5 Reasons NOT to Delete Negative Reviews

Yesterday afternoon I had a chance to chat with a writer from a bridal magazine. She was looking for tip on how retailers could protect themselves from negative reviews and how they should respond to negative reviews that are left on their sites/ Facebook account. She wondered – if someone leaves a critical review on a business owner’s Facebook page, can’t they just delete it? I mean, why deal with it all, right?

No, no, no, no! Don’t delete that review or comment!

While it may seem counter-intuitive, there are quite a few reasons why business owners want to resist the urge to delete comments and reviews that are critical of them. Sometimes, negative reviews can actually help, not harm, your business. Here are a few reasons why it’s okay to let negative reviews lie on your page.

You want the conversation to happen at home

If someone left you a scathing review on your Facebook page, you may want to consider sending them a cheese basket or something to thank you. Because, it means they were kind enough to come to you first and that there’s still time to fix the relationship [Imagine if the people you dated did this!]. If you then go and delete that comment, you’re going to make an already-disgruntled customer simply more frustrated, essentially telling them you don’t care about their feedback. You’ll be sending them away even angrier than they arrived and they’re not going to keep that to themselves. They’re going to up the fire and leave an even nastier review about your business on Yelp or Google Places. Or they’re going to start a tweet war about how you censored them. Or they’re going to write a blog post with your company name in the Title tag. Any of these things would be way worse than one negative comment on a page that you control. To avoid it, let the comment sit on your Facebook page, addressing it calmly and sympathetically. It’s always better to keep the conversation at your own house than to let it spread elsewhere.

It’s a chance to change the conversation

If someone left a negative comment or review about your company, they’re giving you a chance to change the conversation and make it better. They didn’t silently vow to never do business with your company again and trash you to their friends. They’ve told you what happened, why they’re upset, and now they’re looking to you to make it better. Instead of just deleting the comment, listen to what they’re telling you. Understand what their problem is and where the communication breakdown occurred. Say you’re sorry, vow to do better, and invite them back so that you can personally change their experience. By responding to a negative comment on your home turf, you get the chance to turn a negative into a positive.

You get to show off your customer service

I imagine if you’re a small business that sells wedding dresses it seems pretty tempting to delete that angry comment from your Facebook wall. I mean, they already got their once-in-a-lifetime-dress, right? They won’t need another one for at least three years. Who cares if they’re upset with your company? Well, everyone else who stumbled upon that review/comment will care. By positively responding to a negative comment on your page, it shows everyone looking how much you care about your customers and the lengths you’ll go to right a bad situation. The person upset may never need your services again, but they have friends who will and you also want to leave a positive foot trail for potential customers who innocently land on your page while researching.

Gives you street cred

Admit it – when you see a business that ONLY has 100 percent glowing reviews, you start to wonder who they’re paying under the table. Because it’s just not natural. Even the greatest business with the best customer service is going to attract a negative review at some point. As long as you have plenty of positive reviews to counteract it, leaving a negative review on your page isn’t going to hurt you. It may even provide balance and make someone feel more comfortable purchasing from you. [Assuming you addressed the review like an adult and didn’t call them a dumbass to create an unnecessary crisis.]

You get feedback you can act on

Outspoken Media is no stranger to negative comments, but we always try and use those comments to enact change. It’s like hiring your own mini focus group without having to pay for it. Take the feedback people are giving you and look for ways to incorporate it into your business. Doing so will not only improve your business, but it’s going to make you a hero in the eyes of your customers who know feel like you’re really listening to them. That’s how great brands are born.

Those are some reasons that I would encourage business owners NOT to delete reviews or negative comments left on their site.  If you need help, you may be interested in reading up on how companies should respond to negative reviews, how to make flame wars work for you, how to manage online reviews, and how to create an ORM crisis in case that’s you’re thing.  How have you handled negative reviews in the past? Would you trust a business with nothing but positive reviews? Am I too skeptical for my own good? Tell me.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

55 thoughts on “5 Reasons NOT to Delete Negative Reviews

  1. I actually look for the lowest reviews when scanning through a lot of reviews. Usually it’s pretty easy to pick out the Negative Nancy who is never happy, but what I’m usually looking for is the reality that every product/service has areas where it is weak or downright sucks. The benefits are easy to find and negative reviews give me an idea of what cons I may encounter. Then I can decide if it’s worth it to me (which it often is).

