With all of the extra year-end bookkeeping and tax matters your business is trying to tackle right now, a social media storm is the last thing you need/want to deal with.
But it’s sadly the sort of thing that will not go away by itself. And how to deal with negative reviews is something Washington, DC Metro Area business owners like you need to be thinking about.
Anybody who’s been in business five minutes has had a customer stand in front of them with a complaint.
A worker was rude … Something arrived broken … You didn’t do this … You didn’t do that…
You listen, you work it out, and they either stay a customer or they take their business elsewhere.
Thing is, it used to be that customer complaints weren’t put in writing for potential customers to read – but now that’s exactly what happens when someone complains about your business online. That gripe can just sit there, week after week, month after month, potentially polluting your relationships with new customers before they even begin.
Hey, we love you and your Washington, DC Metro Area business, and as far as we’re concerned everybody else ought to love you, too. But here are two truths: You can’t please every customer. And bad reviews of your business online can really hurt your company.
For a long time.
Here’s how to deal with negative reviews and keep your company’s good name online (because we want you to be able to focus on running your business well in times like these)…
Washington, DC Metro Area Businesses: Here’s How to Deal with Negative Reviews
“Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.” – Elbert Hubbard
Leaving a good lasting impression is something we all want in life. In business, it’s the key to keeping clients. But leaving a bad one… well that could mean a lot of lost business.
A recent survey showed that more than nine out of 10 consumers say a negative online review can turn them off from choosing a particular business. Other surveys have shown that often online shoppers won’t even go near a business that has fewer than three out of a possible five stars.
Wow. Losing new customers because of just one bad comment about your business? Unfortunately, that’s the reality. Even if the bad comment was slipped in by a “Karen” who just has it out for your business, figuring out how to deal with negative reviews should be a top priority.
There are a lot of platforms online where customers can bash you (or sing your praises). Google, Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor – maybe even your own website hosts reviews.
Are you on those sites? Are your customers? Your first move in managing your online reputation: Find out the platforms where your business is mentioned and where your customers like to go. That’s where you should advertise and build some kind of presence.
It’s also where bad reviews about you will show up.
Put your browser on private mode (aka “incognito” or “InPrivate”) and Google your company’s name. Maybe tack on the word “review.” See anything from a customer? If you did, right now you’re probably either thinking how cool or you’re using some colorful language.
It’s hard, but step one in how to deal with negative reviews is finding those reviews and reading them.
And the answer is…
Recognize any of your customers? If the comments were positive, write back and thank them – that’s just a win-win.
If the comments were bad – Well, we’re sorry to say, there is no quick DELETE button for those.
Where is the comment posted? Are any of the bad comments recent? If they are, you should respond… and fast.
No, don’t fire off a warhead full of defensive language. Take time to think about your answer. Think relationally. How can you show understanding and build a bridge to a good experience? Responding to the negative comment in this way shows you’re a professional.
You also might learn something to improve your business. And depending on your follow-up, you might even end up keeping the customer. That’s right – some people respect your effort. Not everybody to be sure, but some…
Put your initial response in the public platform where the comment appeared but then take all the back and forth offline – email… or phone call (maybe).
About apologizing: If your business was to blame, say you’re sorry and tell the reviewer you’re working on the problem. But at the first whiff of legal liability, fall back on phrases that don’t pin you down. Better yet, check with a lawyer first.
Responding fast and thoughtfully also shows the other folks on that website – potential customers – that you’re a businessperson who makes things right and fixes problems. That’s a good reputation to have.
You don’t ask, you don’t get
One great way to head off problems is to be in charge of the situation. Regarding your online reputation, take the lead and ask for reviews.
Yep, it works. If you’ve got a satisfied customer, ask them to say so online. One negative review by itself looks terrible for you; one negative review among half a dozen positive ones can be a good ad for your business.
Moving forward, if you want to get formal about it, you can set a goal – say, X number a month – for requesting online reviews. Set a schedule for checking your online presence. And if one customer just keeps writing negative review after negative review, don’t be afraid to tell them to take their business elsewhere. It’ll be worth it.
We’re tax and accounting experts, but we’d be happy to help you find somebody who can help you figure out how to deal with negative reviews or any other aspect of your business online. Give us a buzz.
Ready to help you however we can,
Keith Cole, CPA, EA