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Reviews and why people write them


Oct 20, 2019 3:00:00 PM

It’s crucial to gain an understanding of the factors at play behind the scenes when leveraging reviews. What motivates someone to write a glowing review? Is negative feedback an act of desperation, or a warning to fellow shoppers? What’s the best way to respond to a bad review? And do shoppers act differently when their reviews are replied to? (hint: they do!)

To help you make the most of your online reviews, we surveyed 858 members of the Hellopeter community to determine why people write reviews, what they expect from the companies they’ve reviewed, and how a business’s response influences purchasing decisions.

What our survey respondents look like:

  • 52% are female, and 45% are male, and 3% decided not to disclose their gender.
  • The majority are from South Africa’s economic hubs: Gauteng (58%), followed by the Western Cape (20%).
  • 76% of are respondents are between 25 and 44 years of age.
  • 61% of respondents earn more than R10,000 per month, with 25% preferring not to disclose their earnings.

We sought out the answers to these questions to give you a thorough understanding of the motivating factors that result in someone writing a review, as well as your customers’ expectations after the fact. We also asked our respondents what they’re looking for in the reviews they read, and the kind of reviews that influence them the most. In short, we collected feedback that gives you crucial insight into the way your customers interact with reviews, and what we found makes for some interesting reading.

The top five findings:

  1. The majority of good reviews are written as a way of saying thank you for a job well done.
  2. 98% of negative reviews can be resolved with an apology and solution.
  3. The majority of negative reviews are written in order to aid a business in improving their services.
  4. Ignoring a bad review is the fastest way to lose a customer.
  5. Half of review readers are looking at reviews to find out if their pain points are shared by fellow customers.

Your biggest cheerleaders

The maths is simple - companies who provide a great experience are rewarded in the form of glowing customer reviews.

Survey question: The reason for writing good reviews

The top three answers to the above question were altruistic - a third of people said that they wrote good reviews in order to reward a company for a good product, service, or experience. An additional 21% said that their review was their way of thanking a company or employee. A desire to share their experiences was the second most popular reason behind writing a review: nearly 22% of survey respondents said that they wrote a review in order to help others make better buying decisions – and 18% of respondents answered that they wanted to share their experience – which indicates that it’s not just the business in question that reviewers are thinking of when writing a review, it’s the online peer review community too.

What this means for you:

Your customers are aware of the influence of their online reviews.Their desire to assist fellow shoppers by giving them an account of their experience with your company means that their feedback is (for the most part) honest and accurate. In other words, your happy customers are your most powerful marketers – which means you need to do everything you can to ensure that it’s as easy as possible for your customers to write a review. Linking your website to your Hellopeter profile, displaying the Hellopeter widget in your emails and at other key customer interaction touch points ensures that their great experience translates into a bank of positive online reviews.

Constructive criticism

The motivating factor behind negative reviews is surprisingly selfless.

Survey question: The reason for leaving a bad review

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of people don’t write negative reviews as an act of revenge or to merely vent their frustrations – almost 40% of respondents said their motivation was to help the company improve a product, service, or policy. Just under a quarter of respondents said that they wanted the company in question to acknowledge their concerns – which means that today’s customers see online reviews as a way to communicate with businesses. (This in turn, highlights the importance of responding to negative reviews in order to meet the customer’s desire to be acknowledged.) 33% of of respondents are looking out for their fellow shoppers when writing a bad review; with 20% citing a desire to help others make better buying decisions, and 13% wanting to warn the online community about a disappointing experience. Only 4% of our respondents reported that they write online reviews as an act of revenge.

What this means for you:

These answers highlight two key themes to pay attention to. One, that customers see their reviews for what they are – valuable feedback – that’s relayed in an effort to help both a business and their fellow customers. So when someone leaves a bad review, pay attention to what they’re saying – there’s a good chance that their feedback can improve your offering. Two, acknowledging and replying to your negative reviews is your ticket to winning back a dissatisfied customer, and winning over a potential customer.

Great expectations

A happy customer is worth their weight in gold; a happy customer who’s been acknowledged is priceless.

