Jeff Bezos says you earn a good one “by trying to do hard things well.”
Warren Buffett says it takes 20 years to build one and five minutes to ruin it.
Richard Branson says your brand name is only as good as it is.
These successful business leaders are each talking about something that is vital to the success of your small business. It is your reputation.
As a small business owner, you work diligently to build your reputation by providing a quality product and personal service. You also promote your business with social media and online, and you use sites such as Yelp, Foursquare, Google, Facebook and Trip Advisor to seek online reviews.
The trouble is that one disgruntled customer can seem to damage everything you have worked to establish. What should you do if a customer posts a negative review about your business?
A bad review does not have to be a disaster. In fact, it can give you the opportunity to make your business even better.
Just as you do with any problem with the running of your business, the first step is to take a deep breath and to keep a clear head. Then follow these steps to try to make the best out of a seemingly bad situation.
Acknowledge the Bad Review
While it may be tempting to ignore a negative comment in the hopes that it will just disappear, that is not the way to win customer loyalty. Addressing it shows your customers that you care about them when you respond to feedback, including both positive and negative comments.
One way to accept the negative feedback is with a brief but friendly and upbeat statement. Thank the customer for the comment and state how you are always working to improve your service.
Avoid an Argument
Don’t turn the review site into a “he said, she said” kind of environment. You may only succeed in scaring other customers away.
Even if you feel the customer is wrong, don’t say so or add in any way to the negative vibe. Instead, state ways you will address that customer’s concerns.
Offer to Make Amends
If the customer is unsatisfied with a product or a service, consider how you can make things right. Offer a replacement or a refund, for example. Even if that customer does not accept your offer, the offer goes a long way as a sign of goodwill to other potential customers.
Learn From It
Bill Gates once, said, “We all need people who give us feedback. That is how we improve.” While it is nice to get positive comments, we can learn more from the negative ones. If you spot a trend in your negative comments, it gives you a good idea of where you need to make some changes in your business.
Share the Information
Don’t hide the comments from your team. Share both positive and negative reviews with your staff so that they see the importance you place on service. Let your team know that customer satisfaction is a top priority and that each person plays a role in achieving that goal.
Encourage Positive Reviews
It is human nature to take the time to write a review when we are either extremely disgruntled or extremely pleased. You can lessen the impact of a bad review or two by encouraging all of your customers to post their comments. These “good” reviews can help lessen the sting of a “bad” review.
Keep it Real
Do not be tempted to pay or otherwise bribe customers to write good reviews. Not only is it dishonest and immoral, but this practice may backfire against you in a big way. Some customer review sites will warn their readers if fake reviews are suspected on a site.
When to Take Further Action
The previous steps will help you in most situations when you have received a less than stellar review. But what if a review is particularly malicious? Consider contacting your business attorney if you feel the comments are defamatory or even libelous.
Most importantly, keep in mind the old adage that you can’t please all the people all the time. In fact, many customers appreciate seeing a bad review here and there, because it gives the entire review process more credibility.
According to a recent survey by Dimensional Research, 90 percent of survey participants said they read reviews online before making a buying decision. Another study by Bright Local found that 88 percent of survey participants said they trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
It’s time to use your online reviews, both good ones and bad ones, to your advantage. When you incorporate a consistent response policy for your online reviews, you show that you are someone who values your customers and takes what they have to say seriously.
Now that’s a reputation worth having.