Online reviews can make or break your business. They are a form of virtual “word of mouth” advertising, and too many bad reviews can negatively affect your business reputation. The first defense against bad reviews is to ensure that you are doing everything in your power to gain customer loyalty. Whether you are in a service-providing industry or a product retailing industry, your first priority is to make the customer happy. Unhappy customers equal bad reviews. There are a number of reasons why your business may receive an unfavorable review. The most common reason is that a customer is unhappy with your business for some reason. Sometimes a bad review is warranted; many more times it is only one aspect of your business that produces a disgruntled customer. Unfortunately, the negative affect is the same.
Disgruntled customers can affect your business in many negative ways. A negative online review is just the beginning. “Word of mouth” has much more leverage than the most expensive advertising. Most people will ask someone they know if they could recommend a business for them before believing the ads. It becomes obvious, then, that customer reviews are more heavily weighted when gauging the reputation of a business. The first step is to ensure you are showing customers' positive reviews about your company.
You have heard the old adage, “the customer is always right”. Anyone who has worked in customer service knows that this is not factually true, but it makes good business sense. Showing reviews from current customers can increase trust in your company and brand. For example, home automation company Vivint has a home page that lists “customer stories”, a series of videos about customer satisfaction. With just one click on their home page, potential customers can hear what customers have said about Vivint reviews. Other companies often put up links to review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google reviews, which can also help increase brand trust.
Even if a company has received more than a few bad reviews, improving customer service can still turn it around. Any business needs to focus on the bottom line to a point, but not at the expense of a good rapport with their customers. One problem employee can cost your business money and customers. Spend the money to train employees on dealing with customers, especially problem customers. Every business will have to deal with difficult customers. They may want discounts, or some type of "freebee", or an apology from the “disrespectful” employee that answered the phone. Give that difficult customer what he wants because he is the one most likely to write an online review. Let that employee take one for the team. It will show other customers that you will stand behind your business. As you implement new strategies, you will see your online reputation rise.
Improving your online reputation takes effort. First, examine the current online reviews and gauge the reputation that is reflected there. This can be an overwhelming task, but there are some great tools to track online sentiment. Determine how you can improve on customer satisfaction. Monitor all new reviews for consistency and determine if a particular department or part of your offerings are causing the negative experience for your customers. Ask for feedback from your customers and then address any negative impressions. If your customers understand that you are willing to listen to their concerns, they are more likely to write a positive online review.
If a difficulty arises that you cannot overcome, then move on and learn from your mistakes. There will always be a small percentage of customers who cannot be pleased. Once you have done everything that is feasible, use your energy to build up positive relationships with your other customers. Focus on the fact that good online reviews can increase your sales and ensure that your good reviews outweigh the occasional bad review.