how to deal with negative online reviewsThere was a time when Googling yourself or your business was seen as little more than an act of pure narcissism, but today, keeping tabs on your online reputation is essential if you want to ensure your business thrives. By looking up your business online constant and consistently, you can see the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Keep tabs on negative reviews, and if you see one that’s particularly damaging, make sure you do the following:

Act fast

The more time that passes between a negative review being posted online and you taking action to mitigate the reputational damage, the greater the impact on your business. Researchers have found that businesses with a negative article on the first page of their search results suffer a 22 percent loss of business. The figure doubles if two negative articles are present, and continues to 59 percent with the presence of a third article. If you’re not regularly taking time to check through your reviews, add some time to your schedule.

Always try to respond to a negative review within 48 hours at the most. Although there is no guarantee this will happen in your particular case, there have been many occasions when, due to a prompt and satisfactory response, a customer has deleted their negative review and posted a positive one in its place. Even if this doesn’t happen, responding promptly to concerns is a very public demonstration of the fact you truly care about your customers.

They may be right

While it might be tempting to simply dismiss any criticism out of hand, especially if it touches on something you are not personally aware of, your first step should also be to see whether the complaint has genuine merit. Negative reviews often contain valuable criticism that assists your company or business in delivering a better service to customers in the future.

In the past, people writing honest but negative reviews about issues with the products or services they have received have found themselves under pressure from the businesses concerned. Some companies have tried to introduce provisions in their contracts that enable them to penalize or even sue those posting negative reviews. Not only is this the wrong way to go about protecting your reputation, but recent changes in the law mean such practices are now illegal.

It may be that certain quality assurance systems you thought were in place are failing to function properly, it may be that a member of staff was having a particularly bad day and allowed their personal feelings to cross over into their professional life. It may be that a fault you were entirely unaware of has been discovered in your product. In such situations, genuine thanks are due to the person who highlighted the issue and showing that you can respond quickly and efficiently to such issues, you greatly improve your chances of turning a disgruntled customer into a loyal and happy one.

Take it offline

Responding publicly provides an opportunity to demonstrate your customer service skills. As such, your goal should always be to rectify the situation and change the customer’s perception of your company, not to win the argument. Don’t fall into the trap of escalating a dispute as it’s inevitable that your business will always come off worse in any such exchange.

In many cases, you may wish to discuss details with the aggrieved party that you or they do not wish to air in public. Many directory services provide the option of communicating via private email rather than an open forum, and it can sometimes be wise to take advantage of this.

Sadly, some people are never satisfied and who delight in causing trouble regardless of what you do to help them. For these people, any response – even a genuine apology – will only serve to aggravate the situation. Sometimes, difficult though it might be, the best thing to do is simply walk away.

Look after the locals

Although we live in an increasingly global economy and consumers have access to companies based all over the world, surveys show that those who search online are far more likely to be looking for a business that is locally based. This means the customers and clients who are physically closest to you are the ones who are most likely to encounter negative articles.

deal with local reviewsReaching such customers is simply a matter of finding a company that provides local SEO services as this enables you to engage with local buyers at the exact moment they are looking for the product or service that your company provides. Therefore, investing some time and effort into reputation management can pay huge dividends when it comes to protecting your business in your local area.

Word of mouth of a powerful sales tool so you should always attempt to resolve the issues at the heart of any bad review but especially a local one, either by contacting the customer directly or by adding a response to the review itself. Take your time to compose a reply and choose your words carefully. It is also worth getting someone unconnected to the issues at hand to look over both the complaint and your response to ensure you are being fair, balanced and reasonable.

The good in bad reviews

According to a study conducted by Harvard Business School, the vast majority of consumers prefer to see a mixture of good and bad feedback. You may be thrilled if your product or service attracts nothing but five-star accolades but members of the public will tend to believe that the reviews are fake or paid for by the company itself. Although you may feel an urge to eradicate any bad reviews from your online presence, keeping them there shows that your company has nothing to hide and are confident enough to admit that it occasionally gets things wrong. By this token, bad reviews can actually provide your good reviews with greater credibility.

More is less

more reviews better than lessIf you have nine great reviews and one bad one, the easiest way to reduce the impact of the latter is to increase the number of good reviews you have. Take every opportunity you can to encourage satisfied customers to leave a review and explain how it will benefit your business. Be wary of insisting that people leave only positive reviews – many sites specifically prohibit such practice – and instead simply ask them to be honest about the experience they had. If you choose the customers you approach wisely, the volume of positive comments will soon drown out the noise of a single negative one.

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