6 Ways to Handle Negative Reviews Online
As a small business, you rely heavily on referrals and your local community to stay in business. It's great that now people are able to find out all about your company through the web, but that also comes at a price. People don't care so much about how great your company is, they search for areas in which past customers have had issues using your services. Customers will use review websites, such as Yelp, to help find out the experiences others have had with you. The problem with this logic is that you are only getting the extreme ends of the spectrum. The majority of people will only leave customer feedback if they are unhappy with the services and take their frusteration out in a review that makes your company completely inept, which of course just isn't true! For us small business, there are a few things we can do to try to handle these types of situations. Below, find 6 ways to handle negative online reviews, posted originally by Marica Turner at American Express Open Forum. Because this is a long post, I have tried to cut down some of the content so if you want to read the original article posting, click here.
1. Contact the review site
As soon as you discover the bad reviews, reach out to the review site, such as Yelp, to see if they will consider removing the post. If you can prove that it's a fake review, you will have more success than if it's just a bad review you received from a real person. (Yelp generally prohibits business owners from writing negative reviews of their competitors' businesses.)
Successfully convincing a review site to remove a negative comment is a challenge. Deanna Yick, spokesperson for Google Places, another one of the most popular review sites, explains that, “Reviews are a forum for users to share both positive and negative opinions. We do not arbitrate disputes and more often than not, we leave the review up.”
If you have no luck in getting a negative post removed from a review site, there are other steps you can take.
2. Join the conversation
If you are unable to get the posts removed, try responding to each of the reviews publicly, addressing the issues while maintaining a professional tone. You can also choose to respond privately, but doing that will not allow potential clients to here your side of the story.
Craig Jooste, owner of the Seattle-based painting franchise 1-888-WOW-1DAY, also experienced a few bad reviews, and deservedly so, he says, following a disastrous Groupon experiment that overloaded his employees. The result was employees being rushed and late for in-home quotes that had been booked back-to-back. One customer quickly took to Yelp to comment on the company's scheduling issues, writing, “WOW, what a disappointment.”
In his case, Jooste apologized for making the customer wait and acknowledged the company’s missteps. He even offered to complete the painting project in order to make up for his company's unsatisfactory service. His efforts paid off: After completing the work, the customer updated his review from one star to four and complimented the company for delivering quality service.
Online reviews are not set in stone and can always be updated by the reviewer, another reason to respond to any posted reviews—whether positive or negative.
3. Highlight the positive
Review sites like Yelp run each submitted review through an algorithm designed to determine its legitimacy before posting it live on the site. Reviews deemed suspect may be hidden from the public in the “Filtered" reviews section at the bottom of each page, and even legitimate reviews that fail to clear the filter will not appear on the company’s page.
If you have high ratings stuck in the "Filtered" section, try pointing this out to prospects by giving links to them in your blog or maybe even have some reviews listed on your website that highlight the services others have given negative feedback towards.
4. Encourage positive reviews
Although review sites don't like that you ask for reviews, sending out a friendly reminder to your customers that they can rate you on Yelp or on other review sites, might initiate some high rated reviews. Look to develop more reviews on sites like CitySearch, Judy’s Book and Angie’s List.
5. Develop a strategy for responding to threats
With online review sites providing a modern-day version of word-of-mouth marketing, each review can be either helpful or damaging to a business. Recognizing the power a review now wields, some customers try to blackmail business owners into providing free services.
One of Jooste's customers did just that, threatening to post negative reviews unless he did some painting for her for free. He told her, “I don’t play that game,” and she “went crazy with bad reviews,” he says. He considered taking her to court but decided it made more business sense to acquiesce and do what she wanted, figuring it would cost him less time and money in the long run. In exchange for the free service, she removed the negative reviews. “It killed me to do it,” he admits, but it was a business decision he felt was in the company’s best interests.
6. Familiarize yourself with the cultlure of online review sites
The reality is, you can do everything right and yet still receive a negative review. It all depends on the customer’s expectations; they are either met or they're not.
Online reviews should not be your only method for receiving customer feedback. Taking a few minutes to follow up by phone after the completion of a job or a sale can help head off unflattering reviews and provide an opportunity to satisfy frustrated clients before their feedback goes public.