It pays to counter on­line com­plaints

Don’t let neg­a­tiv­ity go un­ad­dressed; ac­tion can win over crit­ics

The Dallas Morning News - - ENTREPRENEURS - Con­stance Gustkedec,

Turn­ing around one-star re­views on Yelp or other web­sites can cre­ate life­time cus­tomers.

Stud­ies show that con­sumers over­whelm­ingly choose busi­nesses based mainly on star rat­ings. Even a de­cline of one star, on a scale from one to five, can hurt rev­enue and send a busi­ness into a slide.

“Star rat­ings per­sist for­ever,” said Daniel Lemin, au­thor of Ma­nipuRated. “Mean­while, ac­tual re­views can fall off the first pages of re­view sites. And con­sumers rarely read re­views older than three months.” Af­ter prob­lems are ad­dressed, he said, there’s a high chance that dis­grun­tled cus­tomers can be­come avid ad­vo­cates.

Small busi­nesses have noth­ing to lose by en­gag­ing their crit­ics, Lemin said. The recipe is sim­ply apol­o­giz­ing and ask­ing for an­other chance. The crit­i­cism may hurt, he adds, but the way a busi­ness re­sponds mat­ters.

Yelp is, of course, the pow­er­house re­view site. Ac­cord­ing to a Nielsen sur­vey, 44 per­cent of con­sumers use Yelp to search for lo­cal busi­nesses. TripAd­vi­sor and Angie’s List have much smaller fol­low­ings.

That has prompted the growth of rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment firms such as Re­viewTrack­ers, Rep­u­ta­ and Sta­tus Labs. They typ­i­cally use data-anal­y­sis tools or soft­ware to find on­line re­views and rapidly re­spond to them.

Check­ing on­line re­views ev­ery few days is now a busi­ness ne­ces­sity, many ex­perts said. Bar­bara Find­lay Schenck, au­thor of Small Busi­ness Mar­ket­ing Kit for Dum­mies, rec­om­mends find­ing out which three sites cus­tomers use most and then set­ting up on­line alerts to mon­i­tor them.

“The minute you see a bad re­view, look for a shard of truth,” she said. “Is this some­thing you can im­prove? Look for what you can fix.”

Yelp and other sites dis­cour­age of­fer­ing in­cen­tives to re­view­ers. Yelp’s sting op­er­a­tions also track down peo­ple who write fake re­views for money. But they can be hard to pin­point, some ex­perts said. “Ev­ery­one is look­ing for an­swers to fake re­views,” said Dar­nell Hol­loway, di­rec­tor of lo­cal busi­ness out­reach at Yelp.

The phe­nom­e­non of fake re­views has grown worse, Lemin said. But don’t panic when you get a bad re­view. One can’t harm you. “And a bad re­view can even val­i­date the good ones,” he said.

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