A good reputation is vital to the success of a small business. Today, with so many customers researching businesses online before they decide where to buy, a bad online review on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Google Places, and even your own social media pages can do some serious damage to your reputation. In some cases, these bad online reviews can end up on the first page of results when people search for your business.
How should you respond if your reputation comes under fire and you receive a bad online review?
The tips below will help you perform damage control the right way, and even turn negative experiences into a positive influence for your small business. But first, let’s take a look at what you should not do because there are steps you can take in response to a bad online review that will only make things worse.
What Not To Do When You Receive a Bad Online Review
Deny the Problem Exists
When a customer has a complaint, insisting that they’re wrong in a public forum is a big mistake. Even if you’re convinced that the problem was on their end, you should acknowledge the issue.
Argue with the Reviewer
It’s only natural to feel hurt or angry when someone posts negative criticism about your business. But responding in anger could cripple your reputation permanently because information stays on the Internet forever. In other words, never do this.
Game the System
Some business owners, faced with multiple negative reviews, have paid people to write positive reviews and counter the impact. This is not only a bad idea, but also comes with the very likely possibility that you’ll get caught. Some consumer review sites, like Yelp, have systems in place to warn readers of suspected paid reviews.
While a few negative comments are obviously the work of people who just like to say nasty things, for the most part, ignoring bad reviews in the hopes they’ll go away is a poor strategy. It sends a message that your business doesn’t care when people have negative experiences.
What To Do When You Receive a Bad Online Review
In order to take action against negative online reviews, you have to be aware of any that exist.
It’s important to monitor your social media pages and respond to concerns there. But you should also check out major consumer review sites like Yelp to see what people are saying about your small business. The simplest way to do this is to set up a Google Alert for your business name. You can also use a free tracking tool like Social Mention to keep up with online reviews.
If you find any less-than-stellar reviews:
Take an Objective Look
If the review or comment is obviously not serious, or if the poster is using anger and abusive language, your best option is probably to ignore it. If possible, have it removed. Most consumer review sites offer a way to flag or report reviews that violate their terms of service.
Respond with Tact
When addressing a negative review, keep it professional. Passive-aggressive or sarcastic comments will only fuel the flames. You can choose to respond privately (useful when you disagree with a reviewer’s take on a situation) or publicly, which helps to demonstrate to other readers that you’re addressing the problem.
Apologize and Ask for Input
Most often, the best response to an upset customer is to say you’re sorry without qualifying the apology to redirect the blame toward the reviewer’s feelings. Admit that a mistake was made, and ask what you can do to resolve the situation.
Most importantly, keep it consistent. When you actively respond to negative online feedback about your small business, other potential customers can see that you’re engaged and that you care about your customers.
With a consistent response policy, you can turn a bad online review into a positive outlook for your business.
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