Today, online reviews can make or break small businesses. A ton of great reviews can drive a steady stream of customers to your door and unaddressed negative reviews can act like an anchor on your new customer generation. For this blog post we have outlined a 6 step process for dealing with negative reviews – especially in Yelp and Google Places – two of the bigger review websites.
- Stay on top of your reviews – The first step in responding to negative reviews is to be sure you know when they happen. Many of the small businesses that we talk to at ThriveHive don’t stay on top of their reviews or don’t realize that they have existing reviews at all. You should set a recurring reminder on your calendar to check your reviews regularly. This way you will see if anything new has come up with the big review sites like Yelp.
- Take action with negative reviews – If you get a negative review, it’s usually a good idea to try to respond in some way. Some review sites like Yelp allow you to start by sending a reviewer a private message. This is an opportunity to apologize to the customer and potentially explain how the situation has been resolved. Yelp has a great template for responding here: Yelp Blog. In many situations a private message that satisfactorily addresses the negative experience that the customer had will result in the reviewer removing the negative review. If it doesn’t, or if you’re dealing with a review site that doesn’t allow private messages (like Google), it may be a good idea to write a public response. By responding to the negative review you’re letting potential customers know that you’re on top of your customer service.
- Respond quickly – Once a negative review is published, it’s important to act quickly. For one thing, if there is an actual problem that should be addressed with your business you will want to take care of the problem promptly. Additionally, if you plan to respond to the review ,then you want to do it as fast as possible while the reviewer is still thinking about the experience and possibly willing to change the review. If enough time passes, not only has the unaddressed negative review been deterring potential customers, but the reviewer becomes far less likely to remove or modify their review.
- Don’t take it personally – When you’re a small business owner your business is really an extension of you personally so it can be very difficult to read a negative review. Try not to take the review personally and be sure that when you do respond you do so in a calm and non-confrontational way. It is common for people to be harsher on the internet than they would in person and responding to over the top criticism too aggressively will only make things worse. Do your best to respond in a professional way that will deescalate the situation rather than escalating it further.
- Make sure people know where to review you – Keeping people aware of where they can go to review your business is a good way of ensuring that you are getting a constant flow of reviews that accurately represent your business. If you don’t you could end up with just a couple non-standard bad customer experiences dominating your reviews. Including a link to your Yelp or Google listing on your website and in your email communication is a good way to nudge people to review your business if they have something to share.
- Stay honest – As hard as review sites try to eliminate spam and false reviews, they cannot catch everything. Don’t be tempted to enlist your friends to put together false reviews on your behalf. Even if they don’t get caught today, they might get caught in the future and you degrade the entire reason why review sites add value. If you follow best practices and give it a little time, you’ll be able to generate legitimate positive reviews for your business.