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About the author: Chris Campbell is the CEO of Review Trackers, a simple yet powerful online review monitoring platform for local businesses.
You run your business brilliantly. It doesn’t matter. Someone somewhere is going to give you a bad review. And that review is likely going to end up on the Internet.
I’m not being cynical. That’s just the way it works: you can’t please everybody. There’ll always be a customer who isn’t happy. And in the age when consumers can also quickly become online critics, unhappiness can lead one to post bad reviews of your business on popular online review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, and Foursquare, among others.
This is why it’s so important to have a plan in place for handling bad reviews – because, sooner or later, they’re going to happen. Here’s what you can do to minimize the impact of these reviews, and to keep your online reputation as spotless as possible.
Respond quickly. If you ignore a negative review and let the fire spread, you risk losing potential customers who are on the Internet to check out what other people are saying about you. That’s why it’s so important to respond in a timely manner.
You can do it by writing out a public reply to the review – so others can see that you’re paying attention to feedback and trying to solve customer problems. Or you can do it by responding privately (by phone, direct message, or E-mail) to your online critic, who is likely to edit the review or write some positive follow-up if and when you manage to turn his or her frown into a smile.
Don’t lose your cool. Getting a bad review can feel like a punch in the gut, especially if you’re very passionate about what you do. However, it’s important to keep this passion under control and not let your emotions get the best of you. You can’t get involved in an online catfight.
After all, the Internet is not written in pencil; it’s written in ink. You don’t want to say something that you’ll regret later on, and you definitely don’t want to do something that will hurt your reputation even more. So relax, breathe in and out, say “Goosfraba!”, and respond as politely, professionally, and patiently as possible.
Tune in. If your customers are going online to say what they think about your business, you’ve got to be able to find them. You’ve got to listen in. This is particularly critical for business owners with multiple business or store locations. By monitoring online reviews, you can put yourself in a great position to engage with, listen in, and respond to your customers online.
Say thank you. It’s important to recognize the trouble that a customer took to write and post feedback (negative or positive) on an online reviews aggregator like Yelp or TripAdvisor. So say thank you. I promise: you’ll lose nothing by doing it.
The most successful businesses always listen to and value what their customers have to say. In fact, showing how appreciative you are of constructive comments and unsolicited feedback can go a long way in building trust among your community of existing and potential customers.
Learn from criticism. The great thing about today’s online review sites is that they can serve as a platform for identifying which areas you can improve in, and for figuring out how you can do better.
That’s why I recommend you take a look at online reviewers who actually have valid gripes about their experience with your business. Take their comments in and be as objective as possible about what they’re saying. You’re likely to gain extremely valuable insights along the way, and you’ll learn not to make the kind of mistakes that can damage the reputation of your company.
Don’t respond. Not all bad online reviews merit a response. If an unhappy customer is not being constructive – and is just being incredibly grumpy – don’t waste any more time trying to change his or her mind. You can always trust your own community of happy customers and loyal supporters to see through the hate and stand by your side.