I’m surprised by how many small business owners overlook online reviews. They either don’t know about them, or they aren’t worried about them. It seems often the attitude is that a nice website is sufficient to persuade potential customers that your business is reliable and offers good service.
But we live in a time where one bad experience could be posted as a permanent mark against your online reputation. More importantly, potential customers don’t just look at your website; they look for peer reviews as well (good or bad). Websites like Yelp, Urban Spoon and Google Maps (and plenty of others specifically relevant to your industry) probably have comments on them right now about your business.
Particularly in a ‘post-Groupon’ society, small business owners need to realise the important role online reviews can play. Since the rise in popularity of group-style promotions, there has been a huge increase in the number of businesses receiving negative reviews after failing to meet the new-found demand.
So what can do you about a negative review?
One widespread tactic, which I don’t advise, is to flood the website with fake positive reviews. I don’t recommend this because it’s often easy for a sceptical customer to tell what’s real and what’s not. However it’s a common occurrence, so much so that a number of parties are currently developing software that can identify fraudulent reviews.
Another approach, again one I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, is to personally contact those who have left negative reviews and request them to be removed. A few months ago a friend of mine received a Facebook message from a stranger asking her to delete a review she’d posted three years ago. She was tempted to blog about it as an example of how not to conduct business, but was more tempted by the $500 they offered her to remove it.
Using the above tactics might find you in some hot water, but there are more positive methods to encourage good reviews. Here’s an example I thought was nicely executed: Another friend of mine was recently in Bali looking for a restaurant. As you can imagine, it’s a fiercely competitive industry over there where customers heavily rely on online reviews. He decided to check out Trip Advisor, and naturally he put in a reservation at the restaurant that ranked first.
After the meal, he discovered why they had been so successful in managing their online reputation. With his bill he was also given a short survey and asked for an email address. He filled it in (positively), and the next morning he received an email encouraging him to post a review online (which he did).
I imagine that customers who said something negative on the survey had their issues dealt with and probably weren’t encouraged to post something online.
What a brilliant way to filter out the bad customer experiences and encourage sharing of the good ones.
So, first things first: Google your business and see what people have said about it. Next, have a think about how you can encourage customers to share their good experiences and eliminate or minimize the negative ones.