A less than flattering online review about your business is not something you would normally celebrate.
However, bad customer comments will not necessarily cause your sales to plummet, provided you manage online reviews properly, promptly and efficiently.
Marketing expert Mike Ramsey, owner of NiftyMarketing.com, says, “You can’t stop bad reviews because we don’t live in a five-star world.”
How to Find Your Reviews Online
Before you can deal with reviews, good or bad, you’ve got to find your reviews online.
Ramsey’s first suggestion for business owners is to look for reviews by searching their company or brand name attaching the word “reviews” to the end of the name, (like “Joe’s Pizza reviews,” for example.)
Second, Ramsey said in an interview with Small Business Trends, you can search for reviews of your business by searching on Google Local, Yelp, Facebook and similar general social and review sites. Also, a tool like Moz Local at Moz.com/local will help you find local listing sites where reviews typically appear.
Third, Ramsey and fellow Internet marketing expert Vedran Tomic, of LocalAnts LLC, both suggest checking websites specifically targeted at businesses in your industry — such as healthgrades.com for doctors and avvo.com for attorneys.
Tomic notes consumers search for more business reviews today than ever before and on more than one website. As a result, he says, it’s important for entrepreneurs to have a review management system in place because almost every business will eventually be faced with a bad review.
What to Do with a Bad Review
Tomic and Ramsey both recommend, when faced with a bad review, that an owner or manager reach out to the disgruntled customer. Attempt to correct the situation, but be sure to do this all offline. It’s better form to not have the negotiation and resolution appear publicly.
“Show empathy to the customer,” recommends Ramsey, who also advocates knowing all sides of the story. Offering an apology and rectifying the problem are both important when you’re in the wrong. But a more unorthodox strategy Ramsey also suggests is offering to help the buyer find a competitor that may serve them better.
“Be willing to do what’s right for the customer and be sure to diffuse the situation,” he advises. Whatever strategy seems most appropriate, Ramsey says, the key is “baking” the review process into your business operations.
Meanwhile, marketing expert Mike Blumenthal suggests a simple approach to review management:
- Strive for reviews — you cannot change what you cannot measure.
- Get an attractive website and build credibility with testimonials.
- “Pepper” good reviews throughout your website.
In the event of a bad review, Blumenthal advises:
- Small business owners need to “own the issue.”
- Offer a mature, empathetic response.
- Do what it takes to correct the problem. “Make it right.”
Remember Bad Reviews Don’t Have to be a Bad Thing
In fact, Blumenthal says negative reviews don’t always have to be a bad thing. They can be helpful to a small business in the long run.
“There’s usually a positive in every negative review,” Blumenthal said in a recent interview with Small Business Trends.
Negative reviews can help qualify customers because “a noisy restaurant wants noisy diners,” Blumenthal explains.
They also afford a business owner an opportunity to respond in a mature way, which will be seen by future customers. How a bad review is handled can impress customers.
He said the public perceives a business with all five-star reviews as something that may be too good to be true. However, he notes, 80 percent of people read and believe reviews written by strangers.
“Do not fear a bad review but change your frame of reference,” Blumenthal says.
Blumenthal believes in the power of good testimonials. And he says businesses can work to find these online.
In the end, though, Blumenthal believes managing your business’s reputation online requires an ongoing effort.
“It requires a consistent process either on your own or using an outside source, and you’ll get good reviews,” he adds. “But consistency is the key.”