For many small and local businesses who know the importance of a positive online reputation, worrying about getting a bad review can cause sleepless nights. Businesses with few reviews are particularly at risk of suffering from a poor review without a larger collection of positive reviews to balance out the ratings.

From doctor offices to beauty salons, customers are relying heavily on the information found in online searches to make their purchasing decisions. Laptops, tablets and smartphones let consumers research and comparison shop at anytime and from anywhere. At home, on the road, or in the parking lot, online reviews now show up high in local internet search results, influencing your pool of prospective customers, and presenting new benefits and challenges for businesses.

80 percent of consumers change their minds

5 Ways to Find the Good in Bad Reviews

Bad reviews can happen to even the best businesses but as with all dark clouds, there is a silver lining. When negative reviews show up online you have an urgent opportunity to reverse the impact of the review. A sincere and empathetic response coupled with an honest effort to “make it right” can do a lot more good, and carries more weight, than the negative weight of one bad review.

MARKET RESEARCH:  Consider reviews as free market research as they gauge the public’s level of satisfaction with your business and highlight weaknesses in your service, product and strategies.  Sure, your business is great, but it could be better.  Negative reviews give you the opportunity to fix processes, products and staffing you may have never known were problems.  Use this information to take an objective look at recurring statements by your customers so patterns can be identified.  In what areas can improvements be made?  What things are positively impacting customers and can you spread or amply that affect?

VALIDATION OF GOOD REVIEWS:  Your customers are increasingly internet savvy and know that fake reviews are out there.  Dozens of perfect and five star reviews can give the impression of ringing false or even worse, paid for.  A lower review mixed in with great reviews lets prospective customers know that real people are giving their real opinions and they can more trust that the reviews are well rounded and honest.  The combination of a not-so-stellar review and your fast and well-crafted response shows transparency, a willingness to work for your customer’s satisfaction, and lends credibility to other reviews.

87 percent review confirmed decision

SHOW YOUR HUMAN SIDE:  Responding compassionately and professionally to negative reviews gives your business a time to shine.  Review sites are heavily one-sided as they provide the very detailed opinions of consumers but only the basic location and contact information of the business.  By appropriately responding to reviews you can show the human side of your business, giving you an advantage over the other businesses listed in your category.  This can be the decider when a consumer is choosing between two very alike business listings with comparable reviews.

ADDRESS MISCONCEPTIONS:  If there are any misconceptions about your business, responding to a negative review presents an opportunity to clear things up.  For example: Your dental clinic is called Free World Dentistry, but a customer complained online that despite the implications in the business name, none of your services are free.  Explaining that your clinic’s name does not signify free services for local clients but rather represents your commitment to providing and supporting free dental care in impoverished nations around the world just has the power to give a two-star review into a five-star power in the eyes of the reader.  If people are complaining about how you should do things differently don’t miss this opportunity to explain why the way you are doing things is the best way and how it benefits the customer.

warren buffet 5 minute reputation quote

CONNECT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS:  Responding to a bad review online gives you a unique opportunity to ask for repeat business.  In an effort to pacify a disgruntled customer some business owners might jump to offer a refund or gift certificate when another less costly strategy could be more effective.  To show a genuine concern for your customer and their experience ask the reviewer to come back to your business at their convenience and ask to speak to the owner.  This tactic avoids setting an online precedence of freebies for bad reviews, it shows a sincere interest in connecting with your customers, and it provides the opportunity to give a sincere face-to-face apology while you find out how you can make things better for this one customer.

The truth is you can’t please everyone all the time but you can showcase your efforts to provide the best service and the best product.  In the long run, your work in monitoring and responding to reviews will offset the damage caused by a negative review.

Learn more about online reputation management and steps you can take to better position your business by subscribing to the ReputationLoop.com blog.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.