Online reviews are a fact of life if you have a physical or online business. We are all guilty of using them at some point as a way to choose a product or a service. But what do you think when you read a bad review about a business, does it stop you from choosing it?
Everyone in business experiences a negative review at some point or another and it is personally crushing when you are just starting out. It may not be merited, or it may be excellent feedback-depending on who wrote it, their motivation and what you do about it.
Either way, your options around what to do next have the most important impact on your business.
Here’s what you can’t do
Legally, Australian Consumer Law has some strict regulations around reviews and testimonials. To protect consumers and ensure fair and non-misleading reviews are included for all businesses, there are some rules and regulations you need to be aware of:
- You cannot ‘cherrypick’ reviews. This means you cannot decide what to include or not in your review and testimonial pages so if you have some bad reviews and some good reviews, you cannot decide to include only the good ones and leave out the bad ones
- You cannot edit and only include the ‘good parts’ of the review. If there is some negative feedback included with the positive, you must include all parts of the review
- You cannot make up or include fake reviews
- You must disclose any reviews or testimonials received from friends, family; and
- You must disclose any reviewer who has received a ‘benefit’ of any type including free or discounted products or services, or, for example, any financial or non-financial benefit such as reciprocal promotion or advertising.
The takeaway message is that businesses need to be very careful that any reviews or testimonials are genuine, and accurately reflect the views of the person giving them.
Here’s what you can do
So what can you do to ensure that reviews and testimonials work ‘for’ your business? You need to follow your business reputation online to have a pulse on what consumers are saying about your business and what may need to be adjusted in your business for future success. The best ways to do this:
- Monitor your reviews. Know what consumers are saying about your business and ensure you keep on top of the reviews. There are lots of sites that provide reviews and opportunities for customers to write feedback about various businesses such as Google, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Facebook etc, but you need to be able to track them easily. You can sign up for free to paid services like Mention that track your brand and provide a notification each time your business is mentioned on the internet.
- Try to turn negative reviews into positive ones. Don’t get drawn into a war of words. Most consumers will be more likely to give business to a business owner who responds to a negative review and tries to resolve it rather than ignores it. Try to find out what the problem was and offer to fix what you are able. This will go a long way toward helping negate the effects of a bad review in the eyes of your customers and is worth the cost, time and effort.
- Take some time out before answering any bad reviews. Take a breath and think about what they are trying to say as many times customers just want to be heard. They may just be frustrated at the time but it does not help if you are responding when you are upset, angry, feel it is unjustified or are otherwise not in a good frame of mind. You can write a response, then leave it for a while and come back to it again after either speaking with a partner or having a break. It will likely be a very different (and maybe more balanced) response you will send.
- Have a process of asking for testimonials and reviews. You can set up an automated email marketing platform service with an autoresponder set up a few days after purchase to ask about the customer experience. You can also provide a link to a review service so that they can easily click the link and provide feedback with a rating. This is also a good gauge of feedback on what you can fix and improve in your business.
We cannot always keep clients from talking negatively, even when we have done everything right, well and with a smile. But how we respond is the key to being a successful business owner.