Negative online reviews may be hard for small businesses to avoid — even companies with many happy customers can get panned. Marketing consultants, who help companies keep a positive image, say owners should never ignore a bad review, and instead use their best customer service skills to mitigate the damage:
Some tips for dealing with negative reviews:
•Expect that at some point, you’re going to get a bad review. “Somebody’s bound to have a negative experience,” said Ryan Goff, chief marketing officer with MGH, a marketing firm. “Accepting that affects how you deal with the customer.”
• Consider negative reviews as marketing information — the feedback tells you that something about your product or service needs to be changed. And by responding to bad reviews and trying to resolve the problem, a company shows prospective customers that it would be responsive to their needs. “They watch us and know that we’re going to take care of issues and not leave customers hanging,” said Angie Stocklin, co-founder of Readers.com, an online seller of reading glasses.
Some owners also welcome occasional less-than-stellar reviews because some people become suspicious when they see only glowing reviews and think they’re fake.
• Always respond to the unhappy customer on the review site and encourage them to contact you by phone or email to try to resolve the situation offline. If they contact you and you’re able to agree on a resolution and the customer is satisfied, ask them to amend or delete the review. If they’re still unhappy, move on, said Rex Kimball, owner of marketing firm Mirex Marketing. “Sometimes customers just can’t be satisfied and other rational people will recognize that,” Kimball said.
• Be proactive about your online reputation. Before a customer leaves your restaurant, store or other business, ask for feedback, Kimball said. If it’s good, ask them to post an online review.
• If a review is libelous or false, contact the review site and ask them to investigate it. You may also want to talk to your attorney, Kimball says.
Joyce M. Rosenberg is an Associated Press writer.