    • Good point, Robert. I do the same thing. I scout the bad reviews to look for areas where it may trip me up. I don’t personally care that someone had a bad experience, I want to know that these shoes run really small and I should order a large size or that sometimes there’s a trippy wire in that new blender. I’m not interested in the Negative Nancys, just the buyer bewares.

    • That’s me too, I never trust positive comments as a first time customer. I would even go so far to say as a business, it’s ok to respond to negative comments with something like “I’m sorry you had problems runing your flux-capacior in sub-freezing conditions. In that area, Doc Inc has us beat – but we’re working on catching up. One thing you’ll appreciate about our product though, is the capacitor only needs 10mph to activate vs the competitors 60! Thanks for pointing out your experience, I’ll be sure to add it to our tech specs in an easier to find location.

    • Exactly my approach too. It also speaks a lot about the business if they take the time to give each negative review/comment an individual consideration and attempt to remedy the situation (like some hotel brands do on Tripadvisor, for example)

  2. Since you didn’t live blog my session last week you missed my talk on reviews. Biggest and boldest advice I can give is to Print The Review and Put It Up in your business where everyone can see it.

    Why? You’ll make two discoveries.
    1) Is this a common sentiment felt by regulars but not yet addressed?
    2) You’ve got an ARMY of radical fans right there in your business.

    Take care of your army, and they’ll take care of you.

  3. A year or so ago I came across some interesting data that shows people trust a business more if there are at least SOME negative reviews. It makes a business seem real. Anyone who never messes up is either lying, or fake, and our audience knows that.

    • It definitely helps a business appear real. No one is liked by everyone – if you are, you’re probably a pretty weak person. The same rule applies for businesses.

  4. Deleting negative comments seems borderline unethical — or at least the edge of a slippery slope (how far will you go to hide the truth?). Trying to keep your skeletons in the closet when they are clamoring to get out will almost always bite you in the end!
    Lisa, you are so right about the value of “having the conversation at home” — and addressing customer complaints before they spiral into something you can no longer control. Visibility of customer thoughts is just a fact of life in this new social media world; none of us can afford to run & hide from them. (ok, I’ll stop preaching now.)

    • You definitely get into a slippery slope once you start trying to “hide” negative reviews by deleting them. Because, you’re right, what are you so afraid of? Are you really that intimidated that one person didn’t have a good experience with you? If so…why? That usually reveals a much larger issue. It’s so much easier (and more effective) just to respond to the review in a positive way.

      I don’t think you can downplay the importance of home field advantage. If someone leaves a bad review on your site, it gives you the opportunity to calm them down before they go and do it elsewhere. Because once it’s on Yelp, you can’t delete that.

  5. I also head straight for the negatives to see what I might be getting into. Chances are good that if I’m looking up a product or company, I already have a good idea of the pros. One of the things that annoys me most about eBay is the fact that I can’t jump to negative seller reviews. I’m either left to wade through multiple pages or go purely by the overall percentage.

    Great advice, especially as companies increase their accessibility to customers and feedback through social media. Thank you for posting this!

    • Thanks for the comment. Great point that if I’m on your page I probably already KNOW the positives of your product. Now I’m looking for the full picture. Let me find it. Do you really want me to buy from you if I’m not going to like it anyway? That’s just setting yourself up for MORE bad reviews!

  6. “You get to show off your customer service” was the biggie for me at my last company. A complaint on a forum would often turn into praise for outstanding customer service by the complainer AND other participants on the thread.

    Customers want to be respected. They would like you to be perfect, but they don’t expect it. They do, however, expect to be respected. Responding to their complaint and trying to fix the problem shows them that you respect them.

  7. This post about NOT deleting negative comments is the stupidest thing I’ve seen written about anything ever. Lisa fell off hard. Do not read any articles written by her in the future.

    • So, after a completely meaningless and inaccurate negative comment like that do you think people are more likely to stop reading Lisa’s stuff, or more likely to think you don’t know what you’re talking about and be MORE apt to read her stuff?

    • How could you not get it? I feel dirty for having to explain that the comment is a joke.

