The statistics are staggering:

  • Before buying, 70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews.
  • Over half of Millennials (aged 18-34) trust the opinions of strangers online over those of friends and family.
  • Brands with high “social media activity” (this includes reviews) increased revenue by as much as 18%.
  • Surveys show that 75% of online reviews are positive. This means that 25% are negative.

Word travels fast on the Internet.  Informational posts, photos and reviews get shared, liked and retweeted at increasingly higher rates, and – in addition – people are reading them and acting on them.

So what can you do when people are saying things about your product/ service/employees/brand that just make you wince?  Do you stick your head in the sand and hope that the comment will go away or keep your fingers crossed that no one will see it?  No, because people will see it, and because these reviews are influential in determining your business’s reputation, especially on a local level.

Like everything else in life, being proactive is the best defense.  Understand that you are not going to be able to stop everyone from commenting on your company, your products or your services.  You just need to have a strategy for dealing with the negative points.   Here are four things you can do to manage your online reviews:

  1.  Monitor your online profile – this point goes a little further than simply responding to negative reviews.  Your online profile (or brand) consists of your website, your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, your Google Place and Google + accounts and your accounts on the various 3rd party review sites (Yelp, ….etc.) Make sure that you have completely filled out your profile on all these sites, and post or update on a regular basis.  You want to do this to ensure that people have a full and accurate picture of your business – including its services and product offerings.
  2. Public response – Engage with people who do post on your sites.  A simple “thank you” for a recommendation goes a long way.  If you do receive a negative comment/review, you must handle it correctly.  Never rebut; never go on the offensive.  Keep your response simple and apologize.  Tell them that you appreciate their feedback, and you would like to resolve the issue.  This shows everyone – the reviewers and others reading the review – that you value feedback, will acknowledge the feedback, will work to resolve any and all issues.
  3. Take it offline if need be – If possible, reach out to the reviewer in an alternative way or offer them an alternative way to contact you.  There is absolutely no need to have a back and forth conversation online.  Simply acknowledge what happened, apologize, offer a suggestion on how you can make it up to them, and provide them with direct contact information.
  4. More reviews – It is highly unlikely that you will be able to get a negative review removed from a review site  The easiest way to mitigate the impact of a bad review is to get more positive reviews.  Proactively seek positive reviews from happy, satisfied customers.  Ideal ways to get positive reviews are to simply ask, in either a follow-up email or through a link on your website.  However, whatever you do, do not pay for reviews or have employees post fake positive reviews. This will get you in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission.

Bottom line is to remember that no business is perfect, but that showing that you care about any/all comments goes a long way to mitigating the impact of any complaints or criticisms you may receive.

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.