Unlocking the meaning of stars in reviews

Jody Mayers

12 min read Last Updated Nov 19, 2021

“If you want a similar look just boil a pot of water at home.” This was an actual 1-star review describing the geysers at Yellowstone National Park. While all industries strive for 5-star reviews, even the most well-known, and reputable businesses are prone to less than 5-star reviews. So why do people write reviews and what is the meaning of stars in reviews? We’ll dive into the specifics later, as well as provide some valuable tips on the meaning of stars and how to respond to reviews. First here are some reasons why 5-star reviews are so important and what your business can learn from them.

Why reviews are an important part of your business

No matter how small or large your business is, reviews are critical to your success. Whether it’s a 1-star review, a glowing 5-star review, and everything in between, reviews provide insight on what your customers think about their experience with you – good or bad. 5-star reviews indicate that you’ve exceeded your customer’s expectations and delighted them. These reviews provide a great learning opportunity to demonstrate to your team what excellent service or products will keep people coming back and writing more 5-star reviews. 

Whether it’s maintaining the course of action for excellent service or products that led your customer to leave the 5-star review or examining ways to improve a lower review, all feedback needs to be taken seriously. All reviews provide actionable insight into your business, think of reviews as breadcrumbs your customers leave regarding their journey with you. If you don’t do anything to follow the breadcrumb trail, you are doing your business a disservice. 

According to a recent study, The 2021 state of online reviews only 28% of reviews are currently responded to by businesses, across all industries. This can be an opportunity for your business. By responding to reviews, not only can you delight your customers, but you can also get an edge on your competition. Here are some statistics about why reviews are so important for your business.

1-2 star reviews

In a perfect world, every customer would write a glowing review but that’s not reality and it’s okay to get occasional one or two-star reviews. In fact, only 10% of consumers trust five-star ratings. However, when you do receive a 1-2 star review, it’s important to ensure you resolve the customer’s issue. Responding to reviews – can actually lead to better ratings in the long run and shows your customers you care. So why do customers leave one or two-star reviews? Poor reviews can often be used as a way to express disdain at the service experience, rather than an honest appraisal of that business. Here are some common reasons why people write negative reviews.

  • The Customer wants an apology
  • They want to warn others about their “bad experience”
  • The customer is seeking a discount or financial reimbursement
  • The individual wants to see how your business responds

Here are some examples of industry-specific customer reviews, possible reasons, and solutions that can be used as a general guideline for any business. 

Restaurant 1-star review

First impressions are critical when it comes to restaurants and reviews on restaurant review sites help create those initial impressions. In the study we cited above, 80% of reviews written online have a detailed description that showcases the reason for the rating provided by the reviewer. This is great because not only does this contribute to the ‘Trust Economy’ of reviews, but also provides insights into what customers like and do not like about your business or product.  Paying attention to what customers are writing about you in reviews and taking action is critical to the growth of your business. 

My husband and I have been wanting to try this restaurant for months and we were disappointed. Nobody greeted us and we had to wait about 25 minutes to be seated even though I made reservations a full week in advance. When we were finally seated and ordered, the server gave me the wrong order and my husband’s burger wasn’t hot. I am very disappointed and we will not be returning.

Your ‘Unhappy’ Guest

In this case, the service seemed to be lacking for a number of reasons, perhaps because the restaurant was short-staffed or busy. You can try to rectify the situation by adding additional staff during peak hours, improving how you manage reservations so nothing slips through the cracks, and reviewing expectations with your staff so they can delight customers from the moment they walk into your restaurant to the moment they leave. 

A response goes a long way, in fact, not replying to reviews risks increasing customer churn up to 15%. In the example above, even though the reviewer said they would not return, this is a good opportunity to reach out, apologize, offer a discount, or even a free meal. It also provides training opportunities with staff, as well as opportunities to grow and provide excellent customer service in the future. 

By extending your apologies and rectifying the situation you can assure the customer and everyone reading the response that this is not common practice for your restaurant and you will strive to provide all your guests with better service in the future. Responding to a negative review by inviting the reviewer to discuss the details of their experience in-depth offline might even be enough to prompt the reviewer to change the 1-star rating into something more favorable depending on the satisfaction of the customer service you provided. 

3-star reviews

A 3-star review is a middle ground – not perfect but also not terrible. You failed to delight your customer by making an impression that’s just mediocre enough, which means they can go elsewhere with their business if they feel that a competitor’s offering is better. Customers write these reviews because they don’t feel strongly enough either way to describe their experience in great detail. 3-star reviews leave the door wide open for improvement. What makes it difficult for businesses to understand 3-star or neutral reviews is that they are often brief and lack details. These reviews may not shed much light on what the reviewer liked or did not like.

3-star car review

The car industry is often under a lot of scrutinies when it comes to the trust factor of consumers so reviews are an important tool to measure your success and areas that need improving. Car review sites are quickly becoming the go-to place for consumers seeking to buy or lease a car. 

