According to a recent study of 1.1 million restaurant reviews spanning a decade, bad weather is a predictor of negative reviews. The study, which was reported in the NY Times, found that negative reviews were especially likely when the temperature fell below 40 degrees and rose above 100 degrees.
Hot weather, especially, seems to precipitate negative reviews, as the dog days of July and August generate the most.
It makes sense, I guess. Consumers are understandably more irritable in the sweltering heat and bitter cold. Yet, somehow this data belies the rational expectation that review sentiment should correlate to variables specific to the business being reviewed, and not external factors.
The study covered only restaurants reviewed on sites like Citysearch, Foursquare, and TripAdviser, but it’s fair to assume this phenomenon extends to unsolicited reviews for a range of industries, including local service businesses.
On average, unsolicited reviews tend to be more negative because the people most inspired to actually write a review are often the angry customers. And, as the survey illustrates, the tipping point for these angry reviews can be as arbitrary as a hot day.
So, should businesses wait until the weather is nice to actively solicit reviews? Nah. We have found that good businesses who ask ALL of their clients for reviews will generate mostly 4 and 5 star ratings. After all, they’re good businesses.
Conversely, many otherwise 5-star businesses fail to ask for reviews and ultimately see their aggregate ratings driven down by a few angry customers. Customers who, as it turns out, may just be a little extra grumpy because it’s unpleasant out.