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1 Star reviews are not a reason to panic

1 Star reviews are not a reason to panic

In this article I take a little divergence into my world of service measurement.

When people leave reviews on review sites, you can’t guess why they did it. So the company has this informations and needs to make it useful. How?

Well the reviews need to “be” purposed. Remember, purpose is created.

In the article below you will see how the purpose depend on the user.


Osteria Francescana was voted the best restaurant in the world for 2018. If you look at the Trip Advisor reviews, you will see 86 people thought it was terrible. That’s 3.8% of the reviewers.

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Emirates is considered one of the best airlines in the world, but 2,619 people thought it was terrible (5.2% of reviewers).

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Tiffancy & Co Maddison Avenue had 61 one star reviews on Google out of 1,796 reviews (3.4% of reviewers).

So what’s going on? It’s obvious, but not simple.

If 3.4% of people think you're terrible, then 96.7% of people think you're not.

These brands stir strong feelings. Despite these being some iconic great brands, you can’t please all the people all the time. That’s obvious.

Public feedback knocks on your door and feels like public shame. It’s tempting to ignore.

It could just be that 3 in 100 people don’t connect with the brand. It could be that customers (in their own heads) have created a different narrative.

After all, Brand Marketing tries to position the brand in the consumer’s mind, but it’s ultimately the consumer who processes its meaning. Just because you position a brand a certain way doesn’t mean consumers will receive it that way in their head. So for some customers it may just be brand expectation.

You may position Tiffany as the go to luxury brand, but 3% of people may be expecting rainbows and butterflies when they walk in. They may somehow feel underwhelmed. You can’t control that and nor should you ignore it. some people walking onto an Emirates plane may be expecting business class type seats in economy.

I often see brands freak out over a negative review. Someone from head office will contact the offending store asking them to explain the subjective review left by a single customer. This could be the only contact a store has with head office about anything in months. The store gets in a spiral, and morale just drops. 

“They only care about catching us out on the bad things"

So what do you do with this information? Get global and local.

Get local and global

Individual reviews need to be reviewed at the store level.  If an individual site receives a terrible review, then it’s incumbent on the store to find out why, and take corrective action if it’s at all possible.

Corporate should be looking at trends over time to see if there is a systemic deterioration (e.g the quality from the new food supplier has dropped). Corporate should also be looking at trends by store to ensure the stores are taking corrective action. But corporate should not be freaking out about individual poor scores.

More importantly, no-one should be crazily think the sky is falling down when 97% of people don’t think you are terrible.

We’ve just launches a social media monitor to allow organisations to track the trends by store over time and also to track whether stores are actively dealing with poor scores.  We still see people struggling to deal with the distinction of when to dive in and when not.

It’s quite clear. Stores should dive into the individual results, and head office should dive into trends.





















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