Survey question: Expectation after leaving a good review

Surprisingly, our respondents were divided (almost down the middle) as to their expectations after writing a good review. Half of them expect some sort of reciprocation: 43 % expect a reply to their review. The other half of our respondents don’t expect a response or reward.

What this means for you:

The brands that reach out and thank their customers for good reviews are the ones synonymous with great service. While it might take that little extra bit of time and effort, thanking someone for a good review can only benefit your business – even if the reviewer in question doesn’t expect any acknowledgement.


Your dissatisfied customers want help, and quickly.

Survey question: Expectation after leaving a bad review

Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming number of respondents answered that they expect some sort of action from the business they reviewed. The majority expect the company in question to resolve the issue (33%) – no matter the cost, followed by 21% who expect a response. 19% of respondents want the company to take action faster, and 11% want the business to “go the extra mile”. While these expectations seem obvious, the following finding may come as a surprise to business owners: only 2% of our respondents expect to be reimbursed for their purchase.

This is telling: it means that 98% of dissatisfied customers aren’t after a refund per se; they want their problem to be acknowledged and resolved. And if you’re able to do that, you’re able turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy one.

What this means for you:

It’s clear that the opportunity to remedy a sub-par experience is a huge one – if you’re able to remedy an issue – you’re able to retain almost all of your (previously) unhappy customers! So if you’re not reaching out and doing everything you can to make sure someone’s bad experience becomes a good one, you’re essentially waving goodbye to a potentially happy customer, who might become a loyal customer. What’s more, you’re inadvertently chasing potential shoppers away.

As such, treat every single bad review for what it is: a chance to win back a customer, and – just as importantly – a chance to gather valuable intel into the areas of your business that are lacking. To summarise, fixing a problem ensures you retain your existing customers, while ignoring negative feedback is the fastest way to quash all the hard work you did to acquire them in the first place!

Good, better, best

Happy customers want a reason to remain satisfied, and disappointed customers want to have their faith restored.

Survey question: What customers view as a satisfactory response to good reviews.

While just over a third of respondents told us that they don’t expect a response from a company, the other two thirds do. Of that 60%, just over half expect an acknowledgement and message of thanks, while another third expect some sort of private correspondence. A handful of respondents expect “a request for a phone call from the company to thank me in person”, while only 3% of all respondents see a reward as a fitting response.

The majority of respondents expect an action of some sort. But just what kind of action do people deem as a satisfactory one?

37% of respondents want a company to first fix the problem, and then contact them, while 36% said that an immediate reply with an offer to refund, replace or fix the issue is their desired outcome. The rest of respondents answered that they want some sort of communication – 12% said a comment from the company in question is a satisfactory response, while 9% said a private message or email regarding their review is adequate. It’s important to remember that prospective customers are scrutinising your actions, so reply and communicate on Hellopeter, and if you need to obtain private information to resolve the issue, only then take your conversation offline.

What this means for you:

The common denominator throughout these answers is a desire for a business to initiate some form of conversation. In short, when someone writes a bad review of your business, reach out to them, hear them out, and then resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Making amends

From replacing a product to refunding a customer, our respondents favour companies who go out of their way to right their wrongs.

Survey question: Most satisfactory actions to bad reviews

The most popular answer to this question debunks the myth that disgruntled customers want revenge (and then their money back). In fact, 35% of respondents said that an apology is the most satisfactory action after they leave a bad review. The second most popular form of making amends is a replacement of the product or service. A change in policy was the third most popular answer, followed by being reimbursed by the company in question.

What this means for you:

These answers hold several crucial lessons for business owners. One, that acknowledging and apologizing for a mistake or poor service is of paramount importance.Two, that customers don't want to get something extra out of writing a bad review, they simply want a company to recognize its failures, and then make amends. The third key takeaway here is that your customers expect their feedback to be implemented. In other words, if you ignore negative feedback, you lose out to the businesses that take it into consideration when moving their business forward.

The power of an apology

Companies who swallow their pride and acknowledge their mistakes are the ones that win back dissatisfied customers.

