Someone somewhere is talking about your business right now – for better or worse.
When researching a company, the majority of people tend to believe online feedback — particularly negative reviews even if the information is completely false — as well as the number of stars given and word-of-mouth over anything a business says.
In today’s digitally dependent world, opinion focused websites like Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, and Twitter can influence the behavior of people more than any press conference or news story ever could. Perception is reality.
Surprisingly, it seems many business owners today think online reviews don’t matter or are hesitant to handle them usually because they are afraid of receiving negative reviews or saying the wrong thing. The reality is people are going to leave reviews about your business whether you want them to or not. Businesses should also see reviews as an opportunity to engage with their customers and get honest feedback.
84% of people say they trust online reviews like those found on Amazon as much as they trust recommendations from family and friends.
According to a recent study by the local search and software company BrightLocal, a consumer’s reliance on word-of-mouth in the decision-making process – either from people they know or online consumers they don’t – is a major influencing factor. In fact, 84% of people say they trust online reviews like those found on Amazon as much as they trust recommendations from family and friends. Then consider the revelation that consumers form an opinion about a business faster than ever with 68% developing their thoughts by reading one to six reviews.
A positive reputation is an incredibly powerful tool for a business looking to attract customers. Reviews and star ratings help consumers make decisions faster and with greater confidence than ever before in business history.
The issue is, people who are happy with a company tend to go about their business and not give reviews unless specifically asked or reminded. In fact, BrightLocal found that seven out of 10 consumers will leave a review if asked to do so.
On the flip side, someone who feels they have been wronged, received poor service, or just have nothing better to do usually will take the time to post his or her opinion, sometimes with the deliberate intent of provoking hasty, emotional responses from a business. This can sometimes lead to a disproportionate number of negative reviews about a business and reflect badly on its image, keeping potential customers or clients away.
So then, if 91% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews, how should your business handle negative reviews when received?
#1 – Look Inward
First, the most important thing is to evaluate your business. Is it doing something wrong? Does the complainant have a point? Maybe your product or customer service has been somewhat lousy lately and could use a review itself. Talk with your employees and get their side of the story as well.
Do not automatically get defensive when you see a bad review. Some people have a difficult time expressing themselves through writing and may sound brash but are actually trying to help. Try to understand their feelings, not just the facts. Every business goes through down cycles where things could be done better and this could be an opportunity to rectify any issues. It’s vital that you be able to differentiate between legitimate feedback and trolls. So put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes and see if there is merit to what they say before you launch into DEFCON 1.
#2 – Keep Calm
Ignoring negativity or hiring a reputation management company to erase the posts is an approach some businesses take, but doing that doesn’t make it go away since the person usually has a bone to pick and doesn’t give up easily. If someone is unjustly bashing your business online, approach him or her with an eye toward defusing the situation.
Do not delete or fight a negative review. Answer it in a calm, constructive way that showcases your business as a problem solver but do not let it consume your time. Thank the person for the feedback, offer to correct the issue, and leave it at that. You can even offer to reach out via phone or email for a one-on-one conversation whereas to eliminate a back and forth on review and hedge against additional users joining the conversation. This gives you more credibility and reflects better on your business, often making the other person seem bitter, a “troll,” and in the wrong. Remember, those who remain calm in life are more effective.
#3 – Bury It
If you can’t get away from people who seem to have nothing better to do than make false or inappropriate claims against your business, the best way to get around it is to make content — create, create, create. Fill the internet with content that promotes your business and all the good it does.
Do as much as you can by winning awards, producing articles, making infographics, posting pictures, joining clubs and organizations, getting in the news, etc. Eventually, this will provide a mountain of evidence that balances or overtakes the negative content of the other person. This approach will at least give two sides to the story, along with that incredibly critical third party validation on which businesses thrive. If you aren’t telling your story, someone else is.
Lastly, encourage customers to leave reviews and comments after every interaction in your effort to continually improve. While you may take notice of negative reviews more often, you should always remember to reach out and thank customers for positive reviews. You can even reward them with a future discount, special gift, or even a handwritten note. People love being recognized by the businesses they support and that will often facilitate more goodwill toward your company in the future, including that all-important word-of-mouth. Perception is reality. Help yourself make it a good one.
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