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Reputation Repair 101: Bouncing Back from a Negative Online Review

Every business owner loves receiving a great online review. Oftentimes, it can inspire you to cheer at the top of your lungs, dance through the streets, and throw a party all at the same time. The opposite occurrence, however, often packs a devastating punch. How dare someone criticize the business — your proverbial "baby" — that you've put so much of your time, talent, and energy into building! Unfortunately, negative online reviews don't magically disappear over time. In fact, research proves they can have a major impact on your business. Dimensional Research, for instance, conducted a survey in which 88 percent of respondents cited online customer service reviews as influencing their buying decisions. Another study from Google Consumer Surveys revealed that even one negative business review could dissuade 22 percent of the respondents from purchasing a specific product or service. For multiple negative reviews, the potential loss of customers reaches a whopping 70 percent. Let's say you wake up one morning to a negative review. There are a few steps you can take to soften the blow. Whatever you do, we recommend you take action immediately in order to help bounce back from the potential fallout that a bad business review could have among other potential (or current) customers.

1. Provide an Empathetic Reply

People like to know their opinions are valued. While your natural tendency is likely to defend your business against blistering complaints, getting into an online argument with a customer — one who was upset enough to post a negative review in the first place — will only make matters worse. A better approach is to start by apologizing for not meeting the customer's expectations, whether or not you feel the complaint is justified. Doing this acknowledges that you've received the customer's feedback, validating his or her concerns. This will likely help dissipate negative sentiments and allow you to open up a dialogue around how you care, first and foremost, about customer satisfaction.

2. Be Receptive to the Feedback

By listening to the feedback nestled in a negative review, you have the opportunity to learn something new. You likely don't believe your prices are too high, your products are below par, or your employees are unhelpful. However, if the same complaints keep surfacing, it's time to face some cold, hard truths about your business and make adjustments accordingly. If online reviews call out employees for being "rude," "abrasive," or "apathetic," take a good look at who you have working on your front lines. Do your employees have the right personality for customer service? Have you provided adequate training? Taking steps to ensure employees respond warmly to customers and satisfy their needs will go a long way toward nipping negative reviews in the bud.

3. Ask for a Second Chance

If the negative review reveals a legitimate complaint, ask the customer politely for an opportunity to do better. Demonstrate your sincerity to make the situation right by offering something of value — like a free meal or coupon for discounted products or services. Make sure you use this second chance to show the customer that the negative experience he or she had was a true exception to the norm. Turning online complaints into opportunities to win back customers can help your business in a big way. The New York Times recently reported about a California restaurateur whose online reviews consistently revealed complaints about high prices and small portions. By changing pricing structure, increasing portions, and sending out emails to customers asking them to give the restaurant another try, the owner turned those negative reviews around and built a more successful business in the process.

4. Track Your Online Reviews

It's impossible to react to a review you don't know about. Be sure to visit online review sites regularly to track customer comments. Knowing about a bad review as soon as it is posted will enable you to respond quickly and appropriately. To keep up-to-date on what customers are saying about your business, sign up for Google Alerts and consider using a review monitoring service such as ReviewPush or ReviewTrackers.

5. Encourage Good Reviews

If you feel that a negative review was an isolated incident, you should have no trouble soliciting good reviews highlighting the true quality of your business. When customers compliment your service, products, or employees, use this as an opportunity to ask them to post a positive review about their experience.  

6. Let Time Heal Online Wounds

A negative review may sting at first, but it will become less painful over time. According to a 2015 survey, 44 percent of consumers indicated that online reviews less than a month old are the most relevant. Within two or three months, nearly 70 percent of consumers found online reviews to be irrelevant. So, as you work hard to increase the number of positive reviews, know that time is your best friend in overcoming whatever impact a negative review may have had on your business.   Photo Credit: Reputation Repair Center via Compfight cc

Susan is the content marketing manager for YP Marketing Solutions for local business. She graduated from Washington State University with a Master of Arts in Communications and has dedicated her career to learning the ever-changing field of digital marketing with an emphasis in content, SEM, and social media. You can connect with Susan on Linkedin.

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