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Why Bad Reviews Are a Good Opportunity

For many small businesses, review platforms like Yelp, Google Plus and TripAdvisor are awesome. These platforms are filled with consumers who like your business, like your product or service and even some that just like you. Consumers choose businesses and brands that provide them with positive feelings and experiences. And when consumers leave favorable reviews about your business, it builds trust with other potential consumers.

Customers want to feel appreciated. A recent ZenDesk survey shows the number one factor in vendor trust is, to no surprise, customer service.

But what if a consumer didn’t like their experience with your business? For businesses on the receiving end of negative reviews, these sites are the bane of all existence.

I have clients who are very leery of Yelp. “I’ve only heard bad things about it, and I don’t think it provides any value,” one said. I’ve seen some of the reviews. I sympathize, and I’m sure some of you do too. You might even agree with my client’s “no value” argument… but you would be very, very wrong.

Reviewers love to air your dirty laundry.

A study from eTailing Group shows a whopping 92% of respondents read online reviews before selecting a business. In addition, the aforementioned ZenDesk survey found:
  • 95% of respondents said they shared bad experiences with others, compared to 87 percent sharing good ones.
  • 45% shared their negative experiences on their Social channels, compared to 30 percent sharing positive ones.
So, the people who base their buying decisions on reviews are reading up on you, and more consumers tend to share negative experiences online. Feel like that landscape is a little tilted?

Here are a couple quick stories about clients of mine. I have a mortgage lender whose first review came from a person who had a pair of bad transactions with his company. The reviewer never dealt directly with my client. The disputed transactions didn’t even occur in the same state that my client operates in. The damage was still done. Another client of mine is an insurance agent for a major provider. And like my mortgage provider, a couple of his reviewers had problems with “corporate.” They still directed their unhappiness at my agent, though.

The person interacting directly with the consumer is “the face” of a company – and typically the first one taking heat. Remember the server who mistakenly brought you a sandwich with mayo on it? And remember the delivery guy who took over an hour to bring your pizza? Did you consider that it was actually the kitchen that misread the ticket? Did you know that one of the other drivers called in sick at the last minute and your delivery guy is stuck working double duty?

These are the perils of being the “point person.” A bad tip hurts in the short term, but a bad review can hurt in the long term. As a small business owner, seemingly small mistakes by your employees can be very damaging to your future success. Remember, customer service is important. Mistakes will happen, but you should try to be proactive in finding a solution before an unhappy consumer tells your entire Yelp page.

Back to my mortgage lender.

A mortgage is a huge decision, so a review that emphatically proclaims, “Do not use this company for ANYTHING,” can be pure poison. This review cost my client future business. A prospect that read the unfavorable review and consequently decided to take his business elsewhere went so far as to specifically tell my client that the review was the reason he decided not to do business with him.

We flagged the review and reported the circumstances to Yelp. It stayed up. The lender posted a public response with the details, and even sent a message to the reviewer. No dice. Yelp has filtered a few other reviews since. But sure enough, that first review – from a reviewer who signed up, did the damage, and never used Yelp again – remained.

Unfortunately, a lot of consumers sign up for Yelp, Google, etc., vent about one bad experience, then never log on again. More than likely, you won’t reach those people. So focus on the ones you can.

Turning lemons into lemonade.

One of my first mentors in my marketing/PR career shared the following words that have stuck with me ever since: "Take a problem, and treat it as an opportunity for a solution.” With that being said, let’s talk about review marketing.

What do you do? Flag the review, and hope for the best? Sure. Passive steps work on occasion. By “on occasion,” I mean don’t count on it. A review on Google or Yelp – good or bad – is an opportunity to engage with your consumer. Ignoring a bad review will not help (few things in life are guaranteed, but this one is on the short list).
Review Marketing
Providing a direct response is valuable because it shows that you’re caring and attentive. If possible, thank the reviewer for their feedback. It demonstrates professionalism and accountability. Don't let yourself get emotional. It'll only exacerbate the problem.

Now, you know that reviewer who went into excruciating detail about his bad experience? He just handed you the opportunity to address his pain points. Your customer came to you in the first place for a reason. Chances are he wants to like you. Give him a reason.

So, remember my insurance agent? He took this approach and reached out to a couple of the reviewers who had problems with corporate. One of these reviewers had been a long-time customer. In this customer's review, he vowed to cancel his services, but had not yet done so. My client was able to connect with him. In the end, the reviewer still canceled, but he changed the review rating and thanked my client for being genuinely concerned about his case and reaching out to him to resolve the issue. Sometimes you can turn lemons into lemonade, even if it's still a little sour.

Review marketing is coming.

Connect with your customer. It won’t always be easy and sometimes it won’t even be pleasant. However, the extra effort your put forward in review marketing will pay huge dividend. Customer reviews are your online reputation. Make sure you have something to say about it. We understand that the review marketing process is very involved and can also be time-consuming, which is why we’re almost ready to introduce a brand-new review marketing tool.

Through this new service, you can generate new reviews, aggregate current reviews and syndicate your best reviews to your website and social media platforms. Our new tool also offers reputation management, brand protection and detailed reporting analytics. We’re excited about this new platform, and we think you will be, too. Ask your IMA for details about getting started.

Content Writer: Martin Poston Martin Poston Digital Marketing Strategist