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How to use negative reviews to create customer loyalty

While no one likes receiving negative reviews, often they contain important information. Here’s how to use even negative reviews to your company’s advantage.

6 min read

MarketingSocial Media

How to use negative reviews to create customer loyalty

Mohamed_Hassan / Pixabay

When someone criticizes you or your business – especially through public negative reviews – it’s easy to take it personally, feel bad and want to lash right back. A better approach is to step back and try to take a critical look at the information. 

While it can be difficult, there’s only one way to look at negative reviews: critically. Evaluate the information objectively and if there’s merit – and sometimes also often even if there is not, to ensure a happy customer – you need to act on it. 

The brutal truth is, the critics may be right. Negative reviews can be some of the most helpful pieces of feedback for a business. Often, if you can learn how to use them instead of avoiding them, your business can transform into a truly great company.

Following are some suggestions to use constructive feedback to your advantage, and even, create more customer loyalty.

Be a company that is open to criticism

Every year, billions of people use airplanes to travel. And each year, millions have their luggage lost, flights canceled or miss connecting flights through no fault of their own.

The airline industry is hyper-competitive with risky profit margins (made even slimmer in the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic). In most cases, passengers choose the cheapest flight over brand loyalty. However, they still expect a certain level of service, and ignoring passenger complaints is not good for business.

Some airlines are investing heavily in customer support, responding to tweeted passenger complaints in a matter of minutes. As a result, more passengers are sharing positive experiences on social media and through word of mouth. GlobalData Social Media Analyst Smitarani Tripathy said that, from the first half of 2021 to H2 of that year, there was a 40% increase in social media conversations involving airline companies. 

While it pays to be known as one of the good ones, inevitably, there will be negative reviews. Sometimes people may make unrealistic demands. Miscommunication can be a factor. A customer may misinterpret an issue with another vendor as your company’s fault. 

They may attribute shipping issues that are out of your control to you (still, worth exploring to find better alternatives). They may be disappointed because the product is out of stock (a bad and yet good problem to have, if high demand is the cause).

Or, they simply may not be your target customer. They may even be unhappy that your product or service does not contain specific features that they would like, but that might not be a fit for your core audience. 

Regardless, the underlying trigger for a customer’s criticism is worth exploring. 

Seek to understand the context in which this criticism was given. Often criticism lacks details and is disjointed in how it gets conveyed. Knowing how to get contextualized real-world examples of perceived problems can teach you a lot. Invest in customer support and become known as the company that goes above and beyond to give your customers the compassion and support they deserve.

How to use negative reviews

Sometimes negative criticism can come from true fans of your work that were met with an unexpected, disheartening experience about a product or service they loved.

Video game studio Blizzard Entertainment came under fire for their video game Diablo Immortal. Critics bashed what they perceived as microtransaction-based practices requiring players to pay an exorbitant amount of money to reach the highest levels. While most gamers expect some microtransactions, Blizzard overestimated many fans’ tolerance levels for pay-to-play.

Countless players expressed their disdain. But one of the biggest reasons these players had so much hate? Because they used to love Blizzard Entertainment and their games so much.

Many players enthusiastically defended Blizzard’s old games, but were forced to turn on their beloved company when Blizzard prioritized profits over loyal fans.

These critics wanted a great experience from a company they likely admired, only to be met with a lackluster, discouraging experience.

Negative criticism very often stems from expectations not being met from: 1) the customers your organization likely knows the least about, or 2) customers that you’ve acquired, but are not a good fit for your business. 

Ultimately, you should strive to understand each of these groups of customers so that you can make sure that you know your target audience and that you are addressing what is important to them.

Know when to step away

Recognize your reaction to the feedback. Are you mad? Can you still think clearly about the issue? Are you looking at it objectively and factually from multiple angles? 

If you know you’re being dishonest about these questions, you need some distance from the problem, to avoid making weaker choices when acting out of anger and fear than you would through calm composure.

Instead, look at the root cause, and use that information to move on to be better next time. As best-selling author and mindset expert James Clear put it, “If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.”

Remember, you’re not trying to please everyone here: Your goal should always be to ensure that the product or service you provide is represented, understood and provisioned the way you — and everyone in your business — likely imagines. You should try to find where there’s a delta between expectations and reality for customers.

Negative reviews are OK

In summary, it is OK to get negative reviews. They can be really helpful. They help you to see what you need to work on, and they give you a chance to show your customers that you’re willing to listen and learn from them instead of denying their feelings and experiences.

Negative reviews are frequently evidence that you have something valuable. Often, critics can become fans. The same motivation that can result in a negative review stemming from disappointment can be redirected towards evangelism if you’re open-minded about why the disappointment occurred to begin with.

Listen to negative reviews; assess the situation from the customer’s perspective; consider causes of recurring problems, a plan to address them, and actions to increase goodwill. And stand by your word to make it right. Customers are looking for companies to quickly and easily resolve their problems.  

And, customers will appreciate that you take the time to consider their feedback.  


Tyler Bishop is a digital publishing influencer and chief marketing officer of Ezoic, the artificial intelligence technology for websites to monetize content with display ads through streamlining implementation, optimization and testing. He is an award-winning marketer who has worked for Microsoft and was featured on the cover of The St. Louis Business Journal for his unique approaches to digital marketing.

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