reputation management

Reputation Check: Negative Reviews Are Costing You Business!

I’m in the process of moving from Washington state to Missouri in the next month. Moving is stressful regardless, but trying to coordinate a move to a city 1,800 miles away has been quite the challenge. Fortunately, I’ve had help knowing which neighborhoods to consider and I already know the area fairly well. What I don’t know is the leasing companies.

Coming from the automotive industry where dealerships are eager to constantly reach out to prospective buyers, the leasing industry is a bit different as I’ve come to learn. I essentially had a week in town to lock down a place to live, so I wanted to make the most of my trip by viewing several potential houses in case my favorite fell through.

In this process, I reached out to several leasing companies to secure appointments. For several, I submitted a web lead a week in advance so they’d have my contact information and followed up with a phone call. As the clock ticked, I switched directly to calling the companies. Many did not contact me back, some opted to text only and some preferred email. One didn’t get back to me for over a week, finally texting me when I had already returned.

As I was scrambling to set appointments, I ended up researching several of these leasing companies. Ironically, the company I had the most trouble with – the one that did not return my calls and emails for over a week had the highest reviews. The company I ended up going with had some of the lowest review scores.

I will admit I hesitated in deciding to move forward with the company I chose due to the review scores. But I’d had the most positive experience from the get-go with this company. I even had been dealing directly with the owner. He was professional, punctual, friendly and helpful. I really couldn’t understand why his company would have gotten such low reviews. So I decided to see what people had to say.

Now working in automotive, I’ve seen my share of negative reviews. I also know that when you’re making a large investment such as a vehicle or a home, there are many factors that can impact your ideal outcome. Maybe you have a low credit score or things in your history that will prevent you from affording what you would prefer. I also know there are always two sides to a story and again, my background at a dealership gave me excellent insight as to what the customer is claiming versus what actually went on. Yes, there are times when a business completely screws up – it happens. But a lot of the time, it has nothing to do with the business and everything with the customer.

In reading the reviews, I confirmed what I suspected – the majority of reviewers were disgruntled over something that didn’t really have anything to do with the company. Several even admitted to not having leased from the company, and while I think it’s important for consumers to provide feedback on why they didn’t choose a particular business, these review sites are weighing their feedback as a non-customer equally to actual customers. Other reviewers were complaining about details that were clearly laid out in the rental application.

After reading several reviews, I began to notice some patterns and realizing perhaps many of these reviewers were being unreasonable. Yes, there were some legitimate complaints, but when I considered my great experience with the company, either the complaints had been attended to, perhaps a change in staff had occurred, or maybe someone was just having a bad day.

In the end, even after seeing a low review score, I decided to go with this company based upon my experience and several interactions with the owner and his staff, because all had been positive and met my expectations. Once I’m settled into my home and have a little more experience with this company, I will leave a review detailing my experience. I’ll also let them know they may want to take a look at their online reputation so they don’t lose potential clients.

On the flip side, what businesses need to consider is how many consumers will see a low review score and not even bother contacting the business in the first place. A restaurant, salon or hotel with low review scores likely won’t even be contacted by consumers. They will move right along to the next business without even thinking about it, because why should they bother?

So what’s a business to do about negative reviews?

Claim and Monitor Your Review Sites
This seems a bit like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses have not claimed their business on review sites. Additionally, it’s easy for listings to be added, so make sure you’re Googling your business monthly to find new listings or use a reputation monitoring service. Setting up Google Alerts for your business is another great way to get immediate notifications of anything being said about your business online.

Read & Respond to Reviews
Not everyone who leaves a review is disgruntled; oftentimes the feedback left can be valuable to improving your customer service and processes. If you see a pattern, perhaps several complaints about a particular employee or wait time, this is definitely something to investigate.

I’m a huge proponent of responding to all reviews as well. Not only is this a way to thank your reviewers for taking the time to provide feedback, it can potentially encourage your reviewers to be more honest. If a business doesn’t monitor their review sites, reviewers feel more comfortable bashing the business because there appear to be no repercussions or accountability. However, when businesses respond to reviews, the reviewer knows their feedback is being read, so they may be a bit more honest, especially if the business is offering to right the situation.

Not sure how to respond to reviews? Check out my article here!

Encourage More Positive Reviews
The best way to counter negative reviews is with more positive, legitimate reviews. Make sure you have a process in place to encourage your customers to leave reviews, whether it’s follow-up emails, calls, signs around your business – whatever works best for your industry. Do not pay for reviews or have your employees post reviews as if they were customers – these are obvious to those reading your reviews and violate most review site policies. But if you’re regularly asking customers for reviews, especially happy customers, you’ll see an improvement of your review site score.

