Once upon a time, the only place a consumer could turn for reviews was traditional media newspapers, magazines, and broadcast radio and television. Reviewers offered their professional opinions about everything from experience to ambiance to quality, and more. Today, however, every Jane, Tom and Sally is a bona fide reviewer, posting stories about their experiences good, bad and ugly on sites such as Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch, TripAdvisor and others.
If you are a business owner, have you looked at your online reviews? You should.
Heres why: Earlier this year, a nationwide Local Consumer Review Survey reported that 72 percent of online users trust reviews they read online as much as they would a personal recommendation from a friend. More than 50 percent of those polled said positive reviews would make them more likely to try that business.
With quick-paced growth in mobile device usage (think tablets and cell phones), its a trend you can be sure will not reverse. And, as the number of consumers looking for online reviews increases, so does the number of people who will log a negative review in the heat of the moment before you even know theres a problem.
The stakes are high, indeed.
So what should you do when you receive a negative review? Follow these steps and you may be able to reverse the damage.
1. Monitor your brand online. Before you can respond, you need to know what people are saying about you. In addition to manual online searches, Google Alerts, Mention and MyReviewsPage.com can help you catch reviews more quickly. The faster you can join the conversation, the better.
2. Respond with a solution. Think about how you would respond to an unhappy customer in your business place and apply those principles. Be kind and civil even if the review has your blood boiling. If you are upset, ask a friend or colleague to read your response before posting it. If a discount, free product or exchange is warranted, offer it.
Respond publicly if it is helpful to shed more light on the situation, but consider a private direct response to the customer as well.
Often, if you can satisfy the customer, he may also be willing to alter or amend the review. It never hurts to ask.
3. Stay positive. Consider online reviews as free market research. Use them wisely to make business adjustments and train your associates. And remember, a kind and caring response can have a significant impact, not only for the original reviewer, but for those who might read the review and your response in the future. It can be a great way to show your commitment to customer care.
No business is perfect. In fact, if you are in business, a poor review (warranted or not) will likely happen at some point. How you respond will chart your course for the future.
Jeanette Duwe, Owner of Duwe Public Relations and a former journalist. firstname.lastname@example.org