How to handle negative reviews – and get more business

No matter what you do, you simply can’t please everyone. Of course, realizing this doesn’t make you feel any better when someone leaves a bad review of your business online.

These reviews can make or break your business – sometimes overnight. Good ones can send you more business, while enough single (or no) stars and toxic comments can send you spiraling and ruin your reputation. However, bad online reviews are not always deal breakers if you handle them correctly.

Having had my own business for more than a decade, I have seen the power of reviews. At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we’d like to offer our advice on how to handle negative reviews, and generate reviews that win you more business, and build your reputation and rapport with others.

Why reviews are so important

In today’s digital landscape, your competitors are only a click or search away, and online reviews make up a large component of whether consumers choose you or your competitors.

Just how large? Consider that 15 percent of users don’t trust businesses without reviews, according to recent stats, while one business review can increase your conversions by 10 percent, according to RevLocal. On top of that, BrightLocal reports that a staggering 91 percent of millennials trust online reviews as much as friends and family – a key demographic you’ll want to build a rapport with, and win over, in the online consumer community.

Connecting with consumers, and getting them to write reviews, takes time, but it’s well worth it. A stunning 89 percent of consumers won’t take action before reading reviews, according to My Testimonial Engine. And, the majority of consumers won’t even use a business if it fails to produce a 4-star rating or higher, according to Brightlocal.

Generating reviews

Reviews are clearly important, so how do you generate them to grow your business?

Start with creating an organic process for gathering reviews – and make it easy. Simply ask customers to write a review immediately after you’ve helped them with a solution. This is not only a natural approach, but also the best moment for getting them to write a review. Their experience is top of mind, and they should feel motivated or encouraged to express how you helped them reach their goals or fix an issue.

If you are worried about being too pushy about asking for a review, don’t be! A welcoming 86 percent of consumers would consider writing a review for a business, according to Brightlocal, and no one is more equipped to give you a review and capture the attention of prospects than your loyal customers.

Getting reviews is a great start, but you’re far from finished in getting the most out of the review process. Here are some helpful tips for what to do next:

  • Thank every reviewer. This is an absolute must to show that you care and appreciate the time they took to boost your credibility and performance. Gifts or flowers are a nice touch, but there’s no need to spend money; nothing makes an impression like a handwritten thank you note.
  • Return the favor. Consider writing a review for your customers. Just like their review of your business can help you, you can also help them. Don’t forget that these reviews can go on your website, as well as business review sites such as Yelp, making them easy for others to see and want to do business with you.
  • Monitor, monitor, monitor. Staying on top of reviews and responding to them is important. The last thing you want is for your customer writing the review to feel ignored or like they wasted their time. Respond swiftly to their review and offer more than a like or terse reply. Let them know how you feel about their positive review and how much you care about what you did for them.

How to handle negative reviews

Now to address the elephant in the room. Negative reviews are inevitable, and your customers know that. In fact, an enormous 95 percent suspect censorship or faked reviews if there aren’t any negative ones, according to Reevoo. It’s how you handle those reviews that will make or break your business.

What happens when you get a bad review? Sometimes, client and service provider relationships just aren’t good fits, but handling the situation correctly can actually help your business.

First, don’t take it personally – and certainly don’t respond that way. Think of a negative online review the way you’d think of a customer complaint delivered another way, say over the phone or in person. Online is no different.

Try to address a negative review transparently and quickly. An honest response is best. And, if you share a proactive response that solves the matter, readers of the review may see it as a big misunderstanding and really appreciate how you handled the poor review. On top of that, the person who gave the bad review could provide a follow-up response of how you resolved the issue. If they haven’t after a few days, don’t hesitate to see if they will post another comment – it can’t hurt to ask!

Remember that as you compose your response, you’re not circulating a document internally before releasing to the public. This is going public immediately. Of course, you want to be proactive and quick, but you may want to take the exchange offline first.

Ask how to contact the reviewer and when they are available. After that, follow up with them to make sure they feel you addressed their grievance. Before talking to them, stop for a minute and think about this: Does the negative review have merit, and is there some aspect of your business that you need to work on? Don’t be shy about sharing the criticism with your staff – they can help you improve if that is what’s needed.

As you gather your reviews and continue to grow your company, you’ll want to spot the negative reviews as quickly as possible. If you think you caused a problem for a client and you expect a negative review, actively search online for it. You don’t want to stick your head in the sand over negative reviews – or over positive ones, for that matter. With the right tactics and approaches, you may find handling negative reviews can actually greatly improve your business.

Transforming your business through reviews

As small business owners, we all want reach our goals and potential. Part of accomplishing this is ensuring you have the reviews and response necessary to not just build trust and rapport with potential customers, but also drive your search engine optimization (SEO) results, making your business easier for potential customers to find.

By exploring some of the topics and strategies discussed in this article, you’ll be one step closer to connecting with your community and generating more business.

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