Don’t Let Negative Online Reviews Damage Your Company’s Reputation

Online reviews are something every company should be concerned about proactively managing. This is because positive reviews are essential to maintaining a good business image, and more importantly reviews are a key factor in a consumer’s purchasing decisions. Negative reviews can impact every business and brand in the market. For example, would you be willing to take a first date to a new restaurant that had received terrible reviews? Probably not, and according to Keeping It Kleen, 70% of consumers trust online reviews. That means 7 out of 10 customers would choose to dine elsewhere if they’d seen negative reviews.

The reason behind this is relatively simple. Each consumer has a limited amount of time. Extra time spent dealing with mistakes, accidents, or outright incompetence often cannot be completely fixed for the customer, even if they are given a full refund. Take the example of a bad meal on a first date. Even if the restaurant doesn’t charge for the food, it still equates to a wasted evening and possible early termination of the relationship. No one wants that, and few people care if there was a legitimate reason they received the poor service. They want to have a seamless night out with no complications, and they rely on online reviews to do that.

People have been getting feedback prior to making decisions for forever, but sites like Yelp and Google now make this information available to the public and allow it to extend to virtually any industry. Consider how many people have asked co-workers, friends, or family for their opinions when choosing their health insurance provider, and think about how hearing a poor review would impact their selection. Alternatively, what about web hosting companies, car mechanics, hair stylists, or day care centers? In each case the same thing applies. Negative reviews translate directly into lost business and brand damage. To prevent this it is critical to take an active and early stance on brand management through online review pages.

First, establish your identity on sites like Foursquare, Google, and Yelp. By making sure that your company information is accurate, and maintaining your presence on these sites, you can quickly respond to negative comments or reviews from customers. Further, by making sure all of your information is current, people will have an easy way to contact you and it will streamline communications. This can help mitigate the appearance that your company or brand doesn’t care about their consumers, and could even wind up giving you additional business. For example, if a user is searching Yelp for a restaurant from their smart phone, and your phone number shows up in your result while your closest competitor’s does not, then you’ll probably get the reservation because it’s a lot easier for them to tap their screen to call you than it is to dig up your competitors number.

If there are already listings for your company on review sites, then take the necessary steps to confirm your identity to take ownership of the profile, and make sure to update or correct any errors in the auto generated information.

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Second, and equally important, is to publicly respond to any negative review in a positive and helpful manner, openly displaying contact information, and directly addressing any complaints or concerns. Regardless of the circumstances, it is important that a business never respond negatively to a customer. How a negative review is handled shows existing and potential customers how your brand manages conflict. If done properly, it will reassure others that they can trust your business to take care of any problems that might occur.

Third, solicit reviews from customers. Let satisfied customers know where they can leave comments or feedback, and you can even offer them a discount on their next purchase or visit in exchange for submitting a review to give them an incentive. Unfortunately in most cases a happy customer has no reason to give feedback, while an unhappy customer does. They feel it’s their way to get revenge on the business that they feel wronged them. This means that despite most people placing faith in online reviews, they aren’t necessarily an accurate representation of the market because happy customers are less likely to leave a review compared to unhappy ones. By offering incentives to your satisfied customers, you can significantly reduce the impact of any negative reviews.

Fourth, actively manage your online presence. This means that in addition to the review sites, you should also have regularly-updated accounts on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter at a minimum. When you have these sites, it allows customers to interact with you to try to resolve their issue before they take to the review sites and give you poor feedback. It can even help your company’s appearance on the review sites as well. Yelp offers badges you can place on your web pages, which can serve as social proof and encourage more people to purchase from you, and Google will take information and reviews from your Google+ page and display it in your search results to generate more clicks for your page.

Fifth, be prepared for false or misleading reviews. Few sites will remove inaccurate reviews, even if the information in the review is proven to be outright false. In cases like this it is best to simply respond positively and constructively, asking the user how you can be of assistance. Depending on the nature of the false review you may want to point out the inconsistencies in a positive manner, but in some cases this can result in further fake reviews. Unfortunately some people have nothing better to do with their time other than creating fake reviews (or making prank phone calls), and it is sadly just something businesses have to deal with occasionally.

This is why it is important to encourage positive reviews and actively manage your online presence. If you have one negative review and one positive review it will probably result in lost business, or at least uncertainty on the part of the customer, where 10 or 20 positive reviews and one negative review will indicate that you are a reliably good business that most likely encountered a customer who just couldn’t be pleased.

In summary, pay attention to your listings, keep up with your social media, and encourage your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews. The end result will be increased business, brand loyalty, and additional positive exposure.

Tell us how you manage your brand’s review pages in the comments!

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