reviews

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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