchase decisions.

Shoppers don’t want to buy blindly. They want the whole story before making an online purchase, and real feedback from fellow shoppers gives them insight a product description can’t.

Plus, not all negative reviews are equal. Check out the below review, which shows that the customer’s complaint has nothing to do with the product itself, only the minimum price at checkout.

Negative reviews can sometimes encourage sales

In this way, your negative reviews actually encourage consumers to buy your product over others. Instill trust in shoppers who may be unsure about buying by giving them insight so they can make a purchase they believe in.

  • Negative reviews create buzz

Negative reviews can create a buzz around your brand that can actually increase e-commerce sales.

Jonah Berger, a Professor of Marketing at UPenn, did research that found that negative buzz can increase sales.

Negative publicity can increase product awareness because getting press for something negative can put you in the forefront of the consumers mind.

Remember the saying negative attention is better than no attention? Surprisingly, it’s true.

Negative feedback can also remind consumers who haven’t interacted with you in a while who you are.

Botto Bistro, a California pizzeria, perfected the concept of using negative reviews to their benefit.

They offer discounts to customers who write bad reviews on Yelp.


They wanted to fight back against manipulative reviews.

The effects have been positive for them – they’ve made a name for themselves as “Yelp’s worst reviewed pizzeria” and gotten a tons of publicity from their efforts.

What to do with a bad review

Step 1: Don’t panic!

Negative reviews are not that bad and they can actually help your business.

Step 2: Publish your bad reviews

Resist the urge to remove negative reviews.

It’s natural to have some unhappy customers, and posting your negative reviews shows you have nothing to hide.

It actually makes people trust your positive reviews even more.

Publish your negative reviews on site – it shows you have nothing to hide!

Step 3: Respond to negative reviews publicly

Show that you care about the issue and have resolved it with a public response.

Customers pay attention to how you react to mistakes and problems, and they remember the results.

Research shows that hotels that respond to negative reviews actually see a big lift in revenue, an excellent customer retention tactic.

Step 4: Learn from negative product and business reviews

Is there anything you can learn about your products or service from the negative feedback?

Stop bad business reviews at the source by addressing any core issues.

It could be as simple as refining the content on your product pages or as drastic as discontinuing a product.

Step 5: Follow up

Make sure to follow up after the fact to ensure the customer is happy with the resolution of their issue.

They will be grateful for your commitment and ultimately remember a positive online shopping experience instead of the negative one.

Top tips for handling negative reviews

The best way to combat poor reviews

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: the vast majority of reviews are good reviews.

Our data shows that only 14 percent of reviews aren’t four or five stars. So you don’t have to worry too much about getting bad reviews.

Only 14 percent of reviews are three stars or less.

What is the average star rating for reviews

If you do get bad reviews, you know the best way to deal with them on an individual basis from the tips above.

But the best strategy for handling bad business reviews is this: Get more good reviews!

Since 86 percent of reviews are four or five stars, getting more positive comments is simply a numbers game — you just need to get more reviews period.

The data tells us that the majority of them will be favorable reviews anyway.

There’s a few things you can do to ensure you get more reviews:

1. Make the review process mobile-friendly

Yotpo has collected 16 million reviews, and 56 percent of those were written on mobile devices.

This means if you want to collect more reviews, you’re going to have to make sure it’s easy to get customers to write reviews from mobile.

If you make it super-easy for your customers to write, submit and share reviews from their phone or tablet, you’ll get more reviews.

2. Offer incentives for reviews

When your customers write a review for you, they’re doing you a favor, so it only makes sense to repay them. Businesses that offer small incentives — like a coupon or promo code — for writing reviews, see a big bump in the volume of reviews they get and it helps with measuring customer engagement.

3. Ask for reviews on the most expensive products

As the price of a product goes up, so does the number of reviews it has.

To ensure you’re getting as many reviews as possible, make sure you’re asking for reviews on your most expensive products. If a customer buys multiple products in an order, increase the chances of getting reviews by asking them for feedback on the priciest ones.


If there’s one thing you take away from this piece it should be this: Negative reviews are not that bad.

They can help your business, they’re easy to handle and you can easily combat them by just getting more reviews in general (because we know most of them will be good!).

So, if you’re afraid of bad reviews, you don’t have to be anymore — now you have the tools to fight them.

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