Should I be scared of ‘bad’ reviews?

I recently had an email from a friend you had added their business to The Brownbook, and they were a little concerned about the fact that a business could get a bad review (not their business incidentally, which I happen to know has many happy clients, but in general).

I figured its a logical fear for a business owner that first discovers that consumers now have more power, and so I thought it might be good to reproduce the text of the discussion here (I’ve paraphrased a little and removed names for privacy), first my friend’s email, followed by my response …

—–Original Message—–

Just to let you know that I have put my business in your Brownbook, and found it very easy and user friendly.
The only thing that slightly concerns me is that people can write in bad reviews without the recipient being given the chance to stop them. I do know there are many bad traders out there who deserve to be exposed, but some people who might use it as a means of airing a personal grudge? Just a thought…
Otherwise, well done on a great idea,
Kind Regards, K

—–My Reply—–

Hi K

I am delighted that you tried it and found it easy to use, and thanks for the feedback.

We thought long and hard about the ‘bad review’ issue you raised and we came to a few conclusions. Firstly we provided a means for a business owner to ‘claim’ their listing which means they get immediately emailed when any reviews or updates take place. That way its easy for them to keep an eye on what people are saying and take any necessary action.

Now, as to what action to take… well, good reviews are great and I’d encourage any business to get happy customers to provide testimonials because it helps future potential customers make some judgments before committing to the business. I also think that good reviews help businesses understand what customers feel is important in the relationship.

As for bad reviews, which is your concern, that’s obviously a little different. With today’s web technology people already have the capability to complain about any business, and because websites and blogs are so accessible even one person can get a wider stage than they previously might have done (when word of mouth was limited to the 5 or 10 people someone connects with in their local or over lunch). What we realised is that most businesses and their customers already know that you can’t please all of the people all of the time and over time I’d expect almost every business to encounter at least one unhappy customer. The beautiful thing about being able to actually see (and be alerted to) any bad feedback is you get the chance to correct the problem, and certainly I’ve always found that a customer who has initially felt hard-done-by who THEN is responded to can become your finest advocate.

Of course there will always be people who are unhappy and inconsolable, but again as human consumers we are realistic enough to appreciate this, and a business with, say, 3 great reviews and one poor is still going to be held in high esteem.

We use a similar feedback model to ebay, in that anyone looking at feedback from an individual can also drill down to see other reviews that person has made, how long they have been around, how active they are, etc, etc, so anyone can get a ‘feel’ for how credible any review actually is.

I hear your concern totally, but my view is that bad things are said all the time, even when we don’t hear them, but this gives us a way to take note, respond, and turn a poor reviewer into an ardent fan.

(incidentally, i did review your business, i made it clear that i hadnt used it but that i had seen some of your work and i was mightily impressed).

All the best