Study Warns Business Owners Of Dangers From Responding To Negative Reviews

CATONSVILLE, Md. — In today’s digital age, maintaining a positive reputation online is a big part of marketing a business and attracting new customers. To that end, whenever a negative review pops up many business managers and owners feel inclined to respond to the reviewer and give their side of the story. Well, a new international study focusing on hospitality services finds that this approach usually does more harm than good.

According to researchers, if a hospitality business responds to a negative review it will only encourage and stimulate more negative reviews. The study’s authors say that customers are more likely to write negative reviews if they feel their words will influence the business. In other words, if a business responds to a negative review, it will embolden others to write more negative reviews.

The study focused on “dynamic-quality” businesses, such as hotels, or other hospitality / travel services, as opposed to “static-quality” businesses, which would be a more traditional store simply selling products. Researchers say it is important to make this distinction because patrons’ experiences at more dynamic-hospitality centered businesses are much more dependent on direct managerial involvement.

“In the case of static-quality goods and services, such as a review of a product purchase on Amazon, the reviewer’s audience is more than likely other consumers,” author Yaniv Dover explains in a release. “But when reviewing dynamic-quality goods and services, the reviewer could be motivated by an intent to impact the manager, and not just other consumers.”

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Online reviews were analyzed from websites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia and Hotels.com. Overall, the authors found that managerial responses were more likely to stimulate reviewing activity.

“Based on our research, we believe that managerial response activity disproportionately stimulates negative review production since the negative feedback may be seen by reviewers as particularly impactful,” adds Dover.

Researchers collaborated on the study from Yale University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the University of Southern California.

The study is published in the journal Marketing Science.

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