Positive Impact Negative Reviews

The Positive Impact of Negative Feedback in Reviews

With so much riding on their technology stack, B2B buyers need to have a good understanding of a product’s shortcomings before they purchase it. But buyers know that vendors usually aren’t forthcoming about their product’s limitations. To make sure they’re getting the full picture, buyers go straight to end-users instead, tapping into their personal network and consulting third-party reviews. According to our latest survey, 88% of buyers using TrustRadius were looking for negative feedback in addition to positive insights.

While most vendors appreciate that critical feedback is essential for building a better product, knowing buyers read that negative feedback on a public site can still be unsettling. But having access to critical feedback about a product actually helps a buyer purchase more confidently and even more quickly. In fact, by proactively sharing those reviews, vendors can turn negative feedback into a competitive advantage.

Buyers use “cons” to know whether or not they can trust the “pros”

We know that many buyers are using reviews on TrustRadius to find pros and cons, but we wanted to dig into how buyers use the cons they find. The number one response by far — just under 65% of buyers — was to gauge whether the feedback was balanced and authentic. Meaning, the most common way buyers use negative feedback is to determine whether they can trust the positive feedback.

Source: June 2017 survey of 364 B2B buyers who used TrustRadius.com

A lack of negative feedback can create a poor buying experience

We also asked buyers to describe what happens when they can’t find any reviews with negative feedback. We saw four main trends in their reactions.

1. They do more work

The most common response (49%) was some version of “I keep looking.” Buyers will often turn to other review sites, but they also mentioned online forums, trying to find and call up end-users directly, talking to peers, scrutinizing the positive reviews, or test driving the product themselves.

In other words, lack of negative feedback means that buyers have to spend more time researching, thus delaying a purchase decision.

“I dig further to find out from companies that use the product. I will literally call into the main line of a company that they lighthouse on their websites, ask for the relevant department that uses the product, and ask for a manager to speak about their experience.”

“I look for other review sites and/or take the positive reviews and weigh in with other factors of the vendor. Also, request trial versions of the software for testing and check to see what their support is like.”

“I generally see where the positive comments overlap with other feedback to determine the mismatches. That helps me understand where gaps might be for other users even if not explicitly stated.”

2. They get suspicious

About a third of buyers said a lack of negative feedback would lead them to distrust all the feedback, or even the product itself. Buyers speculated nefarious causes like planted reviews, as well as not-so-nefarious ones, like the reviewers aren’t experienced enough.

“I consider such rosy reviews to be unbalanced and likely ‘sponsored.’  Immediate red flags!”

“It makes me a bit wary that the reviews are cherry picked.”

“I typically don’t trust that product. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

“I don’t believe them. There has to be some limit to a product’s capabilities, or at least one thing it does but could do better. Positive-only reviews tell me the user hasn’t gotten their arms around the whole product.”

3. Depending on the context, they might conclude it’s a good product

Just 16% of buyers said lack of negative feedback on review sites could signal a good product. But most couched it with caveats or presented it as one possible scenario among others, such as the product being new to the marketplace:

“I consider that the product is actually that good, that it is too new for people to see the negative side, or that it is simply not popular enough for people to care to write a negative review.”

“It depends on how complex the product is. If it’s a relatively simple, straightforward product, I take that as a sign that it’s probably a good choice. If it’s a complex product, then I keep looking for more reviews, since it’s unlikely that there’s really nothing negative about it.”

“I either look deeper into the product on other sites. If I cannot find anything then I assume the product is either new or a solid product.”

4. They won’t buy

A small set of buyers (7%) said they flat out won’t buy a product if they can’t find critical feedback. Some didn’t explain further, and said things like “I disregard the product” or “look for a different product.”

Others added some context as to why this would be a reason not to buy:

“I postpone the purchase until someone tells me what’s wrong with it. Nothing’s perfect.”

“I assume the product is too new to be considered for my needs. I don’t want to be tied in with a contract for a service that may not meet expectations.”

“To me this is an indication that either (1) the product has not been widely adopted yet (2) the provider of customer reviews is not reaching the right audience or (3) the provider of reviews is filtering out the negative reviews. My response is to either (1) be more diligent in interviewing vendor supplied references (2) look elsewhere for reviews or (3) drop the product in question from consideration.”

“I tend to move on to another product. The running theory for me is that software that is being used gets reviewed — both good and bad — so when either or both are missing, the software is not being used enough and therefore not worth the investment. And I am not just talking about money — I’m talking about time — the time where I am the one uncovering bugs or issues that may never get fixed because adoption is low.”

Make it easy for buyers to find what they want

Buyers want critical feedback before making a purchase decision, so vendors who make it difficult for buyers to find that type of feedback are doing themselves and their buyers a disservice. That said, the TrustRadius review process itself is designed to elicit balanced and authentic feedback, so as long your product has reviews from a variety of roles and use cases on TrustRadius, your enthusiastic buyers can likely find at least some of what they need on their own.

But this survey data uncovers one strategy you can use to make it as easy as possible for your buyers to make the decision to buy — gather honest, balanced feedback from your customers and proactively surface it to your prospects.

Three ways to accomplish this are:

  1. Invite a broad sample of customers to review your product on TrustRadius, to ensure your buyers can find feedback from a range of perspectives.
  2. When you select customer quotes to use on your website and other channels, pick quotes with substance (and don’t forget to get approval to use them). Look for specific use cases and success stories, rather than generic accolades like “this product changed my life.”
  3. Finally, the most powerful customer quotes to share with prospects are those that come from a balanced review. Don’t be afraid to use a positive quote from a review that includes critical feedback.

Tiffany Nels, CMO of Lifesize, agrees that sharing authentic customer feedback with buyers is the best way to establish trust in the modern B2B buying cycle:

“To a certain extent, IT pros will trust the case studies and customer testimonials that we put forward, but there is a belief that it’s all curated and we only picked the best ones. The great thing about TrustRadius is we can’t filter the reviews, it is what it is. And the IT community appreciates that we’ll open the kimono. We’re confident in our product, but we’re also realistic — we are not going to be the perfect fit every time. So buyers need to see what people really think about us, then judge our approach to solving the challenges of collaboration and that created value against their situation.”

For more original research on the gaps and opportunities in the technology buyer’s journey, download The B2B Buying Disconnect now.

Megan Headley

Megan is the Research Director at TrustRadius. Her mission is to ensure we gather the highest quality data from authenticated reviewers, and provide useful curated reports for prospective software buyers. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at a media company. She holds MA degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas.