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Hey, everyone. This is Alex and Mike here today to talk to you about how to handle negative reviews.

That’s right. Online reviews certainly matter. I think everyone can agree with that. When you look, as a consumer, on a business that has negative reviews, whether it’s a restaurant or a service provider, you’re certainly going to think twice before you move forward with that business.

Sure. I would say that I guard my personal reviews. I take that very seriously and I want to make sure that they are accurate and as complete as possible.

Fair. If I’m looking for a place to go to dinner and I see a restaurant that rated three stars versus five stars, obviously, I’m going to at least initially have more confidence in the five star reviews. And that’s before I even look at the reviews. It doesn’t matter who wrote them or what they said. Unknowingly, often you just look at the stars, not even focused on the quantity. A restaurant that has four stars as their rating, but 2000 reviews, versus a restaurant that has five stars with four reviews, they’re not really weighted equally. About six months ago, Google said so itself, that positive reviews and customer and business interactions improve organic visibility on Google. Certainly we do not know to what extent the reviews actually impact the bottom line of a business, but I think everyone can agree that having a good reviews, customer-facing, is certainly important.

Mike, did they say that it was specific to Google My Business or they’re taking other… Yelp, et cetera, into account as well?

I do not know the exact specific. My guess is it’s going to be heavily weighted on Google My Business. But Google will pull in organic snippets for business listings from Yelp, from Angie’s List, from HomeAdvisor, and they’ll pull in other reviews. However, when it comes to how Google ranks you based on stars, they’re only taking into account Google My Business reviews.

I heavily weight my interest towards my personal Google My Business reviews as opposed to all the other possibilities out there. Do you think that that’s a mistake or what could a small business do? Should they focus on one? Should they spread it across? If they’re going in, let’s say creating a bit of a campaign to get reviews from their customers, who should they be asking and where should they be directing them to?

I’m not sure that it’s a soul place. I think to start off, you certainly want to focus on Google My Business reviews because people are often starting their search at Google. There are industry-specific sites that reviews could matter. For example, if you’re a lawyer, Avvo is prominent place that customers would or prospective customers would look for reviews on a specific attorney. HomeAdvisor is great if you’re service-oriented business. But at the end of the day, Google is certainly where you want to start, and I think you will have more trust in Google above third-party platforms itself. Good reviews are great for the business. It’s a nice ego boost, certainly good for our customers to see. You want to see happy customers. At the end of the day, if you always are getting bad reviews, it might be time to have a business conversation internally and figure out why you’re getting negative reviews.

For the basis of this conversation, let’s focus on a company that is doing 99% of the things right. They’re out there for the right intention. They’re trying to put out a good product. They’re trying to deliver good value and they’re just doing good business like the way that they should.

I agree with you. Let’s focus on that particular type of client or person. I would say this, Mike, here’s my perspective, in general, I think we, as let’s say a business, can learn a lot more from the negative reviews than we do from always getting the pat on the back and the five stars. It forces us to look inwards and say, “Hey, is there validity to what this person is saying?” If so, if we get a horrible review from someone, they’ve taken the time and effort to go onto a platform and do this and put it out there, it’s one of two things. Either they are in irrational person, it’s certainly possible. Or B, maybe we’re doing something wrong and we better take a deep, hard look at what we’re doing and make some changes, right?

I completely agree. I know as a consumer, when I go online, if I’m looking at Yelp or if I’m looking at a product on Amazon, I find a product or a service that has the higher reviews, and then I personally, I immediately go to look at the one star reviews. I want to see what people are complaining about. I think consumers are smart enough now to understand how reviews work. I’m sure there’s been times that you’ve been approached by a restaurant that says, whatever, “We’ll give you a free appetizer or a product,” that says, “Leave us a review. We’ll give you $10 off.” Consumers know that five star reviews can certainly be influenced. There’s enough places that you can go to see how reviews are between company to company and to get a good overall health check of what the business is like or what that product is like or if as a consumer you want to go spend your money with that specific business.

How a company handles the negative reviews, I think, carries more weight to both the consumer that had the negative experience as well as other prospective customers.

I’m in agreement with you. Again, I think that how the company handles their bad reviews is a big indication of how they’re going to handle any potential situation with you in the future. They’ll look they’re professional. I think first and foremost, that they actually respond to them, right? They’re saying, “Hey, we’re sorry you had this bad experience. Either we’re not aware that you’ve had this or please contact us and we have the following remedy in place for these type of situation.” I think that it’s really a big positive when you see all of them that are actually being responded to.

