Bad Word of Mouth Marketing Spreads Like Wildfire

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This is a guest post from Niraj Ranjan Rout, the founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.

A bad piece of word of mouth marketing spreads faster than a wildfire.

Did you know that 54% of customers share bad experiences with more than five people, while only 33% share their good experiences (Zendesk)?

Adding to that, most customers have an online presence now, and one bad review from them can cost you everyone in their circle of friends. It is essential to keep an eye out for negative reviews online and take immediate measures to counteract negative word of mouth marketing.

Here are some tips to get you started with responding to bad word of mouth marketing or negative reviews:

Create a positive, unique proposition around the negative review

Some negative reviews directly attack what a company or brand stands for. The good thing about reviews like these is that businesses can take advantage of them.

For example, if a customer left a review complaining about the limited number of items on the menu, the business can reply back to them with an apology followed by some marketing. They can start with “We are sorry you felt that way,” and go on to say how the restaurant believes in making fewer items but with excellent quality, and that is what makes them different from most other restaurants.

Now when a third person reads this conversation, they will get to see what the restaurant stands for as a business, and the idea that they put so much emphasis on quality might even attract them. That’s how a business can turn a bad review into a marketing opportunity, and take advantage of the number of eyes that will see the review.

You see, one man’s good is another man’s bad. In the above example, some people prefer quality and some, quantity. Digital agent Magda explains how to leave a little marketing in this video about responding to reviews. 

See a negative review as an opportunity to improve

A negative review does not have to be as bad or gut-wrenching as people make it sound. Not always. Sometimes it’s nothing more than constructive criticism or feedback.

It’s quite possible that the business really did get something wrong—maybe their customer service sucks, or maybe one of the product features has bugs, and I could go on.

Any business needs several iterations to build a perfect business model or product. These negative reviews can get you there.

When I first launched Hiver, even before we had a fully formed product, we started marketing ourselves to people. From the feedback we got and the surveys we organized, we narrowed down what additional features to add and what unnecessary features to remove. In fact, we built four versions of our product until we finally perfected it.

When a customer takes the time to provide constructive feedback, apologize to them and show them that they are being taken seriously. It’s great if the business can tell the customer what measures they are taking to fix the problem addressed.  

Take it offline, and solve the problem

When a customer posts a negative review, say on a Facebook page, a vague, generic response to the post isn’t going to cut it.

The business needs to get in touch with them through email or phone and offer to fix the problem for them. The business should ask them how they can make it right, and do whatever they can to make it up to them. Remember that one bad review doesn’t mean that the customer is regretting choosing the business; they still can fix it and make things right.

The bottom line is that giving a negative reviewer attention and time is crucial to retain them and change how they feel about the company.

Also, businesses can’t forget to leave a response to the review on the Facebook page, even though they are dealing with it offline. Why? Because others will be reading that review, and it’s essential they know the customer was addressed. In fact, 88% of people read online reviews to determine the quality of a business, and not leaving a reply reflects poorly on the business.

For all you know, the customer will post again saying that the business made up for a faux pas beautifully! This is the ideal situation.

Scout for positive reviews

Say there is a negative review, and although the business tried to fix it, things didn’t work out and there is nothing left to be done.

Not really! There is something they can do—get more positive reviews! Say a business has a couple of negative reviews on their Yelp page and no positive reviews, or the negative reviews are more recent. It is crucial for them to get out there and get some positive reviews. Word of mouth marketing is a new trend, though it finds roots in good old fashioned customer service.

Ask loyal and happy customers to leave a good word, because positive reviews alongside negative ones can dilute the impact of the latter.

In fact, the Chief marketing officer of Trustpilot, Jan Vels Jensen,  says that “Research shows that consumers trust reviews more when they see positive reviews alongside negative ones.” No one wants to feel duped and find out reviews are fake, so seeing a mixture of sentiment is often good—no business is for everyone.  

So, getting more positive reviews can not only diffuse the effect of negative reviews, but it can actually make the business look more trustworthy.

Wrapping up

Here are some important things to keep in mind before taking a countermeasure to address bad word of mouth marketing or negative reviews:

  • Always stay polite, even if you have to be firm, do so politely.
  • Don’t get rattled by negative reviews. Don’t let it go to your head.
  • If there is something to really learn from the feedback, thank your luck, learn and move on.
  • If it truly is the customer’s fault, it’s okay to correct them, but keep it very subtle.
  • Respond to reviews like a person and not like a company. It helps humanize a business in the eyes of customers.
  • Always respond but don’t react to negative reviews. Don’t make impulsive decisions in situations like these.

Business need to address negative word of mouth marketing quickly and effectively, or they’ll get burned.



Niraj Ranjan Rout

Niraj is the founder of Hiver (, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool. Niraj works on programming, customer support and sales, and also contributes to design and UI. He’s a fusion music aficionado and loves to play the guitar when he can.