These days the average business owner will have to contend with some form of online review. Good or bad, they will exist forever on the internet. They can not be removed from review powerhouses like Yelp. Studies have shown that consumers rely overwhelmingly on reviews before choosing new businesses. Therefor dealing with complaints that can bring down star ratings is vital to a growing business.
Does Your Fate Really Does Rest In The “Stars”
A decline in one star, of a five star rating system can seriously hurt revenue. Andrew Gruel is the owner of Slapfish, a sustainable seafood restaurant chain that got hit with a series of poor reviews. Complaints about portion sizes, to menu prices almost buried the business. So, Mr. Gruel took what some may call the extreme but effective approach. He addressed each and every review, bad and good. Through a direct, and personal approach he contacted all the legitimate poor reviews, offering whatever was needed to get them back in the door to try Slapfish again.
Online Reviews Aren’t Going Anywhere
There are over 70 review sites and growing. 44 percent of customers use Yelp to find local businesses. So the average business owner has nothing to lose addressing online complaints. Studies have shown that the quality of a restaurant’s reviews can even predict how fast it will close. When dealing with bad reviews, fighting fire with fire doesn’t work. The upper hand is with the consumer, so it is best to accept they are here to stay.
Keeping Up With Comments
For some businesses, addressing online reviews is a full-time job on it’s own. Businesses that can’t afford a drop in star ratings, such a start-up e-commerce sites can fall behind before they get through the first quarter. This has given seed to the rise in reputation management firms. Their sole focus is to scour the internet for every possible review and promptly respond to them.
Should You Outsource Your Reputation Management?
Proponents of using these types firms feel that it is hard enough to run a business, getting mired in addressing every person’s issue can take away from the real business goals. If you are worried about the person who complained about the level of the thermostat, you may be distracted from the quality of the product. They also feel that it is important to be prompt when addressing any review, it shows skeptics that you truly care.
Some business owners feel that management reputation firms are not authentic and may damage customer relations even further. Studies have shown that well more than half the customers who gave one to three star reviews did not need compensation for poor service, and were more than satisfied with owners acknowledged the issue. Mr. Gruel agreed, feeling that using such firms are just “canned responses”. If the consumer base were to find out, it may irrevocably damage a reputation. Consumers want to feel that their business is truly appreciated.
Using The Publicity To Your Benefit
Social Media is a way for consumers to get to know the culture of a brand or business. Online reviews is just an extension of that, good “marketing fodder”. Everyone is looking easy answers to escape the online review, but in the end it is best to just accept it and provide the same level of customer service as you would if they were right in front of you. If a walk-in customer complained about the temperature of your restaurant, you would not simply turn around and walk away. Some say ignoring poor reviews is tantamount to that.
Countering Complaints As Part Of The Business Model
Any new business, particularly those within industries that are highly subject to online reviews, should make addressing complaints part of their business model. The same way a restaurant might accommodate increase in business by hiring staff.
Darnell Holloway is the director of local business outreach at Yelp. He says to not “get hung up on the negatives”. It’s still important to join the conversation diplomatically.”.
Mr. Gruel says his approach proved successful. He was able to turn the one-star reviews into five, creating lifetime customers and better reviews for future business.
1. “A Bad Review Is Forever: How To Counter Online Complaints”. Constance Gustke, The New York Times, ed. Thursday, December 10, 2015.