It pays to counter online complaints
Don’t let negativity go unaddressed; action can win over critics
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, Reputation.com 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.