In a lot of ways, we’ve become objects of the Internet. Our data and information are scraped, sold, and passed through a continuous pipeline which we lost control of long ago. Although we have little control of what gets said online, we have complete control over how it gets handled. Online reviews will be around for the foreseeable future, and you can’t please all the people all the time. What’s key however, is making sure they do not stain your brand or hold great influence over your audience.
Rule Number 1: Don’t take it personally. Even though it might feel good – okay really good – to get into a flame war with an obnoxious customer, it’s only going to make you look bad. The last thing you want to do is start fighting Internet trolls. For one, you will NEVER WIN. Second, they have the luxury of anonymity while your name and your business are available for all to see.
Negative reviews are going to happen, and they’re going to sting. If your business is putting forth its best effort and providing an excellent service, you shouldn’t be drowning in bad reviews. However, if you suddenly find yourself combating a negative reputation, the best thing you can is to collect as many real reviews from as many real customers (other than your mom) as you can. Strive to get more voices in the conversation by encouraging positive reviews to offset the negative; this will also push the damaging content further down Google rankings.
But let’s face it, unless you’re in the lifestyle, hospitality, or entertainment industry it may be hard to generate a healthy number of reviews. Sadly, few people take the time to applaud a job well done. In this case, getting brand reviews is going to require a bit of work on your part: you will need to actually ASK. Make it easy for consumers to provide positive feedback. Try fielding their sentiments right at the checkout line, emailing surveys, or personally contacting patrons to ask about their recent experiences.
Of course at times, negative comments are true. Don’t shy away from constructive feedback. Use these particularly important comments to take the necessary actions to improve your organization and shore-up your weaknesses. Everyone makes mistakes, owning up to our screw-ups publicly can go a long way in repairing our reputation. If something really did go catastrophically wrong, own it. Try to reset, apologize gracefully, and – if you can – bring a little self-deprecating humor to the situation. I repeat, apologize with GRACE. The last thing you want to do is come off as mocking the situation. Take responsibility, say you are sorry, and continue to touch base. If someone is saying something unabashedly false, that you can easily prove to be untrue, consider a response that is sanitized, matter of fact, and polite.
Handling negative reviews isn’t quantum mechanics, but it does require diligence and professionalism. Consider the feelings of the reviewer and how you would like to see things handled if you were in their position.