For small businesses, online reviews can be a very scary thing. Though they are useful tools for consumers, they also give customers the power to take down a brand. Even just one bad review can cast a shadow over your reputation and deter potential clients.
It might feel like you have no control over what is said about your brand online, but you do have the opportunity to display your excellent customer service and diffuse the effects of any inflammatory comments. Keep these steps in mind when you come across a bad online review of your business:
- Prevention is better than cure. It might seem obvious, but the best way to prevent bad online reviews is to prevent bad customer experiences from happening. If you are aware of a client who is particularly unhappy, do everything you can to rectify the situation before they take their frustration online.
- Set a Google Alert for your business. If things are being said about your company online, you’ll be notified right away.
- Contact the review site. If you come across a bad review that is factually incorrect, it’s worth it to contact the site and ask if they will remove it. Most won’t unless you have hard proof that the customer’s claim is wrong.
- Realize the difference between a claim that is factually incorrect and an opinion that you don’t agree with. It’s easy to feel defensive about the business that you built, but whether or not you agree with the customer’s complaint, they have a right to be heard.
- Decide if you’re going to deal with the issue publicly or privately. This is a personal choice, but responding to the customer in the same forum allows you to display your excellent customer service.
- ALWAYS remain calm. It’s never a good idea to respond with anger or attempt to argue with a bad review. If you start an argument, people who see the site will automatically side with the customer, making your business look even worse. It might be difficult, but you must respond in a respectful and professional manner.
- Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Though the issue might seem incredibly minor to you, it is clearly a big deal for the reviewer. Don’t disregard the complaint just because you have different priorities.
- Own up to specific mistakes. Did you overbook your services and fail to meet your promised delivery date? Own up to it. While excuses will make you look unprofessional, a brief explanation and admission of your error will show that you’re taking steps to improve your service.
- Have a system of response in place. In case you would have to deal with multiple less-than-great reviews, have a company-wide policy for responses. Consistency and efficiency are key.
- Encourage positive reviews from satisfied customers. This does not mean begging people to write things that will make you look good. If someone is particularly pleased with your service, simply say, “We love getting feedback from our customers, so we always appreciate online reviews of our business.”
- Whatever you do, DO NOT post fake reviews. Most review sites have software in place that tracks businesses who write fake reviews for themselves. You will get caught. You will look stupid.
- See the silver lining. A bad review, devastating as it may be, also adds some authenticity to your business. Companies with perfect 5-star ratings can come across as too good to be true. See the situation as the perfect opportunity to show off your company’s excellent customer service.