Dealing with Negative Online Reviews the Right Way

Filed under Editorials by Adam Torkildson on October 2, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Most customer-centered and service businesses are more than aware of consumer review sites like Yelp.com and Google Local by now, understand the basic concept behind them and their potential impact, good and bad on their business, their brand and their reputation.

What you may not know is that whether or not you actually choose to manage it our customers can locate your basic Yelp or Google listing – it’s likely to be there, even if you have not taken the time to claim and optimize it – and leave reviews that detail their experiences and impressions of your business.  And with more and more people making very regular use of these sites, not just for restaurants, bars and the like but almost every kind of service business, plenty of people are reading those reviews as well.

Yelp has certainly had its share of controversy, mainly related to the way that some business owners have responded to negative reviews on the site. There have been instances where business owners have actually been arrested for stalking and harassing people who left negative reviews of their business that they felt were unfair!

According to Jason Baril, a social security and disability lawyer, “In 2009, Yelp decided that it would give businesses a power they never had before – the ability to directly respond to reviews in public on their site. Since then others have followed suit, including Google and even Facebook, where reviews on business pages of all kinds are becoming increasingly prominent. Not every business owner has responded in an appropriate way, leading to the kind of negative coverage that no business needs. Learning how to respond properly to negative online reviews is a must – and every business owner needs to learn how to do it fast, or risk garnering a bad reputation online.”

No one wants their business to get a bad review, but, even if you offer the best service possible, they will almost certainly crop up once in a while and, they cannot, and should not be ignored. So when should you respond to a bad review on a site like Yelp! and what is the best way to go about doing so? Here are a few tips:

Situations That Merit a Response and What to Do:

You really do need to make amends for poor service/customer service – Mistakes happen, things go wrong and no business is perfect. Certainly it would have been nice if the disgruntled party had approached you before they headed to Yelp! or a similar site to complain,  but now that they have it is best to try to placate them as soon as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and offer to make it right – you might be surprised how easy that can be to do and those who have not used your business will appreciate the honesty and willingness to help and improve doing so will demonstrate. Â

Someone has their facts wrong – Someone writes a review blasting your business for not accepting their 40% off coupon. Trouble with that is that you have never offered such a thing. Or the coupon had genuinely expired or was not applicable in this case. You should at this point add a note (a nice, polite one) that the person has misunderstood something, or maybe even confused you with another business. Tread carefully though; calling someone a liar outright is a very bad idea.

The reviewer is mad with the world, not just you – Some people are well, just not very happy with their lives and don’t always see why anyone else should be either. There is no pleasing them, not entirely at least. But engaging them too closely is not a good idea either.

If there truly is no merit in what this person has written, unless the review is obscene or slanderous, simply acknowledge it cautiously, and suggest the person contact you privately if they wish to discuss the matter further. Never be tempted to get into an online slanging match, stay calm  and let the more positive reviews you are hopefully garnering push the obvious trolls into the background where they belong.

 

Most customer-centered and service businesses are more than aware of consumer review sites like Yelp.com and Google Local by now, understand the basic concept behind them and their potential impact, good and bad on their business, their brand and their reputation.

What you may not know is that whether or not you actually choose to manage it our customers can locate your basic Yelp or Google listing – it’s likely to be there, even if you have not taken the time to claim and optimize it – and leave reviews that detail their experiences and impressions of your business.  And with more and more people making very regular use of these sites, not just for restaurants, bars and the like but almost every kind of service business, plenty of people are reading those reviews as well.

Yelp has certainly had its share of controversy, mainly related to the way that some business owners have responded to negative reviews on the site. There have been instances where business owners have actually been arrested for stalking and harassing people who left negative reviews of their business that they felt were unfair!

According to Jason Baril, a social security and disability lawyer, “In 2009, Yelp decided that it would give businesses a power they never had before – the ability to directly respond to reviews in public on their site. Since then others have followed suit, including Google and even Facebook, where reviews on business pages of all kinds are becoming increasingly prominent. Not every business owner has responded in an appropriate way, leading to the kind of negative coverage that no business needs. Learning how to respond properly to negative online reviews is a must – and every business owner needs to learn how to do it fast, or risk garnering a bad reputation online.”

No one wants their business to get a bad review, but, even if you offer the best service possible, they will almost certainly crop up once in a while and, they cannot, and should not be ignored. So when should you respond to a bad review on a site like Yelp! and what is the best way to go about doing so? Here are a few tips:

Situations That Merit a Response and What to Do:

You really do need to make amends for poor service/customer service – Mistakes happen, things go wrong and no business is perfect. Certainly it would have been nice if the disgruntled party had approached you before they headed to Yelp! or a similar site to complain,  but now that they have it is best to try to placate them as soon as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and offer to make it right – you might be surprised how easy that can be to do and those who have not used your business will appreciate the honesty and willingness to help and improve doing so will demonstrate. Â

Someone has their facts wrong – Someone writes a review blasting your business for not accepting their 40% off coupon. Trouble with that is that you have never offered such a thing. Or the coupon had genuinely expired or was not applicable in this case. You should at this point add a note (a nice, polite one) that the person has misunderstood something, or maybe even confused you with another business. Tread carefully though; calling someone a liar outright is a very bad idea.

The reviewer is mad with the world, not just you – Some people are well, just not very happy with their lives and don’t always see why anyone else should be either. There is no pleasing them, not entirely at least. But engaging them too closely is not a good idea either.

If there truly is no merit in what this person has written, unless the review is obscene or slanderous, simply acknowledge it cautiously, and suggest the person contact you privately if they wish to discuss the matter further. Never be tempted to get into an online slanging match, stay calm  and let the more positive reviews you are hopefully garnering push the obvious trolls into the background where they belong.

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