      What saddens me most of all, is that Lisa didn’t even get it. (shakes head in disappointment)

      For the record, I agree with Lisa’s points and had already scheduled this article to be in my weekly article roundup.

      • That’s actually a good illustration of how limited a communication medium text is. If we had heard you say the comment and were able to see your body language we’d likely have known instantly that you were joking.

    • Wayne,

      Thanks for your feedback! I’m sorry you had such a negative experience with this post, and that it didn’t click as relevant to you. Would you mind sharing a bit about how it wasn’t your cup of tea?

      • This is starting to scare me.

        I wish I worked with some of you guys. I could actually mess with you by pretending not to hear you and then replying “What?” when you ask if I’m deaf.

          • Trying? A dare a normal human not to see the humor in that. It frightens me that people can be so defensive. I even posted that comment using a pseudonym because I thought it would be too obvious it was a joke if I used my name.

            Again, it was not a test to see if the comment would be approved. I was 100% sure it would be. I just assumed it would be followed by a LOL comment by Lisa. Obviously that did not happen.

            The “stupidest thing I’ve seen written about anything ever” is even a take on Family Guy’s “Wait a minute… that’s the smartest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about anything.” – Peter Griffin

    • This is probably just a test to see if you would approve the comment? :)

      Either way, I always find it amusing that people post negative comments with no public link – for the few I’ve ever gotten, it’s without a valid email address too. I ‘ll approve them if the person actually stands up behind their comment, but if not, I just consider it spam.

  8. I think she passed the test Wayne!
    ;oD
    And the moral of the story? Practicing what you preach obviously goes a long way too.
    Great post by the way – it’s a solid argument and one that is all too easily overlooked by businesses wanting to sugarcoat their image.

  9. Great tips for managing negative reviews that happen on your home turf! All too often, dealing with negative reviews or comments is handled like a knee-jerk reaction—and you end up kicking more mud in your face. Love that you discuss the positive side of something most companies dread and provide practical tips to prevent knee jerk reactions.

  10. These are excellent points. Since the rise of Twitter et al in the last few years, the willingness to own up to your weaknesses and publicly improve has been major consumer glue–whereas ignoring weaknesses/faults (BP-style) can pretty permanently tarnish a brand.

    Although then you run the risk of seeming oversensitive if you’re trying to appease every consumer who’s written a negative review.

  11. And what’s negative for one person isn’t necessarily negative for another. In particular, I was shopping on Amazon for something that would warm and dry boots and gloves as a gift for my parents. A review of one product was that it was nice and quiet, but didn’t work well in the garage because the garage was just too cold and their gloves never got warm. This was going in their mud room off the kitchen, so surrounding warmth wouldn’t be an issue, but noise would be. Another product would get your gloves and boots nice and warm, but made your house smell like a locker room. Great for the garage, but not for the house.

  12. I agree with this to a certain extent, but I’ve had reviews taken down before. The reason? The person who wrote the review said that she had tried my cake and that it was awful, but she hadn’t ever been to a tasting appointment. I checked my records to make sure, but she hadn’t ever been a client or a potential client, and in the confusion of wedding planning had obviously mistaken me for someone else. The review was posted on a site that doesn’t allow professionals to respond, so that misdirected bad review would have stayed there and I would have taken the blame for someone else’s bad product if I didn’t address it with the site administrator.

    Maybe the wedding industry sites are different, in that they tend to not allow vendors to respond to reviews. Some do, but the majority have you at their mercy. If a bride posts something negative you have no recourse. I’ve seen fellow pros being slammed when the bride posts half of the story and leaves out the part that explains how she was to blame for what happened. Since I knew the other vendors who were involved, I knew the whole story, and it definitely wasn’t what the complainer represented.

    If the site doesn’t let you respond, how would you suggest replying to negative feedback? Contact the client directly off the board? Have your fans comment bomb the board in retalitaion? It’s a difficult situation if you can’t post back and publicly rehabilitate the review.

