How to avoid negative online reviews

With almost half of Australians saying they are likely to have a rant about bad customer service on social media, it pays to have a plan for dealing with negative reviews.

2014 American Express survey of 1000 Australians found that 49% will share their negative experiences online, while 31% look to other consumer opinions online when considering making purchases or using a service.

The bad news is that the negative outbursts impact online purchases far more than positive feedback. This is evident in the fact that 40% of respondents are mostly using online reviews to check whether customer service is up to scratch and 72% of consumers surveyed in a separate report stated they do trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth recommendations.

While a few bad reviews on TripAdvisor – like the four-star rated hotel in Bali that dropped to two stars for keeping live dolphins in the hotel pool – or a vicious declaration on Facebook could spell disaster for your business, the good news is there are ways to avoid damaging reviews.

Here are four tips for minimising the fallout:

1. Don’t overlook the obvious

Prevent a harmful post from happening in the first place with exceptional customer service. Implore your staff to eat, sleep and breathe the mantra, “the customer is always right”.

Follow up with difficult customers by ensuring their overall experience was satisfactory, which is easier if you work in hospitality. If a customer didn’t enjoy a meal, for example, and complained at the table then offer them a compromise. It makes more sense for a restaurant to be out of pocket a free meal than to shoulder the downturn in business from a deluge of criticism.

2. Make complaining easy

Redesign your website with a complaint tab to ensure customers click on this first before venturing onto your Facebook page or Twitter account for a tirade. Make yourself easily accessible to your customers by offering contact numbers and feedback options clearly to show customers you value their opinions.

If customers perceive you as being disinterested in what they have to say to you privately, they are more likely to find a way to complain about you publicly.

3. Always respond to negative feedback

Stay calm and count to 20 before you respond to any negative comments as an angry response is going to be more damaging to your image. It’s helpful to use tools such as Google Alerts and Twitter Search to monitor dialogue about your brand.

If a tirade turns up about your products or services, you can become part of the conversation. Send a message to the disgruntled customer outlining your dedication to fixing the problem by providing a suitable solution. This offers the customer a public recognition of their blight, while making you look like the good guys to anyone else reading the review.

4. Don’t fake it till you make it

If customers find out you have been writing fake reviews to try to boost your brand your online ‘street cred’ is done for. All those organic searches and impressive SEO rankings will be worthless if the people who see you at the top of the search lists don’t think you deserve to be.

If, however, you are the victim of a fake attack and believe your business has been maligned by competitors, contact the host website immediately to ask for the review’s removal. Unfortunately, the site may be slow to take down the post, whereby you can choose to implement tip three in the meantime.

5. Get friendly with Google

There is a tricky way to keep those negative reviews further down the search results by polishing your business reputation until it shines. Do everything in your power to present an immaculate brand to your customers.

You can do this by creating your own blogs, regularly updating social media accounts and making and posting YouTube videos and podcasts. Holding regular meet-and-greet events or sponsoring local sporting teams is also a great way to present your business as an approachable brand that values its clientele.

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