The Best Worst Reviews You Can Get and Why You Should Care

growing your business Feb 05, 2024

I have often said that I wouldn’t mind being rich but I’d never want to be famous. If I was someone who happened to love and excel at something that made me well known as a byproduct, I guess I’d still do it, but I’d spend any time I could away from the scrutiny and view of the public.

Why? Because if you are famous, you have no life and no privacy. You are judged on everything you do and no matter how many people like something there will always be another group that hates that same exact thing.

If you attempt to please one group you will inevitably anger another group. Even the most hardened and self-confident person is going to feel the pressure of that negativity to some degree and people who are not well conditioned to cope with it are going to end up falling to pieces or using drugs and alcohol to cope. No thank you.

I know I personally wouldn’t respond well because to a much lesser extent I have also been subject to reviews! I’ve written a couple of books on bookkeeping that are sold on Amazon and while most of the reviews were great there were also some that were not so great and to some extent almost entirely predictable.

There were some reviews that claimed I didn’t go into nearly enough detail and didn’t explain exactly what needed to be done step by step. At the same time, others said the writing was too wordy and long-winded and over-explained things.

There were reviews that said there was nothing new there and all the information I shared could already be found online. Which was interesting, because I couldn’t find it and lots of people told me it was the first they’d ever seen it broken down like I had.

I am convinced that if I wrote a book on building a time machine using washing machine parts that worked and I came back with a small living dinosaur as proof there would still be people who would tell me they already knew how to do it and that info was already available online and I had nothing new to share. Right… anyway.

As someone who is subject to reviews, it’s easy to focus on the good ones and get mad about the bad ones and blow them off. If someone you don’t even know and who is probably just a big whiner anyway has bad things to say about the business you’ve worked hard on and put your blood, sweat, and tears into building, then they can go … whatever themselves.

I get it. And some reviews absolutely add zero value and are completely unreasonable and out of line and contain zero actionable content.

But to dismiss them all, as easy as it would be, would be a mistake and in fact, there are some bad reviews that are the best ones you can get. These are the ones you want to pay attention to and respond to and really step back to think about because they could be the key to helping you really improve your business. Here’s what to look for in bad reviews and why it’s worth your time.

How to Respond to Bad Reviews as a Business Owner

Almost always it seems bad reviews come down to a quality issue or an expectations issue. Unless the person writing it is just off their meds.

The goal is to read each one and figure out if there is in fact something you can take away from it that you can use to make everyone’s experience better in the future. For sure there are times you can’t, but there are also a lot of times where you can and those are the best bad reviews you can get - the bad review can actually help you.

If you want to grow the business and make it better, this is worth doing as painful as it can sometimes be.

If it’s a quality issue, then your first job is to make sure that you don’t have a quality problem or that if you did, in the one instance that the customer is complaining about, it’s not an ongoing problem. It’s easy to assume the customer is just mistaken or blaming the wrong thing, but sometimes they do have a point and there really is an issue.

We had a customer complain directly to me once that the guacamole didn’t taste good at a restaurant I was managing. I didn’t think too much about it - everyone loved our guac and we made it the same every day. But then about an hour later, another person complained. I could have ignored that as a coincidence, but I thought I better check so I tasted it myself at that point. Blech. It was bad. On further investigation, the prep cook was new and had used the wrong measure for lemon juice - by a lot. We did have a quality problem. Had I kept ignoring it, we might have had a lot more complaints. I’m surprised we didn’t honestly.

If it isn’t a quality problem, then what else is causing the customer to complain? Sometimes clients are using it wrong - maybe a training video would help? Sometimes they aren’t using enough, or are using too much, or aren’t using it on the right thing. The goal is to figure out what happened and if there is a way to fix it because chances are if one customer complained about it then there are more people with the same problem who just aren’t saying anything but won’t be back.

The second most common kind of problem is customer expectations don’t match what the business delivers. You see this all the time with contractors - they say a project will be done in four weeks but three months later it’s only halfway done. Of course, the customer is going to be upset - their expectation of a four-week project was completely blown up.

As a business owner, when you see a bad review, you want to see if there is something you can do to help fix customer expectations or make sure they are set correctly in the first place. People are much more understanding of an honest approach than a rosy picture that doesn’t come true. If there are things that could change or did change that will cause the results to be different than the expectations then it’s best to address that as soon as possible, even if it’s only a possibility.

The more you can do at the beginning of a customer experience to let them know what to expect the less reason they’ll have to be dissatisfied later when it doesn’t turn out the way they thought.

The question to ask yourself is what were they expecting and why, and what should I have made clear for them to expect and how do I communicate that better?

Matching expectations with reality is how to keep people feeling like they are getting what they thought they would. When you don’t deliver that then people get upset. It’s like catfishing but for customers instead of dates. Don’t be catfishing your customers!

Now, brace yourself and go take a look through your bad reviews and see what you can learn that can actually help you have a better business. Then for all the other ones that don’t help, maybe send those people a gentle reminder to get back on their prescriptions. 

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