There’s an old adage that the customer is always right. And I think as a business owner, in many circumstances, that is correct. And the customer is always right, until they’re not. As a business, over time, as you’re doing business and you’re expanding your customers and you’re growing, you’re going to run into someone that you just couldn’t please. Maybe they were just a bad customer, maybe it was just a bad fit. Like you said before, how the business goes about answering those and addressing them really carries a lot. Sometimes you see the negative reviews, you see the business reach out. They try to offer a logical, at least, explanation. If you’re a restaurant and someone… I can’t tell you how many times people have made a comment about, “There’s a long wait on a Saturday night.”

Well, if you show up to a popular restaurant at seven o’clock on a Saturday night… Sometimes you just can’t ration with every customer. I think the first thing, like you said, they need to address the question, they need to address the customer, and I think that they really need to make sure that they’re in the behavior of addressing negative reviews as quickly as they come in.

I’m in full agreement with you. Yes, deal with it right away. Don’t let it sit there. Don’t let it linger. Just handle it and be done with it.

It’s important for the business to always answer these reviews thoughtfully. Certainly, they should not take it personally and give it some… I mean, you want to address it quickly. I mean, you don’t have to address it the same day, but you certainly don’t want a month to go by without addressing that customer. I think if you give it a couple of days, make sure you’re not attacking the customer, but to answer it honestly, answer thoughtfully. They really can go a long way.

Yes. And me, let’s say as a prospective user of this service, I would say, “Okay, look, if I do what you do, right?” And I do the same thing often, is go to the one star reviews and see whether it’s being said. If I see thoughtful reviews and if I see some attempt in order to remedy the situation, I think that I’m in a better position to maybe give it a shot as opposed to just saying, “Absolutely not.”

I think being honest about the review is one of the most important things that a business can take out of it. No business is perfect. They’re going to make mistakes. If you’re a restaurant, maybe you lost a reservation or the wrong food came out or it took too long or the waiter forgot about it. It happens. Most people, I think, are reasonable. I think that if the business is honest, they address the actual issue, whether it was their fault or not, and they’re kind and they keep it appropriate, I think that can really set the tone for prospective customers. And oftentimes, you might even be able to win back that customer depending on the actual response.

And again, look, can you make everybody happy all the time? No. Is every review that comes through that’s negative going to be a correct representation of the experience? Probably not. But do the best that you can, and I think be humble, look inwardly and say, “Well, is this something that can be fixed? This is a teachable moment, so to speak, and something we can implement if the same thing doesn’t happen again in the future.”

I think for the most part, customers just want to be heard. It’s not even so much about the actual issue of what it was or was not, but they want to vocalize. They want to have the feeling that their opinion matters. That by them posting something online, the business is going to have that open forum for anyone to see and then let the business decide how they’re going to handle that response. One important part when addressing a negative review is to make sure that you never get personal. Certainly you want to be thoughtful, you want to give a unique response, but you don’t want to make it personal and you certainly don’t want to ever attack or try to retaliate against a specific customer, whether you know who that customer is or isn’t. It’s really going to show a lot about the character of who the owner is or the manager as well as the company itself.

Oftentimes, I think there’s an opportunity that you can take that online review and transition that to an offline experience. If someone has something to say that’s negative and they complain, you can ask them to call you. You can give them an email address for them to reach out to. Then certainly, trying to get their contact info. If you already have it, you can reach out to them. Certainly, they just want to be heard. And I think that’s some things that often businesses just don’t do. Now, even if there is a negative review left for a specific small business, for the owner or the manager to take that opportunity to be thankful and to be appreciative, they can really learn a lot about that customer interaction. And at the end of the day, like you said before, all feedback is useful, the good, the bad.

At the end of the day, the person took some time, they took their money, they took whatever to come to your business initially, they took the time to give criticism, whether it’s correct or not, and the negative reviews can or should be good for the business. It’s a good way to keep customers talking. It’s a good way to keep them engaged. And again, you can take a negative experience and turn it into a positive and hopefully win back that customer.

Yes, agree totally. If the right things are put into place and it’s not left by the wayside and just forgotten about, it’s a priority in the mind of the owner or the management that’s taking care of this, and it should be a part of any good ongoing plan.