Remove Reviews That Violate Review Site Policies
I am very against the idea of removing legitimate reviews. However, there may be times when a reviewer goes above and beyond to try to destroy your business. Perhaps they are a disgruntled customer, legit or not, or even a competitor. I would recommend first reaching out to them to try to resolve the conflict in a professional manner, however if that does not work and their review violates the review site’s policies, you can get the review removed in most cases. This is typically a rare occurrence, but one to keep in mind.

Additionally, your business may receive reviews that are for a different company. This can happen to businesses with similar names or chains. If that happens, you may also have those reviews removed. Keep in mind, removing reviews is likely rarely to ever happen and should not be considered a solution to negative reviews.

If you are not monitoring your review sites, you are doing your business a huge disservice and potentially losing a lot of business to your competitor. By taking just a few minutes each week to check and respond to your reviews, in addition to encouraging customers to leave reviews, you can see your review scores increase as well as your business.

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Is Your Dealership’s Online Reputation Ruining Your Business?

Is Your Dealership's Online Reputation Ruining Your Business

When was the last time you Googled your dealership? Has it been a while? How did your reviews look? Think about the last time a potential customer Googled your dealership. Probably today. And their decision on whether to contact you or not is based on your reviews.

Check out these statistics from a 2014 survey:

  • Nearly 90% of consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business and 39% do so on a regular basis
  • 85% of consumers will read up to 10 reviews before deciding whether a business is trustworthy
  • 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

The majority of consumers are deciding whether or not they trust you to do business with before they’ve even talked to anyone at your dealership. And if your online reputation is poor, you may never get the chance to do business with them.

Protecting Your Reputation

If your company’s online reputation could use improvement, don’t just sit back and hope it improves. Here are a few steps you can take today to protect your online reputation:

Claim your online listings. If you haven’t done so already, Google your dealership to view and claim online listings for your business. There are also services that will assist you for a fee. Why is this important? So you have control over your online representation. You wouldn’t want a rogue employee or competitor managing your review site. By claiming your online listings, you can ensure each has accurate business information and branding. I recommend adding all of these to a spreadsheet for easy management.

Respond to all reviews. This shows consumers that your business is paying attention to what customers are saying and is taking responsibility for righting any wrongs, when possible. Not sure how to respond? Here’s some ideas. Also, if unhappy customers know that you read and respond to reviews, they may decide to be a bit more honest and open to working with you on a resolution rather than just bashing your business.

Have false/defamatory/wrong reviews removed. Consumers understand that not all customers are going to be happy with a business, so negative reviews serve the purpose of legitimizing your reviews so it’s not just all positive. Experiences aren’t always perfect and consumers can usually pick out when a reviewer is exaggerating or being unreasonable. However, if the review is completely false, violates the review sites policies or is for a completely different business, have that review removed. Each review site is a little different, but should have a help section detailing how to get these types of reviews removed.

Encourage positive reviews. People tend to tell twice the number of people about bad experiences versus good experiences, so if you know a customer had a great experience, ask them to please leave a review. This can also be a good time to promote a referral program. If the customer does leave a positive review, be sure to thank them for it.

Field negative reviews. It’s great to get positive reviews, but negative reviews provide the opportunity for improvement. When a customer shares a negative experience with your business, that allows the company to make changes to improve the experiences of other customers. Have a process in place to handle negative feedback, either by sending a feedback form out after every visit to encourage customers to send that feedback directly to your staff (and not on a review site) and be sure to follow-through with trying to improve the customer’s opinion of your business.

Ask customers to update their review once resolved. If a customer leaves a negative review about your business online and you resolve the situation to their satisfaction, it’s completely acceptable to ask them to update their review with this information. Updating reviews can be more helpful than deleting because it shows that you took the time to ensure this customer was happy.

Set up a Google Alert for your business. A simple way to stay on top of your company’s online reputation is to set up a Google Alert to notify you of online mentions. Be sure to include any variations of your business name and set it up to receive daily or instant notifications.

Track results. Don’t just take my word for it, create a baseline of your review site scores and track your score monthly to see progress. Need to improve a score on a particular site? Send happy customers there to leave reviews!

These steps may seem like a lot, but once you’ve claimed your listings, spending just a few minutes each week to read and respond to reviews is going to pay off in a major way as your online reputation improves and more online shoppers become your customers.

