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Managing Negative Reviews On-Line

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I am going to disagree with a small portion of the advice given in our previous article, Online Reviews – Small Business Owners Guide. Specifically, I don’t like the section on dealing with negative reviews. This section relies on an often quoted article by Mike Blumenthal which gives the following basic advice:

  1. Take Responsibility For the Problem
  2. Give Reasons Why The Problem won’t happen again.
  3. Offer some sort of refund or effort to fix the problem.

While I think following this advice will do more good than harm, I think there are times where there is a better approach. Basically, what I will label the “Blumenthal” approach has a fundamental problem. It’s based on the idea that the customer is always right. While this approach might create happy customers, it doesn’t necessarily create reviews that make people want to do business with a company. Essentially, the “Blumenthal” approach admits that the company had problems. The fact that the company tried to fix the situation may take some of the sting out of the negative review, but it doesn’t create a positive feeling about the company.

Negative reviews remove you from the choice set. Period. Lower price or higher ratings do not overcome the impact of negative reviews. Consumers simply will not choose a hotel with negative reviews. Hotels that are in this unfortunate situation should focus energies on improving their reputation.

- The Impact Of Negative Review On Purchase Decisions, SAS Blog

When customers see a negative review, they worry that the experience the customer is reporting will become their experience. A negative review creates risk in the mind of the buyer. How should one respond to negative reviews:

Turn A Negative Review Into A Positive One In The Eyes Of Review Readers

A customer may have had a bad experience with your business. Or the customer may have come into a situation with incorrect assumptions. The first thing to do is apologize for the customer having a bad experience. The second is to educate review readers about how they can avoid the “problem”. While never directly stating the customer providing the review was wrong, the idea is to create doubt if the problem was really with your company or the consumer misunderstanding the product or service.

Research from Bazaarvoice has shown that review readers react very positively when a firm uses a negative review to help others avoid the same problem. Let’s take 2 bad experiences and how a restaurant could publicly respond:

Negative Review: A restaurant visitor has food allergies to nuts and claims he or she told the waiter / waitress about them, however, their dish contained nuts.

Response: Apologize and state that you will be doing special training with staff about the importance of food allergies. Then go on to list the different menu items that are normally made with nuts and those that can be made without nuts on request.

Negative Review: A customer claims that they waited 40 minutes to be seated, another 40 minutes to be served, and the food came out cold.

Response: Apologize and let people know that this is not typical. Let people know the typical wait times for different nights for customers walking in without a reservation, and how long it typically takes to get served. Furthermore, let people know that if their food comes out cold, they should immediately tell the manager and the restaurant will re-do the order and take it off the check.

At the same time that you are publicly responding, you should be contacting the customer privately. While offering a new opportunity to try the restaurant compliments of the owner might be good in some situations, this may not always be the right approach. For example, it may be more important to the person with the food allergy to know that the owner takes the issue seriously than a free “lunch”. Inviting the person to attend the food allergy training meeting would send that message.

Bury Negative Reviews By Getting More Positive Ones

online reviews

(chart from Search Engine Land)

Some negative reviews just cannot be changed into a positive ones. If a potential patron doesn’t see a review, does it exist? Most customers won’t read more than 7 reviews. According to a study published in Search Engine Land, 78% of customers make up their mind after reading 7 reviews or less. Once you get to the eleventh review, less than 10% of review readers will get that far. In other words, if you can push down a review to the number 8 position, the damage done by a negative review is severely limited.

Article Source: http://fitsmallbusiness.com/negative-online-reviews/