Fight Negative Reviews with Positive Action

Social media comes in many shapes and sizes. Few worry small businesses more than sites like Yelp and Google Places, where clients and customers can leave reviews – and not all of them are glowing. Sooner or later, you may find your own business receiving a review from a disgruntled customer who’s not afraid to tell the world. Now what?

Well, the first thing you should do, according to Miriam Ellis writing for Search Engine Guide, is not overreact. She recently had to counsel a business owner who had received a negative review on Google, and was more or less freaking out over it. That one bad review made him fail to see at least two things.

First, most of the reviews he’d received – about eighty percent of them, in fact – were positive. Step back for a minute. If you were reading a company’s reviews and saw lots of positive ones and only one negative, what would you assume? You’d figure that it was just one person who maybe had an ax to grind, and wouldn’t take it too seriously. It may be hard to believe from where you’re sitting, but that’s how an outsider reading that one bad review about your company is likely to view it as well.

Second, the bad review itself, in that case, was no big deal; it was fairly standard fare, as bad reviews go. It didn’t claim that the customer was poisoned or that the wait staff tried to beat them up or anything like that. I know it’s hard to do, but again, when you read a bad review about your company, step back and think  about how someone who doesn’t know you or the other party will read it. If you can’t do that, pretend it’s about another company. It may very likely not be as bad as you think it was on a first reading.

Trust me, as a writer, I get my own share of bad comments from time to time. When I do, I try to remember to read them three times; by the third time, I can actually absorb the comment and put it in perspective. I can even answer it with at least some aplomb.

Okay, so you’ve put that bad review in perspective, and you’ve decided it’s not totally awful, but you’re still not thrilled about it. What now? Well, Ellis pointed out to the businessman she was counseling that he should claim his business listing in Google Places. He hadn’t even heard of doing that, so that was one positive step. Many business review sites, such as Yelp, also offer a way for the business owner to claim their business. It gives you some control over your business information, though it probably won’t eliminate a negative review. As Ellis pointed out, you can report a review as inappropriate with a link, but that won’t make a bad review disappear.

So what CAN you do to make it disappear? Well, the better approach, according to Ellis, is to have your company “implement a staff-wide program for gathering positive reviews from happy customers to push down the bad review” as time goes by. You can even “branch out and start getting reviews from other review sources.” In other words, fight negative with positive.

But what about legal options, like cease and desist letters? Go back to the first point about overreacting. You’re a business owner; do you want to spend your time with a lawyer, possibly in a court, or actually getting business done? Besides, remember that what set this all off was a bad review on a social media site. A cease and desist letter is likely to become even more fodder for another social media site – like Facebook, perhaps. How is it going to look that your company is  apparently picking a fight with someone? The ill will you get from that could be much worse than what you got from the bad review itself.

Finally, consider this point: a company that gets all good reviews actually looks a little suspicious to the average customer, especially if many of those are gushing reviews. Such a review profile looks a little fake, as if the owner himself – or someone working for him – wrote the reviews. In that case, a bad review could be a bit of a blessing; it could give the good reviews more credibility, in fact.

If your ultimate goal is to have your customers trust you so that they’ll buy from you, then leaving a bad review in place – and countering it in the ways I’ve described – can help to inspire trust. It shows that you trust your potential customers enough to see the bad review along with a lot of good reviews, and then make the right decision. And they say nothing inspires trust like trust. Good luck!

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