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Slammed by a Bad Review? Here’s What to Do

December 19th, 2013 by

small business adviceWord of mouth has long been the primary way small businesses land new customers. Happy clients and customers recommend your business to friends; unhappy clients and customers advise people from using your business. Small business advice tends to recommend focusing on word of mouth and person-to-person referrals for business growth. However, today’s online world makes word-of-mouth popular through  online communication in forums, review sites, and social media statuses.

In today’s online world word-of-mouth spreads a lot farther than a customer’s friends. Now, with review sites like Yelp, people can rate and recommend your business to millions of users. People can also write scathing reviews about your business that turns people away from your business. There are good ways and bad ways to respond to negative reviews. Here are a few ways to respond to bad reviews in a productive way.

Respond Politely

When someone says something unpleasant about your business, even if it’s true, it’s easy to become overly defensive. You should respond to negative reviews as politely and tactfully as possible. Give yourself a day or two to calmly reflect on the review before responding. Make sure your response is constructive, well worded, grammatically correct, and on topic. Yelp, one of the leading online review sites, notes that you can make a bad situation worse if your response can be construed as snarky, rude or unpleasant in anyway.

Keep responses in a public forum; don’t respond to the negative reviewer personally. Always thank the person for their insight; treat the negative review as constructive criticism, even if it isn’t. Detail how you are going to remedy the situation that caused the bad review. If its an issue with personnel, promise to cover the criticism in employee training. Make it clear that you’ve read the criticism and are responsive to it; you’ll draw customers back to your business and comfort customers knowing that you take their reviews seriously.

Create Your Own Content

Along with tactfully responding to online criticism, you can minimize the impact negative reviews have on your business by creating your own content, such as a blog, website and social media presence. Content marketing blogs create interest in what your company has to offer. Search engine optimized blogs and websites will appear in search engines higher than review sites, making customers click on your site rather than the review site with a bad review. Bad reviews will be marginalized when other content on your business is available.

Encourage Positive Reviews

Ideally, your business has some customers who are delighted with the services you offer. Ask these customers to write reviews about their experiences in your store. These can either be put on review sites or as testimonials on your website or blog. However, don’t bribe people for these reviews in offering free products for their reviews or testimonials. You want reviews to be genuine. Average users of review sites can recognize the difference between a real review and a fabricated review. Keep it honest; customers will appreciate that.

A bad review might make you want to hide or pretend it’s not there. In the end, the best thing you can do is be proactive and reach out to an unhappy customer to try to set things right.

Amy F is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

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