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Why You Don’t Always Want 5 Star Reviews

Customer reviews deliver incredibly important insight into how patients are using your services, their expectations, and areas where you are not meeting their needs. In fact, reviews have evolved relatively recently into invaluable indicators to drive better product development, customer service and support, informing the direction a business grows in, how it’s marketed, and a whole lot more.

On the other hand, a string of perfect five star reviews might sound brilliant, but research reveals people get suspicious when faced with nothing but constant good news. Human beings are contrary. We might think we want perfection every time, all the time, but actually we prefer a realistic balance. Here’s what you need to know about the customer reviews that really matter.


PowerReviews and Northwestern University’s curious discovery

Brands know customer reviews play an integral role in purchasing decisions, especially online. It’s natural to want nothing but brilliant reviews, to achieve the highest ratings you possibly can. But it’s actually the less-than-perfect reviews that actually drive buying decisions.

A recent analysis of reviews carried out by PowerReviews and Northwestern University proved that a 5 star rating – or any other ‘top of the class’ rating – is viewed by patients as less trustworthy than reviews scoring between 4.2 and 4.7 stars out of five, the sweet spot. Averages of 4.7 to 5.0 are ‘too good to be true’ in most people’s eyes, and some will even feel that consistent 5 star ratings are most likely to be fake. A study by GetApp found much the same thing, with product purchases most influenced by average reviews of 4.2 to 4.5.


Why do people appreciate negative reviews so much?

No wonder people are suspicious, in a world where Amazon has had to file a lawsuit against more than 1000 people and organisations involved in selling fake 4 and 5 star reviews, we have good reason to be suspicious. It is no surprise that having nothing but dazzling reviews hints that you’re not being entirely transparent. For all a patient knows, you might have taken down all the negative reviews you’ve received, only leaving the five star ones. And when 82% of consumers specifically look out for negative feedback, as part of the buying decision, it’s crazy not to provide it.

There’s more. Scientists say humans naturally tend to take more notice of negative things than positive, which is why so many of us look out for negative reviews purposely. Because patients are so widely sceptical about perfect review ratings, it makes sense to include a few negative reviews to make the balance more believable.

The numbers support this slightly counter-intuitive finding. Apparently people spend as much as four times as long on sites that feature negative reviews than they do on sites packed with relentlessly positive feedback. And there’s an impressive 67% increase in conversion too, something not to be written off.  


What review metrics do people take the most notice of?

Whether they consciously realise it or not, people tend to take the most notice of three key attributes of a review, whatever is being reviewed.

  1. Volume is the total number of reviews, the size of the overall reaction by consumers
  2. Veracity describes how much the reader trusts the reviewer, and how much they trust the quality and trustworthiness of the information
  3. Velocity denotes the times reviews have been submitted and the frequency of new reviews – it’s interesting to note that more than half of consumers say they don’t trust a new review as much as one that’s at least a month old


A few bad reviews support more sales

While it doesn’t feel good getting a bad review, negative reviews can be incredibly powerful. When you solve a problem for someone they’re more likely to remain loyal to your brand than if they never had a problem in the first place. A great response to a bad review can be marketing gold dust, a potent mini-marketing tool. Put another way we all make mistakes, but it’s the way we fix them that matters.

You need a decent ratio of reviews, mostly good but some average and a few worse than average. You must respond to negative reviews and fix the issues people raise if at all possible. If your review system lets you approve comments before making them live, make sure you bite the bullet and let a realistic proportion of less-than-100% scores through.



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