10 Steps to Reversing Horrifying Negative Online Reviews

Have a few unhappy customers made it their business to burn you through website or social media complaints? Here’s how you can turn around your online reputation.

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"The worst customer service experience ever! The plumber arrived an hour late for the appointment and was surly. Stay away!!!”

“If you are offered a job at this place, run! Do not walk to the nearest exit. This company is an asylum. I have never worked with a more dysfunctional group of people in my life.”

Ouch! Those hurt.

And there it is, in black and white for anyone and everyone to see: what someone thinks of your product, your service, or your organization.

Bad reviews can bite, wound and sting. Worst of all, a mountain of them can appear in a matter of seconds. Social media: It’s a wonderful thing, until it turns against you.

So, what’s a person to do when his or her online reputation is suffering at the hands of others? Plenty.

Step 1: Take a deep breath. You can fix it. Not overnight, but you can fix it.

Step 2: Get over any hurt feelings or embarrassment, and do it quickly. The people who complain have done you a great favor. It’s now up to you to decide if negative reviews are going to be the kiss of death or a wake-up call.

Step 3: Uncover everything that is being said about you. If you found a bad review in one place, there are probably others. Spend a few hours researching yourself online. Start Googling, and take notes of what you find and where. Resist the urge to respond to anything. Be strategic, not impulsive. You will need a game plan before typing a word.

Step 4: Automate. Sign up for Google Alerts at www.google.com/alerts. If new content mentioning your company shows up online and Google sees it, the search engine will send out an automatic alert letting you know. A variety of free and paid services will monitor online search terms and major review sites for mentions and will notify you if new information is posted. If you are serious about managing your online reputation, these services are extremely valuable.

Step 5: Once you have a good picture of your online grade, get ready to roll up your sleeves and start problem-solving. If your employees are rude, train them. If your equipment is dirty, clean it. If people hate working for you, investigate. Unless you are the victim of competitor sabotage, what you are reading is probably based in truth. If needed, revisit step two.

Step 6: Involve your team, and communicate your improvement plan. You will reach your goal faster if everyone understands what it is and is working toward it.

Step 7: When you interact with customers, ask them what they think. You already know some of them have no problem sharing their opinions with the world, so they will probably be willing to candidly tell you the good, bad and ugly. Asking your customers for help can prove extremely beneficial.

“We are working hard to improve. Would you be willing to talk to me for a few minutes? Thank you. What two or three things could we have done differently in order to make you experience with us better?” 

If at all possible, have these conversations verbally. You may be surprised by the quantity and quality of information you are able to quickly gather.

Step 8: Once you have a clear sense of what is going on with your business and are on the road to smoothing out the rough spots, get back to the reviews. It’s time to answer them. First, thank the reviewer for letting you know about a problem and include something good about yourself, too.

“Thank you for your feedback, and I’m sorry your experience with our company was not what you expected. We handle many service calls and we strive to delight each one of our customers with our service.”

Second, describe what you have done to prevent future service problems.

“We’ve taken a few steps to prevent what happened to you from happening to anyone else. We are monitoring our staff for customer service skills and have created a new service checklist to ensure we leave a customer’s property clean and tidy.”

Third, ask the person to give you a second chance.

“We would welcome the opportunity to show we’ve improved our customer service. The next time you are in need of plumbing service, please contact me directly and I will take care of the appointment personally.” 

Resist the urge to be snarky, judgmental or to correct your customers. Yes, some customers are wrong — however, pointing that out will not help. Lots of people are going to be watching how you respond. Take the opportunity to be polite, helpful and solution-focused. People who rely on the reviews can often tell when other customers are being difficult. If you are gracious in your dealings with them, you will win in the long run.

Step 9: Ask your happy customers to post reviews. Over time, your average will improve. Obviously this approach only works if you are indeed making changes and removing the causes of bad evaluations. If you are not, prepare for more of the same reviews you’ve gotten in the past because they’re coming. You simply cannot turn off the social media tap.

Step 10: As tempting as it may be, do not post fake reviews or go to a service to get others to do the same. Apart from the fact that it’s dishonest, it’s also dangerous. If you get caught, you will look even worse than you did before. Instead, get busy writing more content to post on your website, social media, and other appropriate places. The more that’s out there, the less visible a bad comment is.

Followed closely, this 10-step plan for a reputation overhaul could earn you five stars.

About the Author

Kate Zabriskie develops customer service strategies and training programs as president of Maryland-based Business Training Works. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.  



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