I was just speaking to Mike Blumenthal on Google Plus about his recent blog post titled “Review Management: 7 Tips on Avoiding Bad Reviews“ and it addresses some very important concepts a lot of small businesses are not implementing into their business procedures and I’d like to re-share Mike’s recommendations and add a few of my own.
First thing Mike and I agreed on is, avoiding poor reviews is the first line of defense for ALL small businesses. Waiting until you get poor review(s) to react is not a good game plan. Especially in time when just about anyone can leave a review about your business.
Mike said in his post: “It used to be said that an unhappy customer would tell 10 people. Today an unhappy customer can influence hundreds if not thousands of people by leaving a bad review.”
I think he’s right, review management is serious and SMB’s need to address it head on. A lot of people today are searching about you before they do business with you. What a lot people will do now before they do business with you and your company is they will type in your name and/or your business name and add modifiers like:
- business name + reviews
- business name + ratings
- business name + complaints
- business name +BBB
If you do those searches on your name and/or business name, what do you find? If it’s not good, you may need heed the advice in this post immediately. Even if all is good, I’d still start creating a review management plan for your small business.
What Can You Do To Prevent Negative Reviews About Your Business?
Mike offered some really good points and I will add my 2 cents on my favorite of his recommendations.
- Follow up with customers immediately after the sale – I think so many SMB’s are guilty not doing this. Don’t just follow-up once. Follow-up multiple times. Once with 1-3 days. Then again in two weeks, then again in one month. Even doing with email is good, but nothing shows you care more then placing a quick phone call. If you find out they are dis-satisfied you can address it right away. This standard follow-up process also increases your chances at getting positive reviews (because you should also be asking for them too during your follow-up processes) and it creates a huge opportunity to upsell and get referrals. If you do not have a standard follow up process for all your sales then you have to immediately create one with your team and make a standard procedure in your business. And following up once is not enough. I recommend once 1-3 days after the sale, once again two weeks later then a soft electronic follow once every 1-2 months is a good way to stay present in your customers minds. Just remember every time you contact them you have something of value to offer, don’t spam your customers.
- Make complaining easy – This is a bit of an art form to do, but if you can develop the right culture within your organization you can train all staff to not be defensive when getting complaints and to address them immediately, thus creating opportunities to AVOID poor reviews. Mike recommends even having a complaint form on your websites and I’d go as far to make sure you have a clear complaints department, complaints box, etc. Fielding complaints yourself directly is a much better plan then people venting their frustrastions online for the whole world to read. Apparently, Matt Magee says, “we don’t live in a five star world. Your client’s business is no exception.” and nothing could be truer. It not a question that a business will get a poor review or have a customer who have complaints, they will. It will happen. It’s what are we doing to prevent poor reviews and what are we doing to manage reputation and making sure we are delivering solid services, is the question SMB’ers need to be asking themselves. So creating a plan and implementing procedures to avoid poor reviews is 100% mandatory for all small businesses.
- Respond to negative reviews online – We already agreed (above) you will get a bad review(s) at some point, but how you respond can make all the difference on how people judge your business. If you get a poor review, try to respond diplomatically as possible. Acknowledge accept the poor review and make a point this is not what you want happening in your business. State that it is uber important that your customers are super happy with all your products/services. Publicly apologize for their experience and offer to fix the situation. Then don’t forget to point out in your response that this not the case most of the time with your business and link to all your positive reviews. Whatever you do, do not get into a “who’s right” argument online (even if the customer is wrong and let’s face sometimes they are), but this approach will never serve you well. It would be better to say nothing then to do this. Before posting a response I’d recommend you wait a day or two to make sure you are not being too hasty with an inappropriate response. I’d even go as far as to ask some 3rd party people you trust, who are not involved in the situation the read your response to make sure it’s diplomatic in nature before posting. Remember everything you say is a digital footprint back to your business.
- Ask for reviews – Nothing combats poor reviews with lots of positive ones. Be as proactive as possible (without doing review spam) to get lots of positive reviews from your customers. Make ethical bribes, follow-up regularly, and make it as easy as possible for them to leave you a review. For example, if you notice they use gmail send them to Google Places, if you notice they use yahoo email then send them to Yahoo Local, if they use hotmail send them to Bing Local…. you get the idea. At the end of the day, you cannot have too many positive reviews. Make sure you always have current reviews too. I have seen many SMB’s who have a lot reviews get cushy because they have more then their competitors, but if your reviews are 1 year old since your last one and your competitor only has half the reviews as you, but their reviews are current, who do you think will get the business…? People look at dates. I know I do.
Now it’s inevitable before every business eventually gets a bad review, if you get a poor review here are some really interesting posts on how to manage those poor reviews:
I personally like the way Stephanie Suesan Smith said on Growmap.com, “Be proactive in your business. Connect with customers. If you receive a complaint, do your best to work it out. If that isn’t possible, make sure your customers know what you did to make things right. Doing the right thing isn’t just a moral imperative, it is good business.”
Make sure you have plan to monitor reviews, so you can always acknowledge and accept negative feedback quickly by apologizing and indicating that you would like the opportunity to correct things. Doing this shows online readers of the reviews, that you’re listening and care about the service provided at your small business.
This was my two cents on review management, what are your thoughts…? Tell us in the comment section below. What else could small businesses do to avoid poor reviews?
NEW: Another cool post I found about avoiding poor reviews: