Online review platforms are a boon for your business…except when they’re not. One negative review on a site like Yelp can have a tremendous impact on the traffic that comes (or doesn’t) through your door. Everyone knows that a single bad review doesn’t mean a business is horrible, and when they see the company actively trying to remedy the situation, they might be even more interested in becoming customers of yours.

Here are a few measures you can take to minimize the impact of a bad online review.

1. Be on the Lookout

Now, I’m not suggesting you expect negative reviews and start watching for them, but it’s wise to be proactive in paying attention to all reviews for your company online. This helps you stay tuned in to what your customers are feeling about your business, and allows you to make tweaks or changes to improve as necessary.

Use Google alerts to monitor your brand online so, you can act quickly if and when you do get a negative review.

2. Respond Immediately

The faster you react, the better the results. A negative review that you didn’t catch might be what keeps people considering your business from actually visiting it, so be on top of every review and be ready to respond.

What does responding look like? First, offer an apology. If a customer complains about a bad experience with your brand, don’t get defensive. Remember the adage, “the customer is always right.” It might be tempting to get into a mud-slinging contest, but remember your goal here is to keep this bad review from dissuading others from shopping with you.

3. Offer a Solution Offline

If you can, pick up the phone and call your customer. Often people just want to be heard. If you run a restaurant and a reviewer complained about the food, offer to let them come back on the house. Offer a refund, a replacement, or something else that will leave the dissatisfied customer feeling whole again. They will appreciate that the owner to the time to personally respond.

4. Make Your Response Public

Yelp and other online review sites typically allow businesses to respond publicly to any feedback. This is your opportunity to let others who visit that page see that you’re proactive in dealing with issues, and that you’re eager to please your clientele. You should also respond to positive reviews as well.

5. Follow Up

If your disgruntled customer does take you up on your offer to come back and try your company again, make sure you’re the one to interact with them, and apologize again. Make sure they understand how much you want to make them happy.

Once they’re happy, ask if they’d consider updating their review. It’s imperative that others see the end result of this situation, and that you successfully turned around a bad experience for this particular customer.

When Rogue Reviews Happen

Sometimes people just want to complain. It might not even be that the food was cold or that the staff was rude, but they just want some attention. In this case, go through all the steps here, but don’t expect them to come back to your business to try again.

There’s simply not much you can do about “bad reviewers” other than encourage more customers to leave positive reviews so these negative ones get buried. If you have one 1-star review out of 100, potential customers will take that one with a grain of salt and focus on the others.

Negative online reviews don’t have to ruin your business. By being proactive and managing your response to a negative comment, you can turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one, and keep attracting new business.

About the author

Melinda F. Emerson, “SmallBizLady” is America’s #1 Small Business Expert. She is an expert on small business start up, business development, and social media marketing. Forbes magazine named her the #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She publishes a resource blog Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months and the ebook How To Become a Social Media Ninja.

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