According to some marketing “experts”, customer reviews are a net positive, but is the review really all it’s cracked up to be? Sure, a high number of positive reviews can help sway opinion, but what about the negative ones? Online reviews aren’t necessarily 100% good for your brand. There many serious cons associated with publicly available online customer feedback —and you should take these into account when deciding whether to take the plunge.

If you’re just starting up in business you might be focused on getting as much customer feedback as possible, and while this can be valuable to highlight areas where you need to improve, is it really the best strategy for your brand to publicise this information?

Something to consider when deciding whether to include customer reviews or not is that many people only leave a review if they really enjoyed their experience or hated it. Though this can mean you gather some awesome feedback, it can also mean you’re lumbered with highly critical reviews that can put off hundreds, or even thousands of potential customers.

While big independent review sites like Trustpilot carry a high number of reviews spanning many thousands of brands, lots of these will be fake reviews from competitor brands, attempting to sway customer opinion. On top of this, some brands pay people to leave positive reviews, another factor which places your business at a considerable disadvantage, if you play fairly.

This problem has gotten so bad, sites like rateragent, an website dedicated to weeding out bad reviews in the Estate Agency industry, have sprung up to attempt to tackle the problem. It does this by tracking IP numbers, along with a strict verification process, but even these methods aren’t totally fool proof. Your business is vulnerable to sabotage if you open it up to public online feedback, particularly if you’re not a well-established brand. Even if you are, word of mouth is extremely powerful, so you may want to consider keeping control of the message if you can.

Another worrying fact is that 88% of consumers put their trust in customer reviews, assuming they are true, whether or not they are from, a legitimate source. It’s worth pointing out the impact reviews can have, as it’s often taken as gospel that this will always positive. Though reviews absolutely provide your business with free word of mouth advertising and social proof, this can be hampered by increased vulnerability to bad actors and those with malicious intent.

Reviews and the restaurant industry

Customer reviews can have a particularly strong impact on restaurants, cafes, and other dining establishments.

Two economists from the University of California, Berkeley, Professors Michael Anderson and Jeremy Magruder, conducted a study of over 300 restaurants in the San Francisco area, published in the Economic Journal. They discovered positive reviews resulted in a trade boost that happened without any variation in restaurant prices or quality, while negative reviews had a detrimental effect, discouraging customers from visiting.

“Differences in customer flows between such restaurants can therefore be attributed to the ratings themselves rather than differences in the quality of food or service,” the economists concluded.

The problem of fake reviews is especially pernicious in the highly competitive dining industry. “Everyone’s trying to do something to make themselves look better,” Linchi Kwok, an assistant hospitality industry research professor at Syracuse University in New York, told the New York Times. “Some of them, if they cannot generate authentic reviews, may hire somebody to do it.”

There are both pros and cons to customer reviews, and it’s important to consider both. With that in mind, let’s examine the benefits and downsides of publicising your customer feedback in the same place you promote your dining brand.

The Pros of Online Customer Reviews

  • Displaying your reviews can improve customer trust and confidence in your business which could in turn lead to more custom. Beware though, while great online reviews might encourage new customers negative reviews will turn them off.
  • If you allow negative feedback, this can lead to an improved customer credibility score. Reevoo found including negative reviews can boost customer trust, but remember, you also must factor in the negative impact bad feedback has on deterring customers from visiting.
  • Posting your negative reviews could also lead to a decreased rate of complaints and returns as customers can discover the downsides of your service or product before going ahead and purchasing.
  • Allowing a review process can enable you to highlight areas where your business needs to improve. However, if you have a robust feedback system implemented at your business location or on your website, you can still gather customer feedback without having to broadcast your business’s flaws to the whole world!

The Downside of Online Reviews

  • Giving great service could work against you!  Yep, according to research body, Reevoo, 68% of customers trust brands more if they have both positive and negative reviews.  Apparently, 30% of people view a brand as potentially having fabricated its reviews, if they cannot see any bad feedback.
  • Negativity is severely damaging to your brand – Just one negative review of a product or business can skew a potential customer’s view of you, even if you have scores of positive customer reviews.
  • Disgruntled customers have the freedom to say whatever they like, no matter their motivation. If someone is a scammer, spiteful, or a rival business owner determined to sink your location, your business could get painted in a bad light for no good reason.
  • Changing circumstances can render your reviews meaningless.  If your negative feedback just doesn’t apply anymore because you’ve improved or changed your processes, then old reviews will still influence potential customers and put them off. Once a review is posted, it’s almost impossible to get it removed, even if it’s out of date and totally irrelevant.

Why we don’t “do” reviewsAt Zampoita, our core aim is to build a thriving community of food lovers who are passionate about food.  We want to give dining brands every chance to be discovered by our site users, and so after careful consideration, we’ve decided the cons outweigh the pros when it reviews and their impact. Negativity is so much more powerful than positivity, ten positive feedbacks can be cancelled out in an instant by one negative review.

Though most people leaving complaints are genuine, we also shouldn’t overlook the fact that some people have unrealistic expectations. Some can be malicious, with the express intent to harm your business, or can even be professional complainers, hoping to get compensation for a “negative” experience they have had.

While you should have a robust policy in place to address customer complaints internally, there’s no need to let those with bad intentions damage all you’ve built.  At Zampoita, we won’t let that happen, instead providing a review-free listing that enables you to showcase your location and take full control of your business.

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