3-star car review

Everything was fixed for the price I was quoted. The technician was friendly on the phone and in person. When I got to the garage I was greeted fast and they took my car in immediately. However, the repairs took way longer than I expected and I had to use a rental vehicle to get to work and pick my daughter up from school. This was an inconvenience I was not expecting.

Your ‘Neutral’ customer

As you can see there is a mix of both positive and negative experiences in this review. If the repairs were completed sooner or the repair shop offered a rental vehicle at a discounted rate, this review most likely would have been a 4 or 5. In this case, the garage could have prepared the customer with a better time frame on the length of the repairs. Even though the technician seemed to have delighted the customer with his or her service, the repairs seemed to take longer than expected. In the car businesses, you know that opening the hood often reveals unexpected pitfalls than originally diagnosed and is a good opportunity to be transparent with customers regarding any additional time that might be needed for repairs. 

When it comes to neutral reviews, regardless of the business you should always respond by thanking the customer for their review, keeping your response short, and offering a solution. If the customer seems unhappy you might want to offer a solution by taking it offline. Such as “We apologize for the inconvenience your repair cost you. Please call our office as we’d like to make it up to you”

4-star reviews

If you received a 4-star review you delighted your customers with the product or service you provided and that’s something to be celebrated. However, there still remains one question, why wasn’t it a 5-star review? 5 out of 5 stars is obviously superior, you wowed your customer. By comparison, 4 out of 5 means no complaints, but you also didn’t leave a strong enough impression. A 4-star review leaves room for improvement. 

4-star legal reviews

When it comes to clients who search for attorney reviews are often the first place they’ll go. Online reviews help expand the scope of your reputation, that’s why it’s important they are favorable. 

My wife and I had to recently file for bankruptcy and our lawyer Brad was very patient explaining the process and what we needed to do on our end to complete the process. He followed up with phone calls and emails when we had questions. Even though the process wasn’t easy, Brad was great to work with and helped us through a difficult time. I highly recommend Myter and Associates for all your legal needs.

Your ‘4-star review’ Client

In the case of 4-star reviews where you didn’t ‘wow’ your customers enough to give 5 stars, there is an opportunity to gain insight about why by contacting them offline or sending out customer surveys. Feedback is the lifeblood of any company, and surveys are an essential tool to get feedback from your customers. The more data you have on what people think about how they’re being served-the better positioned a business will be for growth.

5-star reviews

A 5-star review is a shining example of how you’ve been servicing your customers. Glowing reviews can be used in your marketing campaigns and are a great way to showcase your products or services.  5-star reviews show that customers love your business so you know you’re doing something right. Customers who write 5-star reviews have had a successful customer journey from start to finish. In fact, businesses without 5 stars risk losing 12% of their customers. Everyone wants to be satisfied with their purchase or service that exceeds its promises. 

5-star dental review

Potential patients trust dental reviews and look for them before ever stepping foot in your office. Getting a five-star review goes a long way to getting new business and maintaining your current customer base. 

I was so impressed with my first visit to Gentle Care Dental. As someone who has always had a fear of the dentist, I expressed my concern on the phone and again when I came in. Dr. Micheal suggested I bring in my earbuds and calming music and it was a game-changer. He was gentle, put me at ease, and the music really helped calm my nerves when I had my dental work done. After it was over he explained the follow-up steps in detail and booked my appointment right in the chair so I could just leave. I am thrilled to finally meet a dentist who doesn’t brush off my fear and really cares about his patients.

Your ‘Very Happy’ Patient

Positive feedback, as opposed to negative comments or complaints from customers, can be an invaluable tool because it showcases tactics the rest of your team might not have thought about in terms of how to deliver a great experience. In the case above, you might not think something as small as offering to book the next appointment in the chair was a big gesture, but it obviously made a big impact on the patient that day and made the experience memorable. 

You might think a glowing 5-star review is great and no response necessary, but that’s not the case. Thanking your customers for their positive reviews can help you show appreciation to them for taking the time to write the review. 

This type of positive review can be showcased in your marketing tactics such as your website, social media platforms, even business cards. Trust is key to building relationships and customer loyalty. 

What is the purpose of customer reviews?

The purpose of customer reviews is for businesses and customers to understand overall customer satisfaction as well as areas that may need improvement.

Why do customers leave reviews?

Customers leave reviews to shed light and help others decide if they want to use your business. There are many other reasons why people write 1-5 star reviews such as a possible discount, seeking an apology, and expressing gratitude.

Why are reviews important?

Reviews are important because they can help boost customer loyalty, brand awareness, and shed light on possible areas of concern.

How Birdeye can help

Here at Birdeye, we know online reviews, and we have the tools you need to be successful in every stage of the review process. Whether you need help with getting new reviews, managing reviews, or monitoring reviews, Birdeye has you covered. Our streamlined and simplified review process will help your business deliver a fantastic customer experience and grow like never before. 

Google Reviews Guide