The socialsphere was buzzing last week about the iPhone4. Not so much about its super-sharp display, front-facing camera, or other impressive new features. The conversation last week around Apple’s newest phone centered instead on another story – the brand’s apparent censorship of its discussion boards.
After lab tests for reception issues led Consumer Reports to recommend that readers skip the new iPhone in favor of an older model, The Unofficial Apple Weblog found that Apple’s support forum moderators were deleting threads referencing the poor review. The story has since been covered by sites like Wired, Financial Times, and Fox News.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: negative reviews are a gift. Here are five reasons Apple (and all manufacturers) should embrace and learn from their negative reviews.
1. Negative feedback builds authenticity.
The mere presence of some negative feedback on a site creates trust in the brand. A site full of nothing but glowing reviews can make a shopper skeptical – consumers fear “white washing” from the brand. Allowing a mix of positive and negative feedback shows customers you’re willing to let them share their authentic opinions, and that you care what they have to say.
2. What’s bad for some isn’t bad for everyone.
Not all shoppers will use your products in the same way, so negative reviews from one customer won’t necessarily deter another. A designer’s criticism of a laptop’s lack of adequate graphic design capabilities wouldn’t necessarily deter a college student seeking a laptop for schoolwork. A negative review from a mother about a remote control’s small parts won’t deter a bachelorette from buying it.
3. Reviews – even negative reviews – drive sales.
Case studies prove it: reviews drive sales. We’ve found that even products with three-star ratings sell better than products with no reviews at all. Quickbooks enabled customer reviews on ProAdvisors, experts businesses hire to help them use the software. They found that not only did ProAdvisors with reviews get more clicks than those without feedback, but the number of reviews was more important than the rating. For example, a ProAdvisor who rates four out of five stars but has nine reviews gets more clicks than a five-star ranked ProAdvisor with just two reviews.
4. Negative feedback uncovers opportunities to improve.
Reviews turn your customers into an ongoing group of beta testers, uncovering areas brands can improve their offering to deliver a better customer experience. Oriental Trading Company brings negative feedback to their vendors to create better-quality products. Land of Nod and QVC UK have done the same. Domino’s Pizza recently made headlines with their “Pizza Turnaround” campaign, publicizing their decision to act on customers’ feedback to radically change – and improve – their fifty-year-old recipe.
5. There’s nowhere to hide.
Consumers are reviewing your brand and products online, and as Trendwatching hypothesized in December, they’re doing so in real-time. Social media gives your customers a voice just as loud – if not louder than – your brand’s. Ignoring the negative feedback that’s out there won’t make it go away. And in this case, it only made things worse. What was one negative review (be it from an expert panel) has now become a national story on Apple censorship, with some bloggers going so far as to draw ironic comparisons to the brand’s infamous “1984” ad. Which did more damage – the poor review, or the censorship story that followed?
“Bad” reviews are not the enemy, they’re an opportunity. Brands that recognize the value of this feedback are acting on it – and reaping the rewards.