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5 Tips For Responding To Negative Customer Reviews Online

It’s holiday time and I thought I’d spread a little cheer by talking about negative reviews and how fun they are for local businesses.

As Yelp says, “negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut”. Even better, according to a recent study by Cone Communications, four out of five consumers have changed their minds about a recommended purchase based solely on negative information they found online.

But there’s a lot of lemonade to be made from those review lemons. After all, negative reviews can increase sales. Negative reviews can help potential customers feel like they have “done their homework” which moves them further towards making a purchase decision. Negative reviews can also add credibility to your positive reviews. And perhaps most important, negative reviews give businesses a chance to respond and show how awesome they really are.

So when your business gets slammed on a local review site, be it a legit complaint or a crackpot customer, you can’t afford to ignore the negativity.  So let’s look at how to turn these major bummers into teachable moments.

1. Have A Game Plan

As Mike Blumenthal recommends in Responding To Negative Reviews – Your Prospects Are The Real Audience: “Never respond to reviews unless you can own the issue, describe how future customers will not have the issue, and offer to fix the issue”. He also recommends that when you do respond, you “write with your prospects in mind”.

2. Understand The Tools At Your Disposal

Get to know the sites that all merchants to respond and learn how to use their tools. Miriam Ellis has a great post Edit, Remove and Respond To Reviews – Tools for Conflict Resolution that outlines what kinds of merchant responses are allowed on different local reviews sites. I have adapted her list to create the one below.

3. Learn How To Mine The Gold From Negative Reviews

Check out this video of Seth Godin interviewing Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio and Food Network’s Sarah Moulton about how they use bad reviews – and bad reviewers – to make their businesses better. Thanks to Al for pointing this one out to me. Check out his post on Tools for Managing Negative Customer Reviews for more great words of wisdom on the subjet.

4. Study At The Feet Of The Masters

Take a page from R.J.Hidson’s Place Page,  R.J., an Edmonton Wedding Photographer displays a textbook example of how to respond to a negative review when he got slammed for showing some ‘tude at a customer’s nuptials.

I’ve got to say I like RJ’s ‘tude.

5. Don’t Ignore It. It Won’t Go Away

Lisa Barone puts it thus about what can happen when “a review develops legs”: “Staying quiet simply because you don’t think it’s serious enough to warrant a response is almost certain to invite the fire to spread beyond Yelp and onto other blogs and news sites. You don’t want that to happen. The best way to contain the mess is to handle it at its source. If something is gaining legs, get in the conversation and help calm it down. Often just a few words from you will be enough to soothe the hype and get the conversation back on track.”

Several years ago, a ego-maniacal little blogger found himself on the wrong end of some bad service and blogged about it. To say this review “developed legs” is putting it mildly. But the merchant ignored the problem and likely lost business because of it.

If said merchant had followed Lisa’s advice and merely contacted the pesky little blogger to explain his side of the story he probably could have saved himself a lot of grief, and perhaps he would have even gotten some business out of it.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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