By Erika Madden | Featured Contributor
Quick: how do you protect your reputation when people leave negative online reviews about your business?
- Delete the reviews…if I can
- Do nothing and just hope for the best
- Fine, threaten, or sue!
If these choices sound like bad news, you’re right. When it comes to shoring up your online reputation despite complaints and stinging reviews, the very last thing you want to do is send the message that you’re hiding from, ignoring, or outright bullying your customers.
(Talk about a real PR nightmare in the making!)
To prevent negative online reviews from doing significant damage to your good name, you’ll need a classier strategy. Here are 3 steps to take to help your business thrive despite the criticism that comes your way:
1. Take Customer Care Seriously
When it comes down to it, you have the ultimate power over your reputation. If you want to send the message that you’re a business of integrity, you’ll first need to make sure that you’re earning that reputation by actually treating your unhappy customers with professionalism.
Are you responding to negative comments quickly (ideally within two hours)? Are you offering a sincere apology for their experience? Are you politely addressing their complaints in a way that will fix their problem — or at least compensate for their trouble?
Remember, the public is watching these interactions. The way you conduct yourself (NOT the negative review itself) will be the overriding factor in whether people form a positive or negative image of your business. Make sure you’re not self-sabotaging by reacting poorly.
2. Go Looking For Positive Reviews
Negative reviews can give people pause, but their threat to a business can be greatly neutralized if they exist in a larger sea of positive remarks. Have you ever shopped on Amazon? At least 80% of the time the products I buy have some scathing 1 and 2 star reviews, but in the end it matters little to me if there are dozens of others who give it 4 or 5 stars.
If you don’t already have a nice collection of positive reviews, unflattering comments will stick out like a sore thumb. To combat this, be proactive in asking your satisfied clients to review you on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or wherever your social media marketing efforts are most concentrated.
A word of caution: don’t be over-salesy, pushy, or offer bribes. A simple, “If you’re a fan of my business, I’d be honored if you left a review on my Facebook page!” is enough. If you’re making the ask online, make sure you provide direct links whenever you can — the easier you make it for people, the more successful you’ll be.
3. Get Blogging + PR Savvy
Bad online reviews can easily begin to control the narrative of your business if there’s little else out there telling your story and showcasing your strengths. As of last year only 1 in 8 businesses had an updated blog, which is a huge lost opportunity! Blogging is the ideal way for you to demonstrate your expertise, grow relationships, improve your search engine results, help people find solutions to their problems, and generally prove that there’s a real, engaging human face behind the business.
However, even if you’re regularly adding content to the web, it may not be enough to combat embarrassing reviews found on other blogs. To fight this, you’ll need to increase your favorable exposure through proven PR tactics like guest posting and media coverage.
What classy suggestions do you have for those dealing with negative online reviews? Share them in the comments!
Erika Madden is the irresistible super geek behind Olyvia, a digital marketing, reputation, and etiquette consulting company that helps women be delightful online. Between herding three feisty young children, running to the store for more Starbucks K-cups, and obsessively tweaking her website, she considers her success to be just short of miraculous.