While you can never stop dissatisfied customers from posting bad reviews, there are things you can do in response to them. Your first step is to become active in the social space – which covers everything from your Google Places and Yelp listing to Facebook and Twitter. In today’s 24/7 digital world, you can’t afford to be out of the loop in the conversation going on about you. You need to get proactive and make it a business priority to have policies, processes and staff training to deal with the social media world.
At stake is your presence and reputation in the place that nearly 90% of consumers head to shop around before driving to a physical place of business – the web. Overwhelmingly people start their purchasing journey on the web, and most of them read online reviews, comments and ratings of businesses, posted by people like themselves.
You don’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – a passive target of bad reviews. This article touches on steps you can take to reduce and mitigate fallout from bad reviews:
1) Monitor what people are saying about you.
Every business needs to have someone monitoring social media, keeping track of mentions, likes, praise and complaints. The internet is your new billboard, and you need to know when it’s being defaced by rotten eggs and tomatoes. You should never be uninformed about a bad review that’s festering out there, chasing away potential customers. You need to be on important social media/review sites, and claim your business listing account on those sites that allow it.
2) Triage your reviews.
You have a number of options regarding any review, including:
- Investigating the claims of the reviewer, and take action when warranted.
- Responding to the review (see note below)
- Leaving it alone if it’s a very old review, and isn’t visible on the first page. It’s not wise to draw attention to a review by responding to something very old – on some boards, this could actually pull a bad review back to the top, as it’s an update.
- Complaining to the review site, if it is a clear violation of the site’s terms of service. It’s extremely difficult to get review sites to remove posts, but we’ve been successful with those making blatant personal attacks, those based on race, religion, etc., or those showing a clear pattern of harassment.
- Taking legal action against the poster. This is an expensive and tough case to make, but it is an option.
Many companies spend time and money trying to get feedback from customers. Even if they hurt, online reviews can provide valuable information. This is especially true for complaints about customer service, which sparks the bulk of complaints among our clients. In a significant number of cases, our monitoring of social media has turned up valid customer service problems that came as news to the business owner. This information has led to changes in company policies and procedures, staff training, and even dismissal in a few cases. And when a company admits the problem and notes the changes, it actually boosts its online reputation.
4 ) Respond to reviews – positively
One of the strongest motivators for people who post reviews is a feeling of being patronized, disrespected or dismissed by the staff at a business. They feel as if no one cares, or is listening to them. Online, though, they have power – power to hurt your business, or power to be heard by others who want to read about your business from a peer. It is vital that you take the time and effort to show that you are listening to them. This not only affects the offended customer, but also sends the message to those who read the reviews that your business does listen to customers and cares about their complaints. If you have taken steps to address a problem, say so, and thank the customer for bringing it to your attention. If you don’t have a solution to their complaint, thank them for their comments, and encourage them to contact you (or your representative) to discuss the issue. Always identify yourself as the business representative, either in the post, or by replying as the business owner through your listings or review site accounts.
5) Encourage good reviews.
As mentioned earlier in this series, dissatisfied people are much more likely to post reviews than happy people. Angry customers are looking for a way to lash out, while happy customers are just happy with good service. It’s important to invite customers to rate you – it’s another way to reinforce the idea that you care what they think about you. This can be done a number of ways, from onsite rating/comment forms to website links directly to the your listing page on Google, Yelp, Yahoo or City Search, to companies that specialize in streamlining the processing of customer reviews.
6) Head off bad reviews.
The most important time to squelch a bad review is before the customer leaves the business. The checkout process should include a conversation about the customer’s satisfaction. If there are signs of dissatisfaction, you should give the customer an opportunity to discuss problems, even with a manager. Even if they still leave unhappy, the fact that you took time to discuss the issue may head off the feeling of voicelessness that motivates many bad reviews.