A lot of the restaurants that I’ve worked with in the past somehow have this notion that they have to give something away. I don’t think any business has to give anything to either get the review or to compensate a negative review. You certainly don’t want to train the customers that all they have to do is post a negative review and they’ll get something from you for free. That’s just a bad business practice, but it should be used as a forum to address what that actual negative review or the negative experience was for the customer. To build on that, I think that you can also take appropriate action to correct the issue and to show that to the customer. If something was wrong, if the business wasn’t able to fix something, if it’s a service provider, maybe you’re a window cleaner and the windows came out not clean, you can take that time to explain, here’s why it didn’t come out clean.

Or you can take that time to show that customer, here’s what you’re doing to improve it, or you switched products, or you want to come back out and resurface them. There’s many options that they can take, but I think making sure that the customer knows that it’s not just that you’re addressing with like a template, but you’re actually addressing their specific concern.

Absolutely. Not just some canned response, but something that really takes into account their issue and some kind of solution.

Oftentimes, I find that people who are addressing their negative reviews, which is certainly a good start, there’s no followup. It just ends there. If the customer took their time, they wrote a one star review or a two star review, you made your comment and you left it at that, that could be okay, but if there’s no more followup… There’s nothing wrong, I believe, with once you remedy the issue to follow back up with the customer, get them to come back in, reservice them, whatever the case may be. You can always ask them to redo their review. There’s nothing wrong with that, and certainly within Google’s terms. You certainly want to make sure that you’re not incentivizing people because that is within the scope of what’s defined as out of… or a violation of the terms and conditions. I’ve seen business competitors often send Google the incentive that their competition is trying to offer their customers.

If they post something on Facebook or they have something on their website about, “Get X for leaving us a review,” oftentimes, they’ll send that to Google and then next Google is pulling down all of your reviews. I do think that it is important to encourage your customers to leave reviews. The best way to ensure happy customers are always to have them leave a positive review. It’s certainly a good practice, especially if you’re a hairstylist or a makeup artist or some restaurant. After someone has come in and enjoyed their experience with you, it’s going to be much easier to get them to leave a review for you then than six months from now.

I personally am in the habit of doing just that. I have a good exchange with somebody, our work together comes to a conclusion, and pretty quickly thereafter, I’ll send a specific email that has a request for a review on Google My Business and just as an accurate depiction of the experience they had. And I would say that 75% of customers do that just as… All within the first day they do it.

You certainly want to encourage the customers to leave reviews. All businesses get both good and bad reviews. You don’t want to hide the negative reviews. There are steps that you can take if reviews are fake or misleading to get them legitimately removed. Not all reviews will be authentic. Sometimes it’s a former employee or a disgruntled employee or the competition. Oftentimes, it’s potential customers who’ve never even became an actual customer. Maybe they’re not happy with the pricing, maybe they’re not happy with a phone call, who knows? But business reviews are intended for actual customers. If it’s someone who’s not actually a customer of yours who’s left a negative review, you can send a request to Google or have your marketing company send a request on your behalf to get that review taken down.

I’ve just one particular instance comes to mind with an attorney client of mine, that someone had left a review, this person had never contacted the office, had never done any business with them whatsoever. I thought his response was great. It was just, “Hey, we have no record of ever working with you. If that is not the case, we apologize, please contact us. Otherwise, we’re going to contact Google and request this to be removed,” because again, I don’t think it was an accurate depiction of the situation.

Lastly, I think it’s important for any small business to make sure that they’re monitoring their online reviews. There’s tools you can get. Again, if you have a agency partner, that they can set up a dashboard for you to monitor the review sites that are important to you. But monitoring your online presence is certainly one of the best ways to stay on top of all of your reviews consistently. Again, whether you’re getting good reviews, negative reviews, neutral reviews, you can always funnel that data back into the business to constantly be improving your business and improving your customer satisfaction. By doing so, I think you’ll be able to apply these points in handling both the positive, but specifically the negative reviews to make sure that the business is positioned to succeed as best as it can online.

I’m in full agreement with you, Mike. I think the major takeaways are, is, hey, don’t be afraid of the reviews, right? Ask for them, respond to them quickly, especially if they’re negative, and look inwards and make sure that it is not some company issue and do your best in order to provide the highest level of product and service and make sure that you are monitoring your reputation, your brand reputation online, via many tools that are available on the marketplace today.

Absolutely.

Well, Mike, thanks for the time. We’ll be back with more content very soon.