Reputation Management: Why Bad Reviews Can Be Good Business



Marketing Matters is brought to you by Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design. Working together, Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design give you the analytic and creative synergy to develop unique solutions and achieve optimum results for your senior living community, providing management, operations, marketing, and sales consulting services. 


In this digital era, the consumer controls the senior living brand.

No matter how much money is spent on advertising and marketing campaigns, the experience residents and their families have with a particular community will trump organizations’ efforts to maximize brand awareness.

Whatever that experience is, consumers will share it. And providers need to listen — particularly to the bad experiences.


Cue: online review sites.

“Ninety-two percent of people say they trust online reviews and recommendations from family members; by contrast, 25% trust traditional media advertising and that number is going down,” said Amber Naslund, senior vice president of marketing at Sysomos, during a recent senior care marketing summit in Chicago.

Delving even deeper, 78% of people agree or strongly agree that the best source of information on an organization is its customers, while only 22% agree that the best source is the company itself, according to Kent Lewis, president of Anvil Media, referencing data gathered by

While previous reports have proven the impact online review sites have on consumers’ senior living shopping habits, few explain why even the bad reviews can be good business for a community.

Turning A Bad Review Into a Marketing Tool

When customers review a community online, they typically enter a star rating (on a scale of one to five, with five being the best). These star ratings appear in a search results list underneath the respective online review site.

So what’s the ideal star rating for a senior living community? Hint: It’s not five.

“The ideal star rating is four,” Lewis said. “It’s more realistic. Five stars is not believable. So having one negative review may be better than having none.”

But how providers address negative reviews is key to turning them into marketing tools.

“If somebody writes a negative review and you address their issue, if you acknowledge the issue — apologize, say ‘How can we help you? This won’t happen again’ — those people are five times more likely to share that positive experience,” Lewis said. “You can turn a detractor into a [positive voice for the organization] overnight.”

Timing is key when addressing these issues. If a negative review is posted, make it a goal to respond to that review within the same day, he says. Doing so will show other detractors that the community is responsive — and respectful — to its customers.

Don’t be defensive or emotional and focus on the facts. Acknowledge the issue and fall on the sword when possible, Lewis said.

Above all else, “plug the leak.” In other words, provide a resolution that will solve the problem so it doesn’t happen again. In this way, providers can turn a negative experience and review into a positive marketing tool.

“Your brand isn’t a logo; it’s much more than that,” he said. “Your brand is a bunch of digital touch points and all of that leads to your reputation.”

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Written by Emily Study