Sorted Design Agency
Your business can benefit from bad reviews
by josh
Man working on tablet looking at ratings

All business owners strive for the best reviews. Whether you own a restaurant, bed and breakfast, hair salon or any service-based business, one of your goals is probably to receive as many five-star rating a possible.

Reviews are important for customers too. They let you know what sort of service to expect and the general quality of the business before you hand over any money. Before trying a new restaurant, most people will check the reviews first.

However, having perfect reviews is not the be-all and end-all of business ownership. One or two bad reviews won’t force you to close your doors – in fact, they can be used to your advantage. A bad review is merely a jab to your ego and pride, but your business can still function if you react appropriately.

Bad reviews can be important for business

We trust testimonials and personal experiences over the word of the business. Trustworthy reviews actually have a significant influence on our online decision-making process – so much so that two-thirds of internet users value a good online review over a friend’s bad experience.

Many internet users actually search for bad reviews. This gives them a sense of the worst case scenario; it allows you to see what can go wrong and if it’s actually an issue that will bother you. If the worst review still doesn’t sound too bad, it’s a sign that the overall service is probably quite good.

On the other hand, too many positive reviews can raise a few eyebrows and seem suspicious to some people. One young journalist from Vice actually managed to get his fake restaurant to the top spot on TripAdvisor in London through made-up positive reviews.

People tend to trust Facebook and Google for ratings and reviews. Since you can’t please everyone, it’s a matter of time before your business receives a bad review on one of these platforms. So how should you respond when this happens?

Bad reviews can boost your conversion rate

Sometimes review platforms can fall prey to fake and paid reviews that make a business look far better than it actually is. Many internet users are waking up to this reality too. Having a few bad reviews can actually balance out your perceived trustworthiness on review sites.

The ideal average on a five-star rating scale is somewhere between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. This small band has been proven by researchers to boost conversion rates for businesses. A complete five-star rating can make your business seem too good to be true for many internet users.

It’s a fine line to cross, but you don’t want a low average either. Just the right number of bad reviews amongst many good ones is enough to improve your trustworthiness for consumers.

People know that no business is perfect and that other people can find issues with the smallest of things. We trust the authenticity of reviews and, in turn, the business itself when there are one or two negative ratings.

Strategise a solution before responding to criticism

How you handle a bad review will tell other potential customers a lot about your brand and company. Stay calm and clear your head before responding to a bad review – you can use it to your advantage.

Coffee shops, ice-cream parlours and pubs have started advertising their food and beverages with bad reviews. “Come and try the worst coffee one lady on Yelp has ever had!” These sorts of quips show people that you can turn a bad review around and don’t take it too personally.

Still, customers do expect replies to their bad reviews. Spend a day or so thinking about how you will respond in a courteous manner, and then address the complaint appropriately. Remember that some people are angling for freebies or discounts, while others genuinely have had a bad experience.

Be aware of the false negative reviews posted by internet attention-seekers, and those of real customers who feel hard done by. Some bad reviews can actually take the form of constructive criticism, which can be highly valuable feedback.

Take the complaint on board and implement the necessary changes to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Address the complainant and tell them what you are doing to fix the situation. Send them feedback once the issue has been changed – most customers appreciate this level of attention.

Having a proper strategy for responding to complaints will set your business apart from most others. Never ignore a real negative review, and remember to stick to your brand’s tone of voice and identity. This consistency will be valuable for other potential customers.

Whether your brand is serious and structured or light-hearted and playful, always remain genuine in your response to criticism. Be personable, relatable and sincere. Each bad review can be a chance to show customers that you genuinely care.

Customer service is vital

The way you treat your customers is extremely important. Customers don’t owe you anything, so if they feel like they are being ignored or treated poorly, they can abandon your business and convince others to do the same.

Customer service is also a bit part of decision-making for most potential consumers. The way you respond to a negative review is important if you want to retain that customer. The best strategy is to respond to all reviews, both good and bad (if the number of reviews isn’t overwhelming).

However, answering all reviews with a copy-paste “we’re sorry for the inconvenience” is not good enough. You need to find a solution to your customer’s problem where possible. If it’s not possible, a heartfelt apology often suffices.

Show appreciation to your customers and value their time and feedback. This level of customer service will set you apart and can be a great form of damage control. Here are some key issues to consider in your response.

  • Find a tangible solution – Get straight to the point and verify why the reviewer was unhappy. Conduct an internal investigation and keep the customer abreast of any findings and solutions
  • Don’t get defensive – Keep your emotions out of the picture and stay respectful, sincere and polite, even when the review seems unfair or false.
  • Be empathetic – Sometimes the easiest way to rectify an unhappy customer is to simply apologise. An honest apology shows your clients that they are valued and that you take your service seriously.
  • Take the conversation to a private platform – If a bad review results in a dialogue, take the conversation onto an email or private messaging service. You don’t want the back and forth to be seen by the whole world.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell your side of the story – Sometimes the reviewer is not always right. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your brand or service when you know that the review is unfair (just remember point number two).

To wrap up, remember that every bad review is actually an opportunity to improve your business. Pay attention to criticism and use it to make your offering better. Bad reviews are always going to happen, so it’s important that you respond quickly and professionally to retain customers and show others that you care.


Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, website design, and digital SEO campaigns as well.


Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.


Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.


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