In the age of the internet sometimes it seems mistakes are permanent – etched into the virtual wall of sites such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Trip Advisor. We’d all like our business to have perfect service, but occasionally we slip up and mistakes happen.  A single mistake can lead to a poor customer experience, manifesting as a negative review online for all to see.

What’s the deal with online reviews?

Well – the effects are significant; according to a consumer survey report by BrightLocal, 97% of consumers have looked a business up online, and 85% trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. According to ReviewTrackers.com, 94% of people have avoided a business after seeing a negative review online. Meaning, a single negative review online has the potential to have devastating effects on your business, if not properly addressed.

First – you have to reflect if the customer’s review is a regular critique of your business. One negative review saying your “famous” recipe is terrible can potentially be an outlier, but multiple similar reviews may force you to acknowledge the truth and make adjustments. Second, it has to be publicly responded to – from the ReviewTracker’s report, 35% of consumers said they can look past a bad review if the establishment has responded in the correct manner.

Responding to a negative review requires a high sense of maturity and authenticity – publicly denying accusations will only make your business look worse, but generic apologies that are copied and pasted on every negative review look unauthentic. It’s important to apologize, address the specific customer’s concern (perhaps a mistake from a supplier meant you didn’t have a menu item available), and provide a warm incentive for the customer to return.

This way – you are both showing others online that your business cares about their patronage, and you may have a chance of winning the upset customer back (and potentially deleting their bad review).

On the flip side, you should encourage real positive reviews as much as possible – so ask customers for feedback whenever possible. Gentle reminders to leave a review online after a good experience will raise your company’s online rating, and potentially dilute any negative reviews that appear.  According to BrightLocal, they are much more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than a positive one – so it is important to capture the positive experience you have given to other customers who enjoy your business.

One bad review online isn’t the end of the world – but today it is more important than ever to monitor your brand image online and ensure you are being presented in a positive light. It is key to address all complaints with maturity, warmth, and authenticity to recapture the respect of the public.

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