Your online reputation is either one of your most powerful assets or one of your biggest liabilities. Great reviews and positive online sentiment can be the deciding factor which prompts a new customer to choose you over a competitor.
If you haven’t yet read our Local Consumer Review Survey it might come as a surprise to know that consumers read an average of 10 reviews before trusting a local business, and 57% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business. It follows then that poor reviews are very likely to turn potential customers away in their droves.
So, what happens when you wake up one morning to discover your businesses has been bombarded with one-star reviews and negative comments? What if an incident of poor customer service by your company has gone viral and attracted a crowd of users hoping to damage your reputation, whether they’re previous customers or not?
Unfortunately, recovering from a bad reputation is not as simple as flicking a switch. You can’t simply go around removing negative reviews or comments and hoping it will all go away. Repairing your poor reputation will take time but there are plenty of tips, tricks and techniques you can use to ensure that you bounce back better than ever. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Only expose yourself to reviews when you’re confident
Your Google My Business profile is arguably one of the most important profiles you’ll build online. Why? Simple: when a customer reviews your business page through Google, the reviews are displayed in the search results automatically. If you’re not confident in the quality of your service or the feedback your customers may provide, consider holding off on developing your Google My Business page until you’re certain you’ll pick up some positive comments.
Facebook business pages are also essential and these come with the ability to turn off reviews entirely. If your business is going through a turbulent time, or if you’re just getting off the ground, don’t be afraid to nix reviews for a while. Users can still write comments and post replies to your status updates, but they won’t have an effect on your star rating.
Keep track of everywhere your business is listed
In an effort to increase your visibility and encourage reviews and ratings, you’ve probably submitted your NAP (name, address and phone number) to a multitude of directories and business platforms. From Yelp and TripAdvisor to Facebook and Google, there are dozens of these and it’s important to keep track of all of them. However, this in itself can pose problems if you aren’t vigilant about keeping tabs on each and every one of them. In the worst case scenario, failing to keep track of where your business is listed – and monitor reviews accordingly – can completely undermine your efforts to bounce back and take control of your online reputation.
Don’t be afraid to call in expert help to stay on top of what’s being said – good and bad
If you’re focusing on your Facebook and Google profiles, you may not notice that a flood of negative comments have started to appear on your Yelp page, which could be putting off future customers. Make sure you keep track of every place online where your site can be reviewed.
There are plenty of online reputation management tools available to help make this process more straightforward and ensure you’re staying on top of all online sentiment about your brand or business.
Entrepreneur guest writer Alex Matia says, “Monitoring what people say about you and your business may seem overwhelming, but there are quite a few free or low-cost tools to help you monitor your online reputation.” She suggests looking at services such as Google Alerts (if you’re on a tight budget), Namyz, Hootsuite and Reputology as good starting points. And I’d, of course, be remiss not to recommend BrightLocal’s own reputation management tool.
It’s also important to look into problems without delay when your reputation management tool picks up a less-than-stellar review. It may not be top of the priority list when you’re trying to juggle a dozen different marketing or business issues, but negative reviews should always be addressed quickly. You can find out more about the right way to respond to negative reviews online in our step-by-step guide.
Use negative reviews to help you improve
If you’re looking to bounce back from bad reviews, the best thing you can do is learn from them. Identify the problems that keep cropping up in those negative comments and resolve to take a proactive approach to rectifying them. Perhaps your new staff members are dropping the ball when it comes to providing good customer service. Maybe your support ticket system needs some work. Your internal processes may not be up to the high standards that customers expect.
Whatever it is, use the negative feedback to fuel your recovery. Speaking to The Guardian, Richard Anson from ratings and reviews service provider, Reevoo explained that bigger brands embed this learning mentality into the heart of their processes to ensure continual customer satisfaction. He said,
“I know that [electrical retailer] Currys uses [its] customer feedback to guide [its] product buying process, and a large car brand we work with also sends all feedback to its engineers and R&D department so that it gets fed into product improvement.”
A sudden influx is worth investigating
Picture the scene: your business is doing well, you have a steady 4.6 star rating on Google My Business and customers appear to be generally satisfied. Then one day you wake up to a flood of negative reviews, bringing your rating down to 3.2, seriously hindering your ability to attract new customers.
So what’s happened here? There are three reasons why you might experience an influx like this:
- A disgruntled customer has been telling their story and encouraging friends, family and other social media users to leave bad reviews as ‘revenge’ for a poor experience.
- One of your competitors has made a targeted attempt to harm your business with inauthentic reviews.
- A piece of bad publicity has triggered a storm of unfair comments.
Our 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey found that consumers aren’t as easily mislead as you might think, with 74% of consumers believing they have read a fake review in the last year and 33% of consumers claiming they have read “a lot” of fake reviews in the last year. The danger of course is that it’s human nature to assume the five star reviews are the fake ones rather than questioning the veracity of seemingly negative customer experiences.
Depending on the platform you’re dealing with, there are different things you can do here. Many platforms offer some form of site support for fake or inauthentic reviews – raise a support ticket with them and wait for their response. You’ll need to gather evidence that these reviews are fake to support your claim. Look at usernames and record the times and locations of their posts if you can. You may be able to pinpoint the culprits and work to come to a reasonable solution that won’t harm your business any further.
Always respond to comments
The importance of responding to reviews has jumped 10% since 2016, so it’s becoming more critical to ensure you get back to any reviewer that’s negative or poses a question. However, although it can be tempting to answer back to a negative poster, giving them a piece of your mind, this could end up damaging your reputation even more. Instead, you should aim to answer every single review or comment in a professional way. There’s an appropriate response to every kind of review – you just need to learn which one to deploy.
Many of the reviewers posting negative comments online can come across as unreasonable. If you’re responding to customer reviews in a professional manner, you’re demonstrating to others that you are professional. In addition to going some way to placate the disgruntled customer, this approach can also end up making the original poster look like they’re exaggerating to the casual onlooker. Other users will see your professional response and respect you more for it.
When responding, apologize (if you feel it’s right to do so) and try to provide some context for the complaint for the benefit of other users. Encourage the original poster to contact you privately to resolve the situation rather than hashing out the details on a public review platform.
Work hard to gain positive reviews
So you’ve had a spell of bad reviews. It happens. Customers will be much more willing to forgive historic bad reviews if they can see that the company is making a real effort to improve.
For example, if you received a bunch of one-star reviews and lengthy, negative comments a year ago, but your star rating since then has been impeccable, potential customers will respond well, and our research shows that 77
85% of consumers don’t pay attention to reviews older than three months anyway. It’s important to show that you’re aware of the problem and are working hard to rectify it.
A bad review is not the end of the world. In fact, some savvy consumers have been known to be mistrustful of businesses that have flawless five-star ratings – it can make them look like they’re buying reviews or faking it somehow. A couple of poor reviews can actually make your overall rating look more realistic.
It’s important not to overreact when faced with bad reviews. Don’t resort to drastic steps like changing the whole name of your business, or starting brand new profiles on Google, Facebook and Yelp. Restoring a reputation is hard – but it’s not as hard as building a new reputation from scratch with brand new profiles.
Some final words of wisdom
Restoring your reputation will be a time-consuming process. From communicating with those who feel let down by your business to analyzing your internal processes and coming up with ways to improve, there are many different avenues to explore on the road to recovery. Remember that it won’t happen overnight. However, the effort you put into building a positive and resilient reputation will place your business in a much stronger position in the long-term.
We’d love to hear your thoughts
Have you bounced back from a poor online reputation? What techniques and approaches did you adopt to move in a more positive direction and win back consumer trust? Share your experiences with us in the comments.