The digital age has been a game changer for business: from online and overseas sales, to virtual shops and even email, American commerce has dramatically altered in the last 20 years. In just the last few years another major change occurred: online reviews through agencies such as Yelp and Google Places.
As long as there have been small businesses, owners have known about the power of word-of-mouth. By some surveys, 85% of business comes from word-of-mouth, it’s just that now “word-of-mouth” no longer spreads between only friends and relations.
Positive reviews and ratings may very well become your bread and butter. Negative reviews can halt or kill business. Given such dramatic possibilities, we’ve compiled this list of 5 steps to removing defamatory and anonymous online reviews.
Steps to Take to Handle Negative Online Reviews
- Step one is preventative: the best solution for negative reviews is to prevent them in the first place by inviting end-of-transaction feedback. As a final action to any online or live transaction, ask customers if they were satisfied with their experience. You may just hear a negative review (and have a chance to rectify it!) before it even occurs. Train your employees to follow the same procedure.
- Step two is to reach out to the customer who left a negative review. Asking for details, and a chance to remedy a situation, may result in the removal of a negative review. Even an anonymous reviewer may be reachable directly through the review site.
- Step three: verify negative online reviews. If you doubt the validity of a negative review, fight back. Big companies like Amazon and Yelp are doing just that on your behalf. Online review sites have verification procedures they can follow, and if your disputed review proves to be false you can get it removed.
- Step four is to contact the individual review site. Even if the negative review is “legitimate,” you can contact the review site and find out procedures for removal or dispute. Review sites can be pretty stringent about criteria for removal, but you may at least be able to post your own response under a negative review to tell “your side of the story.” Give specifics about how a negative situation occurred. Did you have slow delivery of a product because of trouble with the manufacturer? Was there a worker strike? Whatever the circumstances, even if you were “in the wrong” be specific about what occurred and what you did to try to make it right with your customer. Just be sure you stick to the facts and don’t sound defensive. No one wants to hear you whine about how unavoidable circumstances were, or how difficult that particular customer was. Don’t dispute anything that is true; just state your case succinctly.
- Step five you should already be doing, but redouble your efforts–ask for reviews! Most of your customers are probably thrilled with your service–get them to post reviews! One or two negative reviews in a sea of positive reviews will not adversely affect your business. In fact, having at least a few, honest reviews that are not “5 stars” seems more realistic to potential customers–you don’t want to look like a business owner who paid all your friends and family to give you 5-star reviews!
If you follow the above you can turn the tables and get online reviews working for you–generating positive word-of-mouth and marketing to customers you would never find otherwise.