Your small business got negative reviews online. Now what?

Everyone has an opinion. When people express their opinions about your products or services – especially in popular online consumer forums like Yelp, Google Places, and TripAdvisor – you want it to enhance the reputation of your small business. Even if it’s a bad review.

That’s right. A bad review, when handled the right way, can be constructive for your business and reflect you in a good light. Here are five tips for dealing with negative feedback in a positive way:

  1. Address the complaint. Ignoring customer criticism, especially online, is tantamount to burying your head in the sand to avoid danger. Hoping a bad review will go away if you overlook it sends the wrong message to customers. You want people to see that your business cares when people have bad experiences. And since online reviews can be updated by the reviewer, handling the complaint in a professional manner may prompt the customer to revise their opinion – publicly.
  1. Be objective about the issue. Insisting a customer complaint is wrong will usually backfire – even if you feel the problem is on their end. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about how the issue makes them feel. Empathy will show that you care and that you’re committed to customer satisfaction.
  1. Respond with tact. You represent your business and brand, so be professional. An angry retort could do irreparable damage to your reputation if it goes viral on the Internet. Likewise, passive-aggressive or sarcastic comments do more harm than good because they could trigger a messy public battle with your reviewer. If you disagree with the reviewer’s opinion, respond to them privately with a clear explanation of the issue from your perspective. If the problem is valid, reply to the customer online so others are aware that you’re addressing the issue. Thank them for their feedback and explain that you value customer complaints because they help you improve. Let them know what steps you’re taking to solve the problem.
  1. Don’t feed the trolls. With respect to point No. 1 above, certain bad reviews actually should be ignored: those that are obviously jokes or nonsense, abusive or threatening. Most review sites have terms of service that do not tolerate wanton anger and hate, as well as features that let you flag or report any post that violates the terms of service. Some may even remove such reviews since they aren’t helpful.
  1. Be proactive online. Monitor review sites, user forums, and your brand’s social media pages to keep track of conversations about your small business. You need to know what’s being said about you to combat negative reviews. If you haven’t already, set up Google Alerts for your business name, branded products and services, and your name to keep track of where they appear online.

What have you done to fight bad reviews? Share your tips with us on the comments section below!

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