How to Handle Negative Online Reviews About Your Business

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on January 3, 2012
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Customers like to talk about the things they’ve bought. Positive reviews can propel your business, providing excellent word-of-mouth marketing. What restaurant owner doesn’t love getting a five-star review on Yelp? But negative reviews of your products or services, however, can hurt sales — even when the critique is inaccurate.

Here’s how to deal with the negative feedback in a positive way.

Be proactive with customer problems as they occur. In many cases, customers complain on public forums only after unsuccessfully reaching out to the business owner directly for assistance. Make sure that you stay on top of any potential problems as they occur. If you see that a diner at your restaurant barely touched his entree, ask whether he’d like a complimentary substitute or a gift card. Otherwise, you may find a scathing review of your cold lasagna on TripAdvisor a few days later.

Search the internet for mentions of your company. While customers may be most likely to post reviews on big sites like Yelp, they may also write reviews on their own blogs or discuss your company on social-networking platforms like Twitter. Set up a Google Alert to track any mentions of your company. Consider subscribing to a brand-monitoring service, such as Trackur or Radian6, for more in-depth search results that show you what people are saying about your business on the web.

Take the time to respond to negative reviews. If a disgruntled customer posts a negative comment about your business or product on a big site like Amazon or Yelp, you might be tempted to ignore it, especially if you don’t think the claim has merit. However, it’s in your best interest to apologize, offer an explanation, and maybe even provide a gift (such as store credit). According to a recent survey by the Retail Consumer Report, when retailers took the time to respond to negative feedback, 34 percent of complainers deleted their negative reviews. What’s more, 33 percent then wrote favorable reviews.

Learn from your clientele. When a customer starts grumbling about a negative experience, don’t brush her off: She may have a valid point. Are other people complaining about the same issue? If so, consider what you can do to remedy the situation. For instance, if you’ve received four complaints about a certain staff member’s behavior, it may be time to retrain the employee or consider termination.

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