For some businesses owners, challenging reviews are a huge obstacle and sometimes end up being a stumbling block that they just can not get past. While there is obviously a human element to dealing with and accepting criticism – fair or unfair – there are some things to consider that can radically change how less than glowing feedback can be perceived and dealt with.

Because we are in the online reputation ‘industry’ we keep up with all studies, findings and statistics – not only because they are informative and incredibly helpful – but because they allow us to pass on how consumers behave, how they read reviews, what they look for, what works for them and what doesn’t – to the businesses that have put their reputations on the line, online.

So here’s a few findings that should shed substantial light on challenging reviews and not only why businesses should not be wary of them, but why they should embrace them.

“19% of the reviews the average business receives are negative” Source: “Impact of online reviews on small business revenue” www.womply.com

This statistic is from the US and based on data from a number of large review sites, such as hospitality and travel, as well as Google reviews but the ratio is important. The key factor here is that reviews are opinion based on experience and there is no such thing as universal experience. While some people may be impressed with something, others will not and what may rile and annoy some is of no matter or consequence to others. The important thing to remember here is that negative reviews are part and parcel of an overall review portfolio. Consumers expect to see them.

What is extremely interesting is the way that consumers engage with negative reviews and how they ascertain their worth in the larger review scheme and how they impact on businesses’ revenue.

(Image source: “Impact of online reviews on small business revenue” www.womply.com)

“Businesses whose total number of reviews are 15-20% negative average 13% more in annual revenue than businesses whose reviews are only 5-10% negative! In other words, businesses with a higher ratio of bad reviews actually make more money, to a point. The optimal ratio of negative reviews is 10-25%.

When customers browse business listings on review sites, they expect to see a certain amount of bad reviews. In fact, many users skip past all positive reviews to read the first negative review they can find. And a business profile with little to no negative reviews may look untested or even suspiciously guilty of buying fake reviews.” (Source: “Impact of online reviews on small business revenue” www.womply.com)

That least sentence is one that every business should print out, laminate and affix a wall in a prominently viewed position. It’s not just about fake reviews, it’s about businesses that lose all sense of perspective when they are assessed less than favourably, and try to have legitimate reviews removed – this is not only illegal – authenticated review sites will not allow it. Some business owners who fail to understand the value of an unfavourable review then do other things that are just plain wrong – intimidate and bully the reviewer to remove the review or threaten all sorts of legal action while unaware of the law.

As I said at the beginning, I empathise when business owners are criticised for a product or a service, it’s human to occasionally take it personally. But, and without sounding too much like a mafia Don – it is business, it’s not personal. In business there is too much at stake by flying off the handle, instead of calmly assessing, waiting and processing and then replying to the review in a gracious, even handed manner or reaching out to the customer to offer a solution.

Often times a nuclear response only affirms what the customer’s feedback was actually expressing in the first place. But when it’s plain that customers expect negative reviews, read them, and still reach out to a business if they also have a number of positive reviews, then it should be obvious that they are not as terrible as might initially be thought.