How to handle online reviews

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We’ve already talked about how reviews play a crucial role in garnering new business because they allow consumers to make informed decisions based on the verdicts of others.

And, of course, it almost goes without saying that positive reviews are great for any business, online or offline.

It does not matter whether you are a photographer or celebrant, venue or wedding gown designer. If you do business online, reviews will be part and parcel of your image and marketing profile.

Though everybody wants positive reviews, don’t look at negative reviews too, well, negatively as some negative reviews can actually be positive.

After all, if your business receives nothing but dozens upon dozens (or even hundreds) of positive reviews, it may look a little fishy, so even if you get the odd negative review, don’t fret. Your main goal should be to aim for an overall positive review score, though we LOVE the thought that you’re so fabulous, you have nothing but 5/5 reviews!

There are many review sites online where your business may be weighed up and reviewed by former customers. Some popular examples include Yelp and Trip Advisor.

Many specialty sites, such as Easy Weddings, booking.com and amazon.com have our own review systems.

Check it out below.

This Easy Weddings Reviews page belongs to one of our five-star suppliers, celebrant David Schneider.

With nearly 50 100% reviews, his business is booming, no doubt, due to the many positive reviews he continues to receive and, of course word-of-mouth recommendations.

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However, not everyone receives 100% positive feedback and, as mentioned above, that’s not always a bad thing.

We’ll talk about how to handle negative reviews further down, but in the meantime, let’s start with three crucial rules of reviews: 

Don’t post false positive reviews

Aside from the most important point, that it’s downright deceptive and, in some countries, illegal, this questionable tactic can and does often backfire – and if you get caught you will attract the wrath of the review site.

This could be in the form of a negative review from the review site itself or they could suspend your account.

Fake positive reviews will also, usually, stand out like a sore thumb. Consumers are pretty smart when it comes to this sort of thing.

Even if consumers don’t pick it up, many review systems staffers have a keen sense of these things and there are also systems in place to try fish out such improper practices.

These work mush the same way as comment spam filters and methods.

Don’t buy reviews

Paying people to post reviews is just as bad as writing them yourself. Again, it is deceptive and can lead to the same repercussions.

Don’t defend yourself if you were wrong

This is just a really, really bad strategy and will alienate an already dissatisfied client – and will likely be a turn-off for potential customers.

Rather than defend yourself to the hilt, admit the mistake and state what you intend to do to correct it to prevent a similar situation from arising. This will earn you far more points than going on the defensive. It’s courteous, professional and, well, the right thing to do!

Thing you should do

Address negative feedback personally

Respond personally and honestly.

If you or your business were in the wrong, tell the customer you are sorry and what you will do to correct the matter. Let the customer know to whom they can reach out to in order to deal with the matter.

If your service or product was less than satisfactory then own up to it and state that you will address the matter personally and see that it is corrected.

This will also find favour with other potential customers who will then see you as a reasonable person and one who does his or her best to put the client first. Few will ask for more than that. Some may even be satisfied enough by your fair reaction and remove the negative feedback.

Make the best of a negative review

Take the opportunity to find common ground with the complainer as well as future customers.

Respond professionally and in a manner that shows you are human, fair and considerate.

This will impress reasonable people and, hopefully, also the person who posted the negative in the first place.

Remain objective, professional and reasonable.

Respond quickly and factually

Timing is important and you don’t want a negative review to go unanswered for too long.

Respond as quickly as possible and don’t argue the matter.

Clean it up. Don’t argue it

Deal with the facts objectively and state your solution.

Don’t argue the matter. This will just agitate and invite further negative responses.

You want to clean up the matter; not argue and prolong it.

Move conversations offline

When you respond online also provide the customer with your email or other personal contact and take the matter ‘offline’.

This way you have more flexibility and more possible ways to resolve the matter and to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one – or at least a less unhappy one.

Offer a discount or even a refund

If the customer is right, offer an incentive to try your product or service again.

Few are likely to refuse a discount or a refund. It also shows that you are conciliatory and that customer service and satisfaction is top of your list which, of course, it should be.

Improve and prioritize customer service

By putting customer service first you will get more positive reviews than negative ones.

Bad or negative reviews also highlight areas that require attention and that should be improved. Use the information to do just that. Also state that in your responses.  This way you improve customer service into the future and that will help attract more positive reviews.

Be proactive

Prevention is better than cure. Ask your customers early on for feedback, something like this: “How did we do? “ This way you can possibly intercept a negative before it is vented in public.

Take corrective action

Don’t ignore reasonable complaints. But apart from words you need to take concrete steps and actions to correct the issues on the ground. This will prevent them from happening again and will reduce negative future reviews and increase positive ones.

Respond factually to a false negative

If a review is blatantly false deal with it in a professional and objective manner, stating the facts and even ask the customer to provide proof of purchase or some other supporting documentation.

If you can show beyond doubt that the review is false or malicious you can then ask the review company to remove it and, if it is, they usually will.

Ask questions

Ask your reviewer for additional suggestions on how to provide better service, improve your products etc.

This type of positive interaction will likely produce a positive response and it can offer you additional insights into how you can improve and grow your business.

Conclusion

As you can see, some negative reviews are not necessarily a bad thing.

We all make mistakes or fall short from time to time. Own up, apologise, address and improve. Do what the reasonable person will expect. Show you are human but that customer service is of high priority and receives continued attention and improvement. That’s what sets good businesses apart from great businesses.

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