  13. Superb article…I simply love this one. The reason I like this article is because I strongly agreed with the point available in the post. Why to hide or delete the negative reviews? Let’s play a real game… people are not insane nor they have a time to waste several minutes and write a negative review… if you are good people will be positive with you but if you are not how many negative comments you are going to hide…

    Yes, negative comments allow you to start a conversation with the person… may be he/she is pissed due to some problem in the customer service or anything… let’s talk to them and resolve their problem and this will allow:

    1. More (most likely positive) comments
    2. People start trusting you more than before because you are actually in
    communication with your customers and they have seen that you listen to your customers…

    Over all a very fine post… Good Luck!

  14. I will have to go ahead and say that I agree with the “Street Cred” point. Posting and responding to negative reviews and comments shows that you are a resource and not just a self serving PR (Public Relations) machine. Personally, I enjoy watching bloggers defend themselves when called out.

  15. Good post. I came across something in my mail that crashed right into this topic. Apple just released their iLife ’11 suite so I clicked over to take a look. Scrolled down to the user reviews. Have a look. . .

    http://goo.gl/GVRtg

    You’d think Mac-nation wouldn’t be this harsh. But the folks in Cupertino are more than willing to take their medicine. Big take-away’s here. Nice post.

  16. People who post angry messages tend to do so in haste. If you are polite back to them, then they are likely to be a bit embarrassed by being out-and-out rude, and might go back a bit on their complaint.

    I’ve certainly withdrawn negative feedback from Ebay before after my complaint has been politely dealt with.

    The secret, I guess, is not to get defensive as that tends to make things worse. Deleting a message is a defensive act.

  17. I especially love comments that start with, “I know you’ll delete this…”

    Those are usually the craziest people on the web. Leaving them up and responding like an adult makes you look like a real person, and the crazy person like a… well, like a crazy person.

  18. I love the opportunity to set the record straight if something I have done was not up to expectations. What advice do you have for people in situations such as Kara’s when the site doesn’t let you respond, how would you suggest replying to negative feedback?

  19. Lisa, thank goodness I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’ve been trying to tell a friend, who owns a business, not to delete those negative comments but face them like a man. You’re very much right on all these points and it’s better to deal with dissatisfaction at homebase than have that person scream his/her anger somewhere on the Web… and the worse part is, no amount of SEO works can hide all those stuff that contributes to your negative image.

  20. Great post, lot to learn from it!
    What a healthy perspective on the “negatives”..

    Great job!

    P.

  21. When im looking for a new book on amazon i look at the negative reviews more than i do the positive.

    Sometimes when theres 29 positive and only 1 negative and i read the negative one i can see that its usually to try and get peoples attention to the same type of book from a different author.

    I still purchase a product with negative reviews, obviously if the majority are warning people away from a product or service then theres often good reason in most cases.

    Negative is natural, i dont expect to see every last person 100% happy with a product or service.

  22. I completey agree. Even I feel that someone somewhere is being paid when I see ONLY Good reviews everywhere. Its just not natural.

    I do look over the negative reviews and then see if I fall in the same category of service / product.

  23. Ah, those websites displaying a flawless, prosperous business. I call that scams.
    I have been scammed a few ago, I must have been really blind not to see the obvious. Apparent 100% satisfaction= underlying dissatisfaction!

    Thank you for this article. Really helpful!

  24. Really nice summing up – I see more people and blogs heading this direction and embracing the fact that not everything on the internet is positive – or needs to be. It makes for a more interesting dialogue.

  25. I had an experience not so long back where a cafe owner was able to use a negative review I had written and turn me from a detractor to an advocate.

    I wasn’t able to use the cafe’s personal website, however, I was able to use a site dedicated to reviewing local businesses. He stumbled on the review I wrote after a poor experience, contacted me and asked for the opportunity to address my concerns in person. We had a nice chat via email and in person, and I would certainly not hesitate to recommend Rendezvous cafe in Salamanca Square, Hobart to anyone now.

    I also wrote an article on my experience if anyone wants to check it out in more detail.

    http://bizcovering.com/marketing-and-advertising/the-importance-of-customer-service/

  26. THIS ARTICLE IS TERRIBLE!

    Ok, just testing if you do what you preach :-)
    Great article, just what I was looking for, won’t be deleting any comments. Thanks!

  27. Very clever points you have. I am experiencing same problem on my facebook group. Till now I was handling it just as you write, but I have been thinking is talking nice to bad post is a bit stupid… But now I know it’s not.

    Thanks Lisa, really helpful! :D

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