Want some help managing your dealership’s online reputation? Click here to learn more.

Businesses: Why You Should Respond to All Online Reviews

According to Neilsonwire, 81% of consumers say it’s important for businesses to respond to reviews.

When a customer has a positive experience, they’ll tell one person. When a customer has a bad experience, they’ll tell 10. And that’s actually old news. With the popularity and accessibility of online review sites, customers have more power than ever to tarnish the reputation of your company after a single bad experience.

It doesn’t matter that your customers are generally very happy with your products or service. If your company receives enough bad reviews, it doesn’t matter how happy the majority of your customers are, you are very likely to lose potential customers from the negative reviews. So it is imperative that you respond to all online reviews, positive or negative. You want to show your customers that you pay attention to what’s being said and that you make changes from their feedback.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to control your online reputation.

Where Do I Start?

Here’s a few essential steps that are going to make things a lot easier for you

  • Get organized: Something that has helped me immensely is to create a document to keep track of all the online places my business exists. I have a bulleted list that has each online place, the login info, a link to the login page and a link to the business profile page. This way, I know where I’ve claimed my business online and can easily access the login and profile pages for each online place.
  • Claim your name: If you haven’t done it already, go to all the major review sites, search for yourself and take the steps to claim your profile on the sites. If you don’t find a profile for your business, set one up.  (Some major sires to check are: Yelp, Google + Local, Yahoo! Local, Insider Pages, CitySearch, Better Business Bureau, and Facebook – click here to learn how to set up a business Facebook page). Important: make sure you set up the account as a business, not a user. This is usually done by searching for your company then following a “claim your business” link from the business profile page.
  • Verify your accounts: Most of these sites require you to prove that you are the company you have claimed and will do this with an email, postcard or phone call with a verification code. Follow the instructions to ensure you have done so properly so you can easily access your account.
  • Set up Google Alerts: While you can usually set up notifications in each site to notify you when you have received a review, it’s also a good idea to setup Google Alerts to notify you relevant alerts about your company whenever they come up in a search. These are especially helpful for alerting you to new reviews or online comments about your business (or anything you want for that matter) so you can respond quickly.

These steps will help you stay organized and alert to what’s being said about your business.

Which Reviews Should I Respond To?

This one is easy: every single one. Even if a review is a couple years old, you can always respond “Thanks for the feedback! We’re glad you had a great experience and we hope to see your face again soon!” to a positive review or “Thank you for the feedback. We’re sorry you had a less than positive experience, but we’re happy to let you know we’ve made some changes based on your feedback and we’d love it if you gave us another chance!” to a negative review.

If customers or potential customers see that you read and respond to reviews, they will have more confidence in your commitment to customer satisfaction and may leave a slightly less harsh review, knowing that you will respond and they will be called upon to contact you to make things better. Responses are also a great way to connect with your customers outside of the business.

What Do I Say?

First and foremost:

  • Be sincere. If your response could be taken the wrong way, reword it. Make sure it doesn’t sound sarcastic or mocking of the customer or the problem can quickly explode and escalate.
  • Accept responsibility. Did you actually make a mistake? Own up to it. People are understanding, especially when you accept the blame. Mistakes happen and when you accept responsibility and work toward a resolution, chances are your customer will be forgiving. On the flip-side, do not publicly blame your customer, even if it was their fault. There’s still the “customer is always right” mentality so blaming the customer won’t do you any good. If they are mad, they very well may add on how you had the audacity to blame them to their negative review.
  • Customize each response: While you will probably have a pretty general response to reviews, make sure to customize each one, using the customer’s name and any public details if known. For example, if Emily Brown says your soups are the best in town, respond to her by name and mention how happy you are she thinks so highly of your soups. Change up your format so you sound like a real person, not a cookie cutter response.
  • Thank the reviewer. Here’s where it can get a little sticky if you’re not careful and where sincerity is crucial. You truly are thankful they gave you feedback, so make it sound that way. Customer feedback is one of the best ways to improve your business. If no one ever told you what you were doing wrong, how else would you know? Thank the reviewer for their feedback and let them know you appreciate the time they took to write a review.
  • Take bad situations offline ASAP. It’s important to acknowledge all reviews, but for customers who had a bad experience, you don’t want to have an online discussion or you risk the possibility of others joining in and causing a huge ordeal. In fact, there have been several instances in which 1 negative review spread across social media, causing people from all over the country to leave negative reviews of that business, even though they had never been there. This is not a good way to get attention and can/will severely damage your reputation.
  • Offer a solution: Don’t just leave them hanging on your apology. What can you do to improve the situation? You don’t need to give specifics in your response, but just mentioning that you have some options you think they will like and to please call or email you for details. This shows that you are making an effort to make the situation right.
  • Respond publicly. This is important so others viewing your reviews see that you acknowledge and act upon your reviews. This shows a dedication to customer satisfaction.

