It happened yet again. I did a search for a local business and the first thing that popped up wasn’t their website, but their Yelp review page.
Ugly review after ugly review filled the page, with some pretty bad horror stories. And yes, these horror stories did leave an impression on me and this business.
I’m a huge fan of Yelp and often write reviews for the businesses I patronize. Yes, I’ve sent in a few zingers (hello, Sonic Drive In), but most often sing the praises of the businesses I love.
Smart business owners will keep a watch on their Yelp reviews and do what they can to remedy things, but more often than not these reviews spark other negative reviews and soon it’s a feeding frenzy of folks hellbent on one-upping each other’s bad reviews.
This can spell death for any business.
Whether it’s on Yelp or a comment left on someone’s blog, here are 4 tips on what to do in case you get a high dose of online visibility via negative remarks. And if you’re not monitoring your business online, you better get started.
1. Stay calm, People are Watching
The worst thing you can do is go into a tailspin of reactions, even if someone is “speaking their truth” while going for your jugular. Sites that have review components get huge traffic, that’s why I keep finding Yelp pages instead of a business’ website when doing an online search. The frequent updating of content tickles the Google gods and in return they list the sites high on a results page. So in other words, these pages get LOTS of hits. If you lose your cool, go into victim mode, rant and rave like a lunatic, just remember you’re performing said tantrum in front of EVERYONE. And if you think a bad review makes you look bad, well, just you wait. You on the rampage will be what people remember and I don’t think that’s the kind of viral phenom you set out to be. So take your deep breaths, detach if you can, call a friend… get your emotions under control before you respond.
The best way to counter negative feedback is to find something to agree about because it neutralizes the situation. “I’m sorry you had a bad experience and I agree, that is unacceptable.” Something along those lines. It’s not an invitation to prove people wrong, that only makes things worse. If they’re really wacko and have said crazy things, you can still take the high road. “Sorry you had a bad experience, clearly your situation is the exception as our customers generally rave about our service and food”.
If you have a way of contacting people who’ve posted a bad experience, offer to make things right. Give them a free something, apologize, let them know you are aware of their concerns and are fixing things. One time a bank lost my loan application and sent me a huge (I mean HUGE) Harry and David gift basket with an apology letter. The Sonic Drive In I so righteously blasted contacted me on Yelp and offered me a free meal. I wasn’t looking for a freebie, but it made me smile and lose some of the anger. You have to be careful with this step, because you don’t want to be accused of buying people off. But if it’s a gesture to give you a second chance, I don’t see anything morally questionable in that.
It’s easy to hold onto things and stew in the juices of resentment. I’ve seen people take extreme measures and practically change their entire business model simply because of one negative piece of feedback. At some point you just need to release it. Believe me, there are people in this world who thrive on the attention they get when they whine. I’m sure it’s rooted in a childhood issue, I’ll let them take that to their therapist. But unfortunately, they run rampant with frivolous lawsuits and bitchy reviews and drive the online world crazy. Try to find the learning experience, then set it free.
We can’t control every aspect of how the public perceives us, but if you know how to react when something negative occurs, you’ll end up coming out stronger and better. There can be a smidgen of gratitude said for these negative experiences, in that they get us to think and practice our best behaviors. So if someone smears you online, follow these steps and move on.
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