Overcoming Bad Reviews, and Making the Most of Good Reviews

One of the key things that we often run into with clients is dealing with the aftermath of a flood of negative press on Yelp and elsewhere. Many clients are completely unaware that they have negative reviews on Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook, and other sites, because they simply don’t know that customers can create a review page for a business without the business’s say-so or involvement.

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The first thing any business needs to do is to be AWARE of all the venues on which they are reviewed.

A business owner needs to claim their Yelp page, and any other review pages, so that they can manage it and respond to reviews. This also allows them to correct any errors in their location or contact info, which can affect whether their business shows up in local searches on Google and Bing. If you’re unsure how to claim your page, contact the site’s customer service or support team. However, for Yelp, we actually offer step by step instructions on claiming your Yelp page in our article, “Our Guide for Telling Yelp to Shove It.”

Once you’ve claimed existing review pages, you should create review pages on sites where you don’t have a listing yet.

When we’re dealing with local citations, one of the first things we do for our clients is to take care of all their local citations, such as Google Plus, Facebook, Yelp, and so on. This means taking care of the two points mentioned above: claiming pages, and creating them where they don’t already exist. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s worthwhile. It’s why we do it for our clients, and why we did it for our own company.

Okay. So you’ve done all of the above. But now there’s the question of what you should actually do about the reviews your business has gotten. What now?

Business owners should respond to every single negative review. Ignoring a bad review is about as effective as ignoring a stove leaking gas.

There are a few key points that a business owner needs to keep in mind before writing a response to a negative review.

You need to be calm and courteous.

Your response is going to be read by many of the visitors who come across your review page. This is an opportunity to demonstrate to them that you’re level-headed, rational, polite, and an all-around awesome business owner.

Acknowledge the reviewer’s complaints as being genuine.

Don’t dispute their claims, unless you have some sort of concrete evidence that the reviewer is wrong about something (and it’s very rare to have this kind of evidence). Posting a rebuttal simply creates a he said-she said situation. Think about the last time you saw an argument in public. Chances are that you didn’t carefully evaluate each person’s rationale–instead, you just wanted to get away from the awkwardness as fast as possible. Starting a debate about a review is pretty much the equivalent of having an argument in public. The only thing that you’ll have definitively proven to onlookers is that you’re argumentative, and that avoiding you is probably a good idea. (As anyone who remembers the social media kerfuffle that the now-defunct Amy’s Baking Company kicked off a couple years ago.) If you’re at a loss as to what to say or what tone to adopt, stop and think to yourself, “What would Mr. Rogers do?” It may sound silly, that image should immediately put you in the appropriate mental space for handling the situation. Don’t overdo it and be nauseatingly saccharine. But if you can’t picture Mr. Rogers saying it, then you probably shouldn’t say it either.

Once you’ve acknowledged the customer’s complaint, demonstrate your good customer service skills.

Express your regrets about their poor experience, and give the customer a means of contacting you directly to deal with the situation. Even if they don’t contact you, you’re showing other potential customers that you pay attention, and that you care about your customers’ concerns. And if the complainant DOES contact you, this gives you a chance to regain them as a customer. If you do an especially good job of remedying the situation, you may even be able to get them to update their review (which is possible on Yelp). After resolving their issues, you might prompt them with something like, “If you feel that we’ve resolved the situation to your satisfaction, we could greatly appreciate it if you could update your review and mention that we dealt with the problem. We’re not asking you to change your review score [though of course that would be great, and you’re planting the idea without being demanding about it]. We would just appreciate it if you described the rest of your experience. Of course, that’s entirely up to you. We’re just very glad that we were able to assist you, and hope that we have the opportunity to do so in the future.”

Then, of course, there’s the good reviews. Leveraging these is as important as dealing with bad reviews.

The bonus for you is that this part of the process will make you feel much more motivated and energized. There are few things more rewarding than seeing people speak well of your efforts. A few things that you can do to get the maximum benefit from positive reviews include:

Make note of positive reviews on your website and social media pages.

Provide links to your various review pages, and invite visitors to check them out. On social media, it gives you an excuse to directly engage with your audience, even if you don’t have a new blog post to mention or a discount to announce. It can be something like, “Happy Monday everybody! We hope you all had a good weekend, and we wanted to send a shout-out to Joebob84 for their kind review [insert link to review here] on Yelp. Thank you so much, and we hope that everyone has a good week! And now, here’s a bunch of pictures of adorable kittens.”

Just as you respond on review sites to every bad review, you should respond to every good review.

Thank the reviewer by name (or their user name, anyway), and say something positive about the experience you had with that customer. Personalizing it demonstrates your attention to detail. If you like, you can even have the employee who served them write the respond (“Hi, this is Greg, I helped you on [insert date]. Thank you so much for the kind words…”), or you can let the reviewer know who it was that helped them, and say that you’ll let the employee know that they did a great job. Customers are starting to pay more attention not only to how businesses treat their customers, but also to how they treat their employees. Showing that you have a positive and healthy work environment is a selling point these days.

Don’t offer promotions that violate Yelp’s rules.

As tempting as it can be, DO NOT advertise online or in your store that you’ll give customers some kind of gift or discount in exchange for a positive review. This violates Yelp’s Terms of Service and just about every other review site out there, and gives them an excuse to nullify all of your positive reviews.

On the ToS page linked above, it specifically states, “You agree not to, and will not assist, encourage, or enable others to use the Site to… Violate our Content Guidelines, for example, by… compensating someone or being compensated to write or remove a review.” If a competitor happens to discover that you’re offering promos in exchange for reviews and contacts Yelp, all of that goodwill you’ve built up over the years will be gone in a moment. Don’t kill the golden goose.

Good salesmanship, courtesy, and diligent monitoring of your reviews can help your business in a big way.

Responding to and leveraging reviews, both good and bad, is something that many businesses overlook. But they are incredibly important. You can do a lot for your business by taking a few minutes a couple times a week and going over your new reviews, and responding as described above.

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