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It’s 11pm and you’re about to close the kitchen. Your iPhone beeps - one new Yelp review. “WOW. Long wait and crap food - waste of time”. Your heart sinks. With the rise of the trust economy and the explosion of online people-powered marketplaces, reputation and influence is the new currency.  Whether it’s on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Airbnb or Amazon, negative reviews are feared like the plague by businesses big and small. However, there is a BIG silver lining to negative reviews:

  • 68% of consumers trust reviews more for a business when they see both positive and negative reviews together.
  • In fact, a page of positive reviews is more likely to earn you suspicions of censorship from 95% of your potential customers than any new business.

But what do you do when you finally get that one nightmarish negative review?  Yes, the one that now trumps the 10 positive ones under it. One boutique NY Hotel had a policy of fining customers $500 per negative review. The result? Extreme backlash and pages of 1 star Yelp reviews. Surely there's a better way?  

4 simple steps to deal with a negative review:

1. Stay calm

Don’t panic. If you’re a small business owner, your business is an extension of yourself so any negative review will always hit hard. Speak to your team - is there any merit to the review? What can you learn and improve?

2. Always respond publicly and quickly

You need to immediately kick into damage control.  Don’t ignore the reviewer.  Your silence will only increase the review’s credibility and your goal should be to win the disgruntled customer back and speak to all your customers, existing and potential.

Responding quickly is key.  In one study, a slow response to a negative review lowered the opinion of the business amongst 93% of respondents and 37% said they’d consider purchasing from another business i.e. your competitor.

3. Be honest (no matter how ugly)

Your customers don’t expect your business to be perfect - what they do expect is a transparent explanation (it shows you value their thoughts). And apologise (always say sorry - even when you’re not!)

If there is something you can do to fix the situation or remedy a mistake, tell them.  Remember, online reviews are not set in stone - if you’re able to improve an initial bad experience, that 1 star review may turn into 4 stars!

4. Stay on top of review sites

It’s hard to see this at the time, but the silver lining of negative reviews is that they give you sharp feedback on the parts of your business that may need more attention and can be a powerful conversation with your customers, existing and potential.

One easy way to keep on top of any reviews coming your way is to set up Google Alerts for your business. This means you get an instant notification anytime your business name pops up in Google. Another lifesaver you can easily use to monitor any comments about your business on social media is Mention.

With Yelp’s introduction of video functionality that allows reviewers to take 3 to 12 second clips as part of their reviews, it’s clear that customers' trust in the crowd is here to stay!

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