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July 23, 2014

How to handle bad online reviews

Sooner or later, all businesses receive negative publicity

by Wayne Croswell

Does your business have bad online reviews? Do you care? You probably do, and yes, you should care. Virtually every business will eventually receive some bad online reviews from its customers. It’s practically impossible to satisfy all your customers all of the time.

Consumers are “social media” junkies. They thrive on posting the good, the bad, and the ugly in their lives — day-in and day-out. Do you know there are over 85 social media sites consumers can pick from to tell their story?

Why is a good online reputation important?

• 87% of consumers say positive reviews online have reinforced their decision to purchase a product or service recommended to them.

• One negative online customer review can cost a company about 30 customers.

• 80% of consumers say negative reviews online have made them change their mind about purchasing a product or service recommended to them.

• Each additional Star rating on Yelp or Google can equate to a 5% to 9% increase in business revenue.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow when a bad review is posted online about your business.

1. Do your best to determine if the review is legitimate. I don’t mean determining if the review is accurate. I mean determine if it’s from a legitimate customer. If you believe it’s from a non-legitimate source, such as a competitor, you should contact the review site itself and request the review to be removed based on the premise it is not from a legitimate reviewer. Information on how to contact them can be found directly on their website.

2. Don’t post fake reviews anywhere. Yelp has no problem punishing businesses they find posting fake reviews. They post a warning message right on your business listing informing consumers that you have been found posting fake reviews. It will have a negative impact on your reputation.

3. Don’t call out a negative reviewer publicly. Your first inclination is to defend your reputation; resist the temptation. Not only will you look like the bad guy, you subject your business to the many review fans piling on and defending the negative reviewer — magnifying the original negative review. In fact, the negative publicity you may receive from your response could be worse than the impact of the original negative review.

4. Do post a brief comment on the negative review that shows you are concerned with the bad experience and want to work directly with the customer to resolve it to their satisfaction. Less is more. If you need help in properly wording your responses, seek advice from the experts. You don’t want to add fuel to the fire by posting the wrong message.

5. Do address the negative review personally and with care. The sooner you can address it, the better. Reviews that are handled quickly and properly can cause the reviewer to modify or repost their positive experience with your business.

6. Do have a formal process in place to prevent negative reviews from occurring in the first place. Empower your staff to handle negative situations when they occur.

7. Do treat every customer as a potential online reviewer and make sure customer satisfaction and online reputations are top priorities with every one of your staff. By asking customers for feedback from each occurrence of service, you give yourself the opportunity to be proactive in addressing negative experiences before it is too late. Take the process off-line by communicating directly and privately with the customer.

Take your online reputation seriously and do what you can to promote positive online reviews from your customers. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when you get bad online reviews. Most importantly, it’s a matter of how you handle them.    ■

As CEO and president of WECnology LLC (www.wecnology.com), Wayne Croswell is a “complimentary technology advisor” for independent tire dealers. Croswell can be reached at (603) 249-5530 or [email protected].

For more articles by Wayne Croswell, see:

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'Just the facts, ma'am' -- CARFAX launches an automotive service site

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