Does an Occasional Negative Review Hurt Your Business’s Online Reputation?

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Does an Occasional Negative Review Hurt Your Business’s Online Reputation?

Not As Much As You’d Think . . .

A friend in my Tuesday morning networking group recently gave an impassioned plea to the team. He has a longstanding, reputable small business, and was hit with a particularly strident, negative review on both Google and Yelp that really stung, and brought his overall ratings down. You could tell by both his voice and facial expression that he took it personally. He urged any of us who had worked with him in the past to submit a review for him to compensate for this “evil doer” that seemed intent on damaging his business.

The good news for my friend is that there really isn’t too much cause for concern about his online reputation here. His business delivers quality product, and it upholds to the highest ethical standards. He has other authentic reviews that paint a very positive picture. In the long run, this always win out over an anomaly or an occasional mistake.

A Few Negative Reviews Will Not Damage Your Online Reputation

True, a recent survey found that 88% of consumers consider online reviews as trustworthy as personal recommendations. * And this can lead to trepidation on the part of business owners like my friend, when they get blindsided with negative reviews. But both the modern consumer and the search engines themselves are adapting smartly to the new world of online reputation management, and it’s making the review landscape much less of a threat to good, well-established businesses.

For starters, consumers are starting to get it. They understand that businesses, like people, are not perfect, and that even the best of them have “off days.” To that end, a company with a perfect slate of extensive reviews might look suspicious to a consumer, in contrast to the business that has a majority of really good reviews, but also shows a hint of realism in the occasional bad. Google and Yelp also have a stronger understanding of the review process as well. If they see a business that has been quiet on the review front for a while, but suddenly sees an influx of many perfect reviews, a red flag is raised, and these reviews likely will not be counted.

Repceptional Best Practices for Handling Negative Online Reviews

Here are some of our best practices for businesses in handling negative reviews:

  • Use a negative review as both a learning opportunity and a chance to make improvements to your business.
  • Be responsive – don’t just ignore a negative review. Responding quickly and articulately shows everyone that you are service-driven and consumer-focused.
  • Assuming the feedback is fair, stop short of apologizing, and reply back humbly and authentically that you feel badly about the situation and will do your best to improve on the situation moving forward. Keep it short and sweet, and then move on.
  • If you disagree with a particular review, it’s OK to respond back politely with something along the lines of “Respectfully we disagree with this. . . . Incident aside, we promise to do everything we can to make your next experience here better.” Avoid anger/impassioned confrontation at any cost – be the bigger person. Understand that it’s business, not personal, and move on.
  • While negative reviews are inevitable, positive reviews often need to be solicited. Many of your best customers would love to give you a great review – they just haven’t thought to do so. We suggest reaching out to one or two loyal customers each month, thanking them for their business, and asking if they wouldn’t mind submitting a review on Google, Yelp. Proactively send them the links directly to your review pages so it’s a piece of cake for them to fill out. As discussed earlier, respect the intelligence of the search engines, and avoid an influx of positive reviews all at once.

What if my business gets a fake review?

Yes, as crazy as it sounds, this is becoming more commonplace. I recently read a great article written by Joy Hawkins on moz.com (moz.com/blog/fake-negative-reviews-on-google). Her company received three consecutive 1-star reviews from Google that were clearly fake. How she handled the situation was nothing short of brilliant!

In a nutshell, there are common-sense remedies to most situations. As the world becomes more familiar and comfortable with the online review landscape, these situations will continue to be annoying to deal with, but ultimately pose less of an existential threat to solid, ethical businesses.

If you have any questions whatsoever about your business’s online reviews, and the overall online reputation management landscape, feel free to contact us – we’d love to help you in any way we can!

* Source: 39Celsius blog post: 4/21/16

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