If you stopped in to your local networking association and announced that online reviews are critical to business success, no one attending would be likely to argue with you.
But just how important is it to attract positive reviews for your business online? And what is the potential impact to your future success if someone posts a negative review about your company online?
Those questions are what we will address here in this article. Also, learn how to deal with any online reviews you get that have a negative tone, and even learn ways to turn a negative review to your advantage with some simple, old-fashioned customer service.
Online Reviews: the New Business Reputation Manager
The days when paid advertising was a company’s primary vehicle to sell products and services are gone forever. In its place is a new era of word-of-mouth advertising, otherwise known as online reviews.
In other words, what your customers say about you online, on social media, on your website, on independent third party review sites and elsewhere in effect does all your company’s advertising for you.
This is great if all your reviews are positive. Your reputation is solid gold, everyone loves you, new referrals are steadily streaming in and profits are soaring.
But then….a negative review pops up. Someone had a bad experience and boy are they mad about it. Worst of all, they have posted about it online and everyone knows the internet is forever. What is going to happen to your company?
What is the potential impact of a negative review?
The White House Office of Consumer Affairs says one dissatisfied customer is likely to tell as many as 15 people. A smaller percentage of unhappy customers will tell more than 20 people.
What does this negative review mean in terms of your brand value?
The World Economic Forum states that one-quarter of your brand value is directly linked to your reputation – aka what your customers say about you.
In light of this negative review, how does your reputation now affect future profits?
BrightLocal states that one negative review can repel an estimated 22 percent of customers.
How to Turn a Negative Review Around
The bad news is, the internet absolutely is forever. What is posted on the internet tends to stay on the internet.
It is possible for you to set up your own website in such a way that you can just monitor comments and delete the negative reviews. However, chances are good that a mad customer won’t just post on your website. They will go elsewhere to a place where their review will not be deleted.
Plus, it can work to your benefit not to delete negative reviews, since a deletion will not make the angry customer go away or transform them into a happy customer. The only chance you have to make a bad situation better is to engage with that customer right away, online and in public and do everything you can to turn the situation around for them (and for you).
According to Forbes, a full 70 percent of companies have experienced a dip in reputation due to negative customer comments, and most respond poorly (which is proof that great customer service is developed, not born).
So here is what to do to have the best chances of turning ANY negative online review around for the future positive:
- Respond to every review, positive or negative, as they come in.
- Respond in a genuine and thoughtful way that shows you are truly hearing the reviewer.
- Seek out the customer’s own assessment of what might be able to resolve their issue for them.
- Offer freebies, deals, coupons or discounts with care. Rather, seek out a customer-driven resolution to the issue at hand.
- Do not ask the reviewer to repost or update their review. Instead, strive to be so present and engaged that they will WANT to repost a more positive amended review.
This process may not work with every customer. Some customers specialize in being mad and staying mad, or in being dissatisfied and staying dissatisfied. Here, you will need to do your best and, if that fails, to rely on the vast majority of positive reviews to carry the day in terms of your overall reputation.
But when it does work with a customer, you stand a good chance of winning a loyal, long-term customer for life by turning that negative review into a positive experience.
Always Leave an Online “Paper Trail”
When a negative review appears, you will want to address it on two levels: public and private. But you definitely want to leave a public “paper trail” of responses that shows other customers you are responding with promptness and doing your utmost to arrive at a workable solution.
According to Above the Law, 88 percent of customers read customer reviews as if they were recommendations from friends, and many will seek out 10+ such recommendations before making a purchase. But most importantly, 92 percent say they will patronize a company that has at least a 4-star rating.
Here, the takeaway is simple: you are not aiming for perfection in online reviews (which of course is impossible). Rather, you are aiming for consistent progress and an overall positive reputation that easily withstands the test of time.