I think that we can all agree that referrals are probably the best lead generation tools out there. This post is not about the power of referrals though...for more on that check out The Referral Engine by John Janstch. This post is about online reviews, the digital referral, from complete strangers or sometimes acquaintances. These days the more online 'referrals' you have, the more likely the reader will pay attention to your business. Not all online or real life referrals are good, there are bad as well. As we have seen, the online community is not afraid to to talk about bad experiences. So what do you do when you get a bad review online?
When we are talking to small businesses about social media, local business listings or location based services, one of the most frequent questions we get is how can we delete a bad review? Is that the answer to a bad review, delete it? The person that left the review will know it was deleted as well as others that read or even commented on the review. To the reader deleting a comment is the same as ignoring the situation. Online reviews are becoming more important these days, as they are being listed right in the search results. Not only are they listed, but often times the listings with the top reviews appear first. If your competitor is getting all the reviews, chances are they will have a great advantage of you online.
What's the first step after a negative review?
The first step is to review the review internally. Find out who was involved and why the problem escalated to a poor review in the first place. Determine what you or your staff could have done, if anything, to reduce the customer's poor experience. Not every review is something that you did wrong, there are people out there that will just never be satisfied. Nonetheless take every legitimate review constructively, not offensively. Understanding where your business lacks based on actual customer experience is one of the best ways to improve your business overall.
You have reviewed internally, what's next?
After reviewing, discussing, and applying changes if necessary, you must acknowledge the issue. It is not critical to flat out say, we were wrong. Something along the lines of: Thank you for your feedback. We understand your concerns and are taking the steps to correct the issue. It is not always possible to post a reply publicly, so another step you can take is to contact the reviewer directly. Ask them if they resolve their issue if they could adjust their review accordingly. Remember, the review was left in a social environment, so being 'social' is the right thing to do.
The best case scenario!
Get involved online socially and urge your customers to leave reviews. Hopefully you have a large number of good reviews that will overshadow the bad. Most people understand that you aren't perfect and bad reviews are just part of the business. If most of your reviews are positive and you respond appropriately to the negative, they will be an integral piece of your marketing puzzle. Not only is this a free form of marketing, but it is also a form of marketing that people can trust because it is actual thoughts by consumers just like the reader. I know personally it is one of the first things I look at when purchasing, finding a restaurant/hotel, or even choosing my dinner recipe.
Worrying about bad reviews is not a reason to stay away from online social environments. Consumers will find a way to leave a review or comment even if you are not involved. Being social yourself, you are more likely to find these reviews and comments prior to them becoming a serious issue.