How to Deal With Online Reviews

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Let’s face it, online reviews are a staple now. Often times, if you Google a storefront business, apartment rental company, or service industry company, the first page is bound to turn up review results. Be it from Google Places, Yelp, Apartment Ratings or others, people are taking the recommendations of others to judge your business. What previously would have been only local word of mouth is now quite possibly the first thing prospective customers will see representing your business. If someone searches “Your business name reviews,” it is highly likely that the reviews will even show up before your own website’s listing in the results, depending on the depth of your SEO. If you fall into the category of a company that has a customer base of raving fans, this will certainly only help you. If you are a company that has inadvertently provided poor experiences to some very vocal customers, this could potentially stave off new customers, even if those few instances do not reflect the typical experience of your customers. So what do you do? You make your presence known and join in that conversation! Let’s talk tips on responding to online reviews. The slow, painful decline from red to yellow: 

Responding to bad reviews

Don’t over react! How you handle bad reviews and criticism is crucial, but is also the toughest part. Someone is criticizing your life’s work, your passion, your well-thought business practices, and that can hurt. You can NOT, however, get into a screaming match online. If you can’t step back and look at the situation objectively, get someone else to handle the responses for you. This is especially important if the response has to be public (which is the case for all Google Places reviews and some user-designated Yelp reviews). Arguing online never gets anyone to a better place, EVER. You WILL indefinitely come out looking like the bad guy. Remember, people are checking these reviews because they aren’t familiar with your business, and they will inevitably side with other customers. Humble yourself, thank the customer for visiting and reviewing, and try to reel them back in. With the ability to post reviews via mobile devices, they may have hastily posted a review in the heat of the moment. Perhaps with some reflection and your calm response, they may change or remove their review entirely. Even if they don’t, you’ve shown that you care enough to make the effort, and that goes a long way in the eyes of someone who knows nothing about your business.

Responding to good reviews

Don’t ignore them! Sure, you may be thinking, “It’s already good, why do I need to do anything else?” This is where many business owners go wrong. These good reviewers are your fan club, your brand advocates, and they ought to be commended. They didn’t have to go online and tell everyone how great of an experience they had. In fact, many people don’t. Many simply expect to have good experiences and don’t feel the need to boast about them. So few businesses respond to good reviews that people are shocked when you do. Literally. I’ve seen so many people come back with “Wow. It’s so awesome to see a business owner who actually cares what people think. I’ll definitely be back now!” And that, my friends, is good old fashioned loyalty. Most reviewers just want to be heard, so stroke that ego a little. It can pay off.

Compensation

Don’t make it your first line of defense! Often times, the knee jerk reaction to bad reviews is to give something for free. I say don’t do this unless you absolutely have to. Refer back to two things I just mentioned.

1. People sometimes write reviews in the heat of the moment.

2. People often just want to be heard.

Responding to a negative review and asking the customer to give you another opportunity to WOW them can sometimes be enough to encourage another chance. Feel customers out. After an initial response, if they are still hesitant, then perhaps offer something. However, if in their review they specifically state that they would never come back to this establishment or never do business with you again, you may try upping the ante right off the bat. Most importantly, ask the customer to revise their review to reflect their new experience if they do in fact give you a second chance.

Working with Yelp’s filtering system

It’s like trying to find sasquatch riding a unicorn over a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’ve yet to meet anyone who completely understands the secret sauce to Yelp’s filtration system. Some reviews that get filtered are obvious. Things like “posted by the business owner” or “violates terms” make sense. Sometimes, however, completely legitimate reviews from completely legitimate customers get filtered, and it sometimes seems the reason is lack of engagement with Yelp itself. There’s a great article here that offers up some tips on ways to potentially get around Yelp’s system and get some of the good reviews to be unfiltered. The thing about filtered reviews is that they don’t count toward your overall rating. If you have 2 good reviews and 10 terrible reviews showing up, with 8 more good reviews filtered, your rating is awful, even though you have 8 completely legitimate customers who gave you great reviews.

The most important part is that you are engaging with your customers and being part of the conversation. Be sure that you’ve claimed your business on Yelp and Google Places, engage users online and encourage those that visit you or use your services to give you a review. People are going to talk about your business, so you might as well be part of the conversation. The downside is that this can be very time consuming. At Main Street Hub, we can help you with online reviews and work to get your online reputation back to where it belongs by responding to reviews and working to help you get filtered reviews to show up. This is just one of the services that we offer. Check out our website for more information. Right now, U.S businesses only.


What are your experiences with online reviews? Any horror or success stories? Anything else you’d add to the list above? Chime in below!

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About Rob Zaleski

Rob Zaleski is a Social Media Community Manager at Main Street Hub, helping small and local businesses manage their online presence. You can follow him on Twitter at @robzie81.