Turning Negative Reviews into a Positive Marketing Opportunity

On a recent trip I commented to the hotel clerk that I had read a review online complaining about the condition of the linens.  She proudly remarked that they had upgraded ALL of their towels and bed linens and that this wouldn’t be a problem.  I commented that this was great, but why hadn’t the hotel commented on the bad review, letting other potential guests know that they had made the change?  Then I thought to myself that the blog I had meant to write on how to use bad reviews to your benefit was long overdue.

Every business, even the most service oriented, will encounter an unsatisfied customer.  Maybe the customer or the employee was having an off day … but savvy business owners know how to turn lemons into lemonade and bad reviews into opportunity.  Here are some helpful tips:

Tip #1 – Resist the knee jerk reaction; accusations, excuses, and the worst anger.  It is a natural reaction, but one that you will only regret later.   So even if the review is completely off base; breath in, relax and read tip #2.

Tip #2 – Respond quickly and carefully, recognize the criticism or complaint, offer to correct the situation in private by inviting them to call you directly, and remind your customers that customer service and customer satisfaction are your top priority.  Invite the reviewer to return to your establishment or to try your services again, and if you have done something to correct the situation (for example updating your linens), for goodness’ sakes let the public know.  Reviews stay online for months, and future customers will be pleased to know that you have corrected the situation.

Tip #3 – You do not have to respond to every criticism, and while there was a time when courting negative reviews helped your business get found online, Panda has changed this.  When you do respond to reviews, do so with future prospects in mind.  Just like tip #2 encourages the reviewer to return, tip #3 invites future customers to purchase your product or services and see how you have improved or how the negative review was a misunderstanding.

Tip #4 – Know what the world is saying and what you can do about it.  First I recommend signing up for services like “Google Alerts” which notifies you when something is written about your organization online.  It is better to have read the review so that you can respond to any and all comments both online, in person, and make it part of your future marketing strategy.  Think of Domino’s Pizza, they took a risk and challenged complaints head on with promises of better products and customer care.  The risk appears to have paid off, although in my opinion they should be thinking about transitioning their strategy, but …

Tip #5 – Know what you can and cannot do about the reviews. Some sites let an authorized user respond to a review, some let an authorized user delete a review, and some allow business owners to edit a review.

Here are just a few examples:

  Respond to a Review Edit a Review Delete a Review
Google Places Yes Yes Yes
Yahoo! Local Yes Yes Yes
Yelp Yes No No
Merchant Circle Yes Yes Yes

Tip #6 – Andrew Shotland and other SEO experts say that business owners should NEVER ignore reviews, and while I agree 100%, business owners should resist the temptation to get caught up in a dialog where you invite more negative comments.  Make your statement, invite personal correspondence and remain calm and level headed.  Never fall into the trap of personal accusations and attacks, but remember reviews have legs and if you ignore them they will certainly run away and have a negative impact on your business.

So while every business owner would love only positive reviews, savvy business owners can turn these reviews into a positive marketing opportunity if they follow some basic guidelines.



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