As an entrepreneur, you work hard to build and tweak your company's image so it is exactly the way you want it.
First, you create the precise product or service which will help you stand out from the competition. Then you choose the right media in which to market your brand. And when your customers come to your door, you strive to meet and exceed their expectations.
But how do you know if all of this effort is paying off?
There's one quick way to find out: online reviews.
You can explore the review sites which cover your community or industry. Or you can even set one up yourself as part of your website. Either way, these unsolicited remarks about your business can offer you valuable feedback. And you can use the positive comments as part of your marketing plan by incorporating these testimonials into your advertising if you wish.
But what do you do if you get a negative review?
The downside to asking people what they think is that what they tell you may not be what you want to hear. You may find that some people have both flattering and unflattering things to say about your business, while others might employ an even tone to state what they caught you could have done better. But if you are the target of a scathingly unfavorable review, there are a few steps you can take to address the issue.
Get the facts. Before you respond to the complaint, be sure to look into the matter. If the reviewer reported bad service on the day your truck broke down or your computer network crashed, then the comment may be justified. If an employee reacted incorrectly or inappropriately in a certain situation, then talk to him or her and remedy the problem. A letter of apology and/or a refund or future discount offer may go a long way toward smoothing things over – and the reviewer may adjust his or her comment accordingly.
Tell your side of the story. If you receive an especially strong criticism, or if several reviewers give you low marks about the same problem, feel free to respond. You can do this by putting a message on your website or telling your employees what to say if someone brings up this hot-button issue. For example, if there are complaints about your prices, point out how they compare to those of your rivals or stress your additional service. This approach helps convey the sense that you take customer feedback seriously.
Grease the squeaky wheel. If the negative review came from someone you would consider to be an "influencer" of public opinion (like a blog host or a columnist for a newspaper), don't hesitate to reach out to that person individually. Send an email or call them up directly. You can propose that he or she give your company another chance or offer to address any issues that the reviewer has problems with. A little personal attention may be enough to get the comment taken down.
Play hard ball. If you are targeted by a review that is abusive, unwarranted, threatening, and even expletive-laden, consider using it to your advantage. One way is to laugh it off and marginalize the offending party on your website. Or you can find the reviewer's identity and send a copy of the inappropriate comments to his or her supervisor at work – who might not want employees expressing themselves online in that manner. You might find that the negative review "magically" disappears shortly thereafter.
Online reviews are a double-edged sword. The good ones can provide a lift to your company's image, but the bad ones may damage the reputation of your business. Just keep in mind that you don't have to resign yourself to bad reviews. Instead, take action to rectify the situation – and turn those online "frowns" upside down!