Survey question: Common actions of customers satisfied with a company response to a bad review

A negative review does not spell the end for your business. In fact, it signals an opportunity to impress someone by restoring their faith in your business, and ultimately, retain them as a customer. The answers to the question “What do you do once a company has responded in a satisfactory manner to your bad review?” were overwhelmingly positive: 34% said that they go on to write a positive review once the issue is resolved, 32% said that they shop there again, and 25% of respondents said that they recommend the company. Only 9% of respondents answered that they do nothing.

What this means for you:

It’s simple: one of the best things you can do for business is to acknowledge a bad experience and then rectify it.

Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned

Business owners beware: the consequences of ignoring a negative review are dire.

Survey question: Common actions of customers dissatisfied with a company response to a bad review

Out of our 858 respondents, only 3% said that they do nothing if their bad review goes unnoticed. The rest of respondents either warn people about the company (37%); never shop there again (29%); write another review to indicate their displeasure at the lack of a response (24%) or take action to get their money back (7%).

What this means for you:

The way you respond to a bad review dictates whether or not you’ll benefit – by going out of your way to remedy a negative customer experience, you’re building a foundation for a long and profitable relationship between you and your customers.

Uncovering the nitty gritty - why customers read reviews

From familiarising themselves with a business, to trying to ascertain whether other shoppers are experiencing similar issues, we uncover why customers read reviews in the first place.

Survey question: The reason for reading reviews

It’s common sense that people read online reviews in order to get a feel for the business they intend on purchasing a product or service from. That said, it is surprising that almost half of our respondents (48%, to be exact) read reviews to find out if their fellow shoppers share the same pain points. The second most common answer, coming in at 23%, was to compare products, services, or policies. 22% of respondents said that they read reviews to research a business in general, 4% answered that they want to uncover the weaknesses of a company, and 3% said they want to find out what a business does well.

What this means for you:

As soon as a customer has a negative experience, they go online to find out whether or not their problem is shared by fellow shoppers. And their dependence on the feedback of others means that if they find that multiple bad reviews that have gone unnoticed, they won’t stick around. However, if they see that similar issues have been remedied and that you’re quick to tackle the issue, they’re highly likely to trust that they made the right choice, and continue to do business with you. Another important takeaway is that customers are searching for reviews that give them adequate insight and information. When asking for reviews, it’s therefore crucial that you ask questions that address specific areas of your business – as opposed to general sentiment.

Actions speak louder than words

The way you respond to reviews is make or break.

Survey question: The most important factor when reading reviews

The ball is firmly in your court! 50% of respondents said that the way a company responds to reviews (in particular, to negative feedback) is what they pay the most attention to, and 17% said that whether a business responds is what they look for. 12% answered that they feel more reassured when there’s a balance between the amount of positive and negative reviews (which highlights the fact that negative reviews can actually aid you in acquiring new customers). In order of popularity, the rest of our respondents said that a business’s average star rating, the recency and frequency of reviews, and the number of reviews (in this order) are the factors that stand out the most.

What this means for you:

The way you handle negative feedback impacts your business further down the road. Responding to and remedying every single customer complaint is one of the most important things you can do to establish trust and credibility to win over potential customers.

All eyes are on you

The spotlight is firmly on your business – but can your business handle the pressure?

Survey question: The value gained from reading reviews

The answers to this question echo the sentiments of the answers to the previous one. 44% of respondents said that reading reviews about a company determines whether or not they engage with a business, which reiterates the fact that online reviews are one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. 18% said that online reviews establish a sense of trust in a business by painting a company in a credible light. 15% of respondents answered with “If and how a business handles complaints” and another 15% answered “To see what others are saying about a business”. Finally, 8% answered that the biggest value they get out of reading reviews is being able to compare compliments and complaints between various businesses.

What this means for you:

Your potential customers use reviews as a way to evaluate your business and inform their decision as to whether they’ll become a customer. They’re scrutinising not only the content of your reviews, but your attitude and the actions you take. Timely responses, the manner in which you reply, and the way you handle negative feedback influence whether or not a reader becomes a customer. There are a whole host of potential customers waiting for you to give them a reason to shop with you, but whether you do or not is entirely in your hands.

Reviews on Hellopeter have Helped over 1 million customers make better choices. Had an experience you'd like to tell us about? Leave us a review here.

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