How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Most business owners tend to pull up their reviews with “no whammies no whammies no whammies” buzzing in their head. Everyone knows word-of-mouth advertising is still the best, but today’s word of mouth has many mouths talking on sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google, etc. It is in this arena where small businesses battle their competition. So, having assessed that reviews are a significant part of the way your company does business; lets look at some proper techniques for addressing that 1-star review you just got.

Read the review several times. Make sure you fully understand exactly what is being said and why. Read slowly as the business owner the first time, then read it as if you were a consumer considering your business.

Take time to cool off. Treat this like a game of poker. It’s your move now. To take these next steps, you need to be calm.

Determine if a response is necessary. What if this review is based on absurd expectations? Future customers may roll their eyes and move on to the next review to find something they can relate to. A mistake some make is responding that they will improve on something they shouldn’t: Imagine if Starbucks promised to make its coffee less hot for you next time.

Respond to the right audience. The review has been written in pen. There’s no erasing it. It lives on in the Internet forever. Address the response to the person who left it, but also geared towards your future audience. Make sure you sincerely thank them for bashing your company, apologize, and talk about improvement: “Thank you for your feedback, we’re sorry your expectations were not met on this day, we take all reviews seriously, and will use this information to make sure such we improve.” Simple is best. Don’t try to bribe them with gift certificates, they’ve moved on and so have you.

It’s not all bad. Sometimes it takes that bad review to validate your good reviews. Be afraid of the company that has more reviews than they should with close to 100 percent being positive. Typically that is a mechanical turk, and as David Petraeus is learning, it all shakes out in the laundry. As long as the arrow is pointed up, consumers will make the right decision.

Thankfully, McDonald’s stopped counting how many customers it’s pleased over the years. It would be obscene posting “trillions of hamburgers sold” outside each restaurant, and would anyone really care anyway?

Jon Porter is the owner/operator of Chicago Pizza Tours, the first bus-guided tour of culturally significant and neighborhood pizzerias in Chicago.

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