We all love to get feedback and online reviews are a great way to get a check on how we're doing. This great article on Mashable contends that not checking out how your small business is perceived on line is "just plain lazy." And I agree.
There are so many places your business can be reviewed online - Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn - the list is long and growing. If you're doing something right (or seriously wrong), you're sure to have at least a few reviews out there.
People are more likely to post online reviews in extreme cases -- either they've had a really great experience, or something went horribly wrong. A waitress was having a bad day; a hotel room smelled like smoke; a project didn't flow the way it should have. Whatever the reason, now you've got a negative review out there and you can't do anything about it.
Here are some tips to handling negative reviews so that you can turn them into positive feedback in the future.
1. Sign up for Google alerts. Now. Get alerts for you company name, your name, and if you're brave or interested, your competitors. Start watching what's published out there about you and your industry. You can't address issues if you don't know they're happening.
2. Don't respond in knee-jerk mode. If you happen upon a negative review, don't respond immediately with snappy retorts. Let it settle in and find a good approach. Whatever you do, don't tell future customers about your negative reviews and complain about their inaccuracy, especially if you haven't yet fixed the problem.
3. Look at each review as a chance to get it right. Reviews are invaluable feedback that you would never get by simply asking. Use that information to fix what's wrong. Then, respond to negative reviews (some sites let you respond as the business owner directly to the reviews) with a detailed list of how you addressed the issue.
4. Ask for another chance. If you can identify the customer, see if he or she will give you the opportunity to resolve the issue offline, then ask them to update their review. Youll find when you satisfy a previously unhappy customer youll be creating one of your strongest advocates.
5. Do nothing. We can't always be perfect and that's okay. Sometimes attempts to fight back simply fuel the fire and can turn a small blip into a big problem. Just let it go but be sure to get as many good reviews as possible to balance the opinions.
6. Get more good reviews. Encourage your customers to post reviews on the above mentioned sites. I've seen tour groups give out a card at the end of the tour asking for TripAdvisor reviews; restaurants who ask for Yelp, Google or UrbanSpoon reviews after a customer finishes dining. Don't be afraid to ask; many satisfied customers are happy to share their experience online.
7. Don't sweat it! If the reviews are piling up, you have some work to do. Take them seriously. But if you're finding one or two among a pile of happiness, then let it roll off your shoulders. Consider an appropriate response but don't stew over it. Move forward and do the best you can to remedy the problems and get more good reviews.
8. Most importantly, PAY ATTENTION. Regularly check out your listings on the sites mentioned in this post and make sure you know what's going on with your brand image; how people feel about you. As a small businesses owner, its your responsibility to use these bits of public information to build relationships, improve customer service and enhance your products.
Just how significant are bad reviews for the future of our businesses? Theyre significant, but not for the reasons we immediately think. They make us aware of and provide us with an opportunity to fix genuine problems and turn opponents into staunch allies. Unjustly negative reviews are often exposed as petty and have little sway with intelligent consumers, and in the case of outright illegal reviews you generally have a remedial process to get them removed.
The number one rule when responding to all criticism, even the negative type, is to stay positive. Adding more negativity to the conversation by letting yourself be drawn into a fight with a customer or user will only reflect poorly on your business.