Consider negative reviews as opportunities to make things right for current and future customers and positive reviews as advertising.

What about negative reviews?

Think about this from the consumer’s point of view. If you had a negative experience somewhere, what are things you’d like to hear? Certainly start with an apology and remember to be sincere.

Here’s a couple ideas for phrases you can incorporate into your negative review responses:

  • We are so sorry you had a less than positive experience
  • We appreciate your feedback and the opportunity to improve our service based on your comments
  • Our customers are important to us and we do our best to make sure they are happy
  • Is there anything we can tell our staff to improve upon?
  • We do our best, but sometimes mistakes happen
  • We apologize for any misunderstanding
  • This normally doesn’t happen/was an exception
  • It’s unfortunate we were unable to take better care of you – we were surprised to hear it
  • Customer satisfaction is our priority and we want to make this right for you
  • We’d like the opportunity to discuss your recent visit. Please contact us at xx@xx.com or (xxx) xxx-xxxx and ask for _______.
  • Please don’t hesitate to contact us if there’s any way we can help/serve you better
  • We have several options for you, please contact us to go over them to see what will work best for you.
  • We’d like a chance to make a better impression on you
  • Please know we will improve moving forward

What about positive reviews?

Yes, people do leave positive reviews and it’s important to acknowledge them. Think of it this way: if a potential customer reads their review and decides to go to your business because of that review, that customer earned you new business. These are the people who can and do give you a good reputation. And people who have positive experiences are generally less likely to leave a review, so it’s important to appreciate them. Keep all of this in mind when responding to positive reviews.

Here’s a couple ideas for phrases you can incorporate into your positive review responses:

  • Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us
  • We appreciate your feedback and continued business with our company
  • We look forward to seeing you in the future
  • Make sure you visit our website/Facebook page for upcoming events/specials
  • If there’s anything we can do to make your future experiences even better, please let us know

Following Up

So you’ve responded to your reviews and a customer who posted a negative review contacts you as requested—what do you do now?

  • Thank them for contacting you. Here’s your chance to make things right.
  • Listen to them. Even if they were in the wrong, let them tell their side of the story. Sometimes when people are forced to face negative situations, they realize that they did in fact have a part in the situation.
  • Stick to the facts. If you took measures to make their experience better and they were not satisfied, it’s okay to let them know you tried everything you could, as long as that’s true. If you could have done something differently, tell them. Do not be demeaning or condescending, just be factual.
  • Be helpful. Telling a customer there’s nothing you can do about it now is one of the most unhelpful things you can say. Instead, look for solutions and remedies to the problem that may be acceptable.
  • Find a solution. Ask the customer “what would you like me to do about this?” Be polite and listen to what they have to say. When you put them on the spot, you give them the opportunity to do the hard part for you. Sometimes a refund or discount is all they want. If that’s something you can do, then do it.
  • Thank them again. Let them know how appreciative you are that they gave you the opportunity to make things right. Even if you couldn’t give them everything they wanted, it’s okay to say “I’m sorry we couldn’t do more, but I’m so glad you contacted us so we could try to help you out.”
  • End it on a positive note. Life will go on. You tried. Sometimes you can’t make people happy no matter what you try, but whatever the result, be gracious and polite, taking the high road. Leave them with nothing but positive things to say about your company.

The Awkward Question

So, now that you’ve done your best to correct a bad experience with a customer, what about that review hanging out there? That’s the whole reason you went through this whole ordeal and you and the customer both know it’s still there.

So yes, if you have worked to resolve a situation you were made aware of by a negative review, you can ask them if they would please update their review. There’s no guarantee they will, but chances are, if you resolved their situation very satisfactorily, they will be happy to update their review. And it’s perfectly fine if they mention that they had a bad first experience as long as they mention the effort you took to fix it for them. Updated reviews are very powerful in improving others’ perceptions of you.

Next Steps

Now that you’re all set up and ready to respond, make sure you do so regularly and in a timely manner. By putting in the effort to manage your reputation through review responses, you will gain more control and see positive outcomes from your efforts.

Additional reading: The Power of a Positive Customer Experience