Responding Positively to Negative Reviews

How to Manage What People Are Saying About Your Business Online

There may have been a time when the old adage “All publicity is good publicity” held a kernel of truth. But times have changed. Today, every one of your customers has the power to make or break your success by posting an online review of your business. Websites such as Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, CitySearch and others have grown tremendously in the past few years as consumers look online for recommendations on where to shop, eat, travel and get their hair cut. A bad experience from one disgruntled customer can sway the opinions of future clientele.

There is a plus side: An active, involved community of consumers is one of the best ways to attract new business. In fact, Nielsen’s Global Online Consumer Survey found that 70 percent of consumers trust online reviews when making buying decisions. So it’s important to ask yourself: What are people saying about you online, and how can you manage negative reviews before they impact your business?

Consider the case of one Sarasota deli and catering company, which received a negative 2-star review on Yelp more than a year ago. With no response from the deli owner, and no positive reviews to counter-balance the poor ranking, this small business has been viewed negatively by everyone searching for a lunch spot for the past year, all thanks to one bagel-bashing customer. Here’s how to take control of the situation:

  1. Understand the influence online reviews may have on your business. If you aren’t familiar with review websites, spend an hour or two online to figure out where people are posting reviews and what types of comments they are making about businesses in your industry. It’s free to sign up, and most sites offer free business listings. Your competitors may already be using these sites to their advantage.
  2. Use Edit, Delete, and Owner Response functions. Most review websites allow business owners to respond to criticism. Depending on the circumstance, you can express regret, take responsibility or offer a meaningful explanation for subpar service or a problematic product. Be sure to keep your comments positive and respectful, and never get into an online tit-for-tat, which will only serve to fuel the negative talk.
  3. Use Google Alerts to track what people are saying about you online. This free service from Google lets you sign up for daily or weekly emails that list all online references to your company. Simply scan through the listings to track your online reputation and respond to reviews accordingly.
  4. Take a proactive approach. You can’t beat the popularity of review websites and their impact on your business, so you may as well join in the game. If you have regular customers, ask them to go online and post their thoughts about your product or service. Every positive review helps balance criticisms and will push negative reviews further down the page.

Maintaining a great online reputation is as important nowadays as good word of mouth. With a little time and effort, you can harness the power of online reviews and use them to your advantage.

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