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As a reputation marketing SaaS guy, I get asked the question all the time by prospective clients, friends or others about when to respond to bad reviews. The long and short answer, from my experience, is you should reply to all bad reviews. Why? Because by doing so, and in a way that rationalizes your side of the story, you make that review much less effective at drawing or scaring away potential new business.
Imagine the power of a bad review on your Google Reviews, Yelp or City Search page if you don’t have that many reviews (which is 90% of all small businesses right now). It’s like a big ugly blemish on your otherwise glowing business visage. If you address the issue in a calm, non emotional and logical way, you’ve basically taken most of the power back from the irate customer. Any new customer that comes across that review can now see your side of the story, and see what was done, or is being done to correct the issue.
Likely, we’ve all heard stories of one proud business owner that didn’t want to get drawn into a online discussion with a crazy customers of theirs, but do so at your own risk. Here’s why.
Consider what happens when the owner of this tire repair shop in San Jose, CA didn’t own up to having a bad day. Unbeknownst to this business owner, local SEO guy takes his complaint to his own blogging world and crucifies this guy. The owner decides to ignore it, and instead of becoming a small issue, which could easily have been swept under the rug, the issue spirals out of control, and 70 comments and 12 months later the tire guy goes out of business. When business owners don’t own an issue, their customers do. That’s not the way to take control of your online reputation.
So, how can we let this type of thing not happen to us?
There are general guidelines you should use for answering reviews. Let’s go over them because it’s important that you understand how it’s done to be most effective.
That goes without saying. Losing your temper online is about the worst thing you can do, because a 5 minute temper flare where you lash out, stays up on the Internet for any prospective customer to see years later. Take a breath, walk away, and come back when you’re more composed.
Don’t get personal. Same reasons as above.
Feedback is helpful. Learn to appreciate the negative reviews so that you can use them to make your business better. Thank your positive reviewers as well.
Don’t sell in the reviews. Keep it short, simple and to the point.
The first thing to understand is that you need to have an operating plan for how you’ll handle each bad review.
Own the issue. OK, so no one is going to have all perfect reviews. Those bad reviews are going to come in, and they can be actually a good thing. They will give you good feedback to improve your business, and they’ll also give you more credibility. When those reviews do come in, own the issue. Don’t be defensive, step up, and look as objectively as you can at the review.