We know that nobody's perfect, so why do we expect our businesses to be, especially when it comes to star ratings? Encouraging honest feedback (the good, the bad, and the ugly) demonstrates authenticity, builds customer relationships and can even lend to business and product growth. Read on to find out why an imperfect score may be closer to "perfection" than you think.

Consumers are realists.

Perfect ratings encourage skepticism and that can deter sales. Your customers have lived long enough to know life isn’t perfect, and that includes your brand. Studies show that sales are driven by optimistic, yet realistic rankings. For example, TechCrunch found that product purchases were most influenced by reviews with an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. To get the most out of your reviews make sure they are honest and comprehensive. Displaying the whole picture is good for consumers and for your business. Openness about your mistakes demonstrates integrity while still allowing you to be in control of the overall message through your reponses to both negative and positive situations. Negative reviews are an opportunity to solve problems, build trust and set yourself apart by providing superior customer service.

Mistakes happen.

Mistakes are going to happen. What your customers really want to know is how you’ll fix them when they do. Reviews are part of the research process for as many as 92% of consumers. They provide consumers with information about your product or service, but they also reflect the character of your brand. If your goal is to be known for excellent customer service, showcase your ability to respond quickly and efficiently to a negative review. This creates loyalty and reduces churn for existing customers and gives newcomers a reason to trust your business. ConsumerAffairs conducted our own study that indicated consumers will generally give an even more positive rating when the brand follows up from a bad first impression and aims to resolve those issues. When properly handled, conflict is an opportunity to promote your brand and show your clients what you’re made of.

Move beyond the first impression.

Your star rating is the first impression, but it is not the whole story, nor is it the entirety of a business relationship. Just like any other important bond, building trust with a customer is a process. According to Entrepreneur.com, customer trust develops from the first contact and extends through service, delivery, implementation, care and support. While a five-star rating may encourage consumers to try your brand it will not necessarily convince them to stay long term. It’s important to showcase all reviews and paint a full picture of your brand and how you treat your customers when issues do arise. Demonstrating attention, concern and superior service will do more for customer retention and creating brand advocates than keeping a squeaky-clean image.

Learn from your mistakes.

Negative ratings also promote professional growth. While it’s not always worded as such, customer criticism is constructive. It’s all about how you receive it. Instead of viewing an imperfect rating as overarching dissatisfaction, dissect it into smaller parts and identify the key points of frustration. This way you can implement a specific, measurable plan of action that focuses your resources in the most efficient way possible. The same is true with positive ratings. Identify what’s going right and how you can refine and promote those aspects of your business.

The Takeaway.

Overall, people want content and context, not a perfect score. It’s better business to be open and honest than it is to be "perfect". Authenticity is best displayed through a variety of reviews covering different subjects, situations and perspectives. Customers understand that mistakes can happen, they just want to know how you’ll react to them. Showcase your ability to respond to problems and gain consumer loyalty through excellent communication and service. Lastly, capitalize on what you learn. Use every positive and negative word spoken about your business to refine your product and practices.

P.S. It’s never too late.

If you’ve read all of this and still feel you’re star rating is less than ideal. It’s never too late! Start by collecting more reviews. Get your fans praising your brand and your antagonists teaching you how you can improve. The more you know the more you grow. ConsumerAffairs can help.