I’m getting killed with bad online reviews!

Dear Ken Keller,

I’m not the most highly technical or internet savvy guy on the planet but it was brought to my attention this week that we have some not so pleasant reviews on a few online sites. There are some good ones too, but I have no idea how to address this. —Marty G.

Dear Marty,

Thank you for writing. Many businesses grow or die by their online reviews. We often think of them only in terms of restaurants and other consumer services but many B2B organizations are also rated.

The first thing you should plan on doing, both today and in the future, is to respond to every comment (rating) made. You may show appreciation in some responses and with others you have an opportunity to improve how your company is perceived.

Thanking people who take the time to comment is the polite thing to do because it demonstrates that you, the owner, actually see each review. When you respond you are helping to either continue or to turnaround a damaged relationship that could continue for years and could be worth a lot of money.

Good review or not, respond with a display of simple gratitude. The Ritz Carlton teaches all employees that “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Be polite and show good manners. Follow that example.

It is also important to recognize and reinforce whatever positive experience is mentioned. Many reviews are a mixed bag of “You did so and so very well but you didn’t do this other thing and I was disappointed.”

By taking the time to craft a response recognizing what the client appreciated is a sign that you have paid close attention to what was written. You can also use this as an opportunity to educate the client about other related items or services they might consider on their next visit or purchase.

In your response you might also want to inform the client of other ways that they can keep in touch with you; for example, sign up for your mailing or emailing list; become part of your following on various social media platforms, become part of a VIP program, or encourage a visit if appropriate.

Negative reviews should be seen as a learning opportunity to improve. When responding, do so in a sincere and professional manner. Remember that whatever is posted will be seen for a very long time. Don’t respond in anger, or when tired.

Whatever problem the client had, address it head on. The person writing the negative review should be treated with dignity and respect.

Start by thanking the person for their review. Apologize. Show empathy for what they experienced or what happened to them. Keep the response short, honest and professional.

Understand that some of those who are complaining or criticizing will never be happy. For some of these individuals, nothing will make the situation right. Avoid at all costs getting into a war of words as things could quickly spiral out of control. Kill these people with kindness online by simply responding to additional posts after your initial response with “thank you.”

Do not take these conversations off line; they do not end well. Once I facilitated a dinner at a restaurant for a large group. The restaurant agreed that each party would pay separately. But that was not the case and there was one bill for a very large group of people and of course, no one could remember who ordered what and it turned into a mess.

The next day I went online, and wrote a very favorable review, and said I would go back again and would refer others to the restaurant, but I would never take a large group due to the experience.

About five months later the manager of the restaurant called me, and demanded that I retract my review. I said I would review my posting and if I had made a mistake or had made an untruthful statement, I would certainly do just that.

His demanding attitude and his failure to recognize the good and the bad experience outlined in my review completely turned me off. I lost any desire to go spend my money there. If he had never made the call I would not feel that way about his place of business.