Many small businesses rely on word-of-mouth referrals to gain new customers and to expose their products or services to a wider audience. Unfortunately, one negative review on a site such as Yelp.com can destroy a business, and it can become next to impossible to attract new customers. Therefore, it is important that a business monitors their online reputation and administer the appropriate steps for reputation management. There is no “quick fix” that will resolve the problem immediately. However, there are several steps that a small business owner can take in order to try and mitigate the negative review.
First, contact the review site and ask them to remove the negative review. Keep in mind that the purpose of the site is to inform the public about positive and negative opinions, and the sites do not arbitrate disputes. As a result, many review sites will not remove the review without good reason. For example, many sites prohibit business owners from writing negative reviews about their competitors. If you can prove that the review came from a competitor, then there is a high chance that the review will be removed.
Many review sites also remove reviews that were left by first-time reviewers. Honesty is vital to the site, and they do not allow “drive-by reviewing” as they want those who are passionate about reviewing to come together. Therefore, don’t be intimidated by someone who is threatening to leave bad reviews in order to receive free service. This sounds ludicrous, but it does occasionally happen.
Next, address each of the negative reviews publicly and in the same forum. If a customer states why he or she is dissatisfied, then follow-up by addressing those concerns in a professional tone. If your company was at fault, then simply apologize and acknowledge your mistake. In fact, many times a negative review can end on a positive note if steps are taken to remedy the situation. Since most review sites allow for comments or follow-up posts, the customer can add additional positive feedback to the review.
Another useful step is to point out the positive. If you have 25 positive reviews and 1 negative, then it would be beneficial to point out how you always strive to exceed the expectations of your customers as corroborated by the 25 positive remarks. This doesn’t remove the negative feedback, but it does draw attention to the fact that many times customers are happy with your product or service.
Finally, it is important to remember that even though you have done everything within your power to satisfy the customer, you can still receive a bad review. It is a good practice not to rely solely on online reviews as your only source of feedback. After each sale or at the completion of service, follow-up with your customers via a phone call or have them fill out a small survey card. Gathering a wide assortment of positive reviews can go a long way in outshining one negative one review and increasing your ability to manage your online reputation.