Updated: Feb 7
It’s a harsh world out there with near-constant competition for everything from partners and homes to jobs and grades. Many new parents secretly hope their bundle of joy can compete for the title of “cutest baby ever”, soonest to walk, or biggest smile! Imagine then someone calling your baby ugly. Right to your face, or worse, shouting it from the rooftops, and grading that baby with a star value online.
In the same way, receiving a negative review online for your business, practice, or professional skill can feel a lot like someone just called your baby ugly.
Negative reviews are detrimental for a business owner because, as Google said, “positive reviews and customer-business interactions improve organic visibility”.
In other words, Google is encouraging people to talk about you, whether you like it or not. What they are not telling you in the quote above though is they don’t care if the reviews are good or bad. It’s “click bait” and yes, they can be very, very visible.
Online reviews are here to stay.
Ideally, they not only give people a better idea of the effectiveness and quality of a specific product, service, or business, but they reinforce a better than average customer experience; something all consumers seek. This is why brands should engage with customer reviews, whether they’re positive or negative,
Customers do have expectations.
Even before customers enter your business now, they will have formed expectations about the experience they believe they will have. They have seen your website, flyers, or reviews online; they have spoken to your previous customers and perhaps even to employees.
From those interactions, they’ve formed a perception of who you are, what you value and what you offer. This is called personal branding, and it sets the emotional expectation of an experience they will have with your business.
Today, customers can share reviews, either complimenting or criticising their experience with your business with thousands of people they have never met- people who will believe them over any other information they have about you, or your business. It’s called “social proof”. We used to get it from neighbours, family or friends about goods or services they had experienced first hand. It was limited, but it trained us in to looking for feedback and “social proof” before we buy. Now of course we get that social proof online, about any product or service we could imagine. At the flick of a thumb.
Online reviewers build trust with audiences when they share real testimony and post details about their experiences. "Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging". The online review space has a significant impact on business, whether we like it or not.
Ignore reviews at your peril. Master them for a cost effective, organic marketing tool.
Why customers write reviews
Customers write reviews to help others make better buying decisions, to share an experience, or to reward a company for good performance. Online reviewers post reviews for one of four reasons:
● To share the good news of a wonderful experience with other consumers.
● To show brand loyalty to your business.
● To vent the frustration or anger they feel was unresolved.
● To save fellow consumers from a negative experience they faced.
Whatever the reason may be, the impact of negative reviews is far worse than you think.
How to handle negative reviews
While negative online reviews feel personal and hurtful, they often come with valuable feedback.
Firstly, we need to remove the need to defend or retaliate against the review. Someone took the time to offer you input, and, even if their delivery method has been less than ideal, it might teach you something.
Consider whether your critics are truthful and offering insight that could impact the experience of other customers. Are online reviewers posting that your business practices are questionable? We need to set clear expectations with new customers before delivering services.
Beware though, not all reviews will be authentic. Sometimes the reviewer is your competition. Sometimes it's a potential customer who never committed to buying, and is retaliating against the business for some unknown slight.
Constantly monitoring your business’ online presence is the one sure way to get ahead of potential issues while maximising the massive upside active review management can bring.
Depending on the value of your time, or your level of expertise in public relations, you may want to engage an expert like YESpbm to do this for you. YESpbm Founder, Aaron Banks suggests that “many of our clients enjoy using us a Digital Shield. Their time has great value to them and their patients so they see a lot of benefits from using us to handle the grunt work”.
By handling negative reviews or criticism quickly and gracefully, you can achieve power over the negativity, creating positive flow online while learning something in the process about how your business was perceived.
When you finally do receive that negative review, which feels like someone calling your baby ugly, why not rise to the challenge? Turn those negative reviews into a positive.