I heard a story the other day about a business who had reviews from 2013 that were still showing up “at the top of their Yelp reviews page” and they couldn’t figure out what to do. I took a look at the Yelp page for this business and noticed several things immediately:
- The reviews from 2013 were in fact not showing up “at the top of their Yelp reviews page”. There was one particular review that they were very concerned about, but it was filtered.
- There were 48 total reviews. 40 (!) are filtered by Yelp. So only 8 show up on the main page.
- Of the 8 reviews that were public, 5 were 1 star, and the owner responded to each one. Her responses were very good, albeit she posted years after some of the reviews.
I started thinking about how this business owner is thinking about Yelp – she was deeply concerned about her online reputation, so much so that filtered reviews that she felt were showing up “at the top” of Yelp were indeed not happening at all. If she hadn’t told me specifically about the “bad” review she was concerned about, I would have never found it. I really had to dig.
This deeply misleading headline about how “bad reviews are forever” in the NY Times seemed to be speaking directly to this business owner – and it bothered me because it’s the type of headline that puts unneeded fear into the minds of these businesses. But as I read this article, it turned out to be an excellent primer for how small business owners should manage their online reviews and feedback. Specifically, they mention a few tactics that are exceptional:
- Turning around one-star reviews creates lifetime customers — and better reviews draw more customers. One of the businesses highlighted discussed how he was getting a lot of one star reviews early on. Instead of panicking, he reached out to these customers, found out what their concerns were, asked them to come back and try again. He made improvements in the restaurant itself and updated pricing and portion sizes. By listening to his customers, he grew his business tremendously. Instead of being buried by one star reviews (which is the typical knee jerk reaction), he learned and grew from them.
- Actual reviews can fall off the first pages of review sites. And consumers rarely read reviews older than three months. Business owners take bad reviews personally, and it’s understandable. But we have to realize as small business owners that we love our business and care about it more than anybody else. Other folks are simply looking for the quickest and easiest way to solve their problem, and if they are looking for what you have to offer, they will make some quick judgements. This is why we at Bizyhood hate the 5-star system – it’s a quick judgement that actually has no relationship with quality. But at the same time, that bad review from 6 months ago is likely never going to be read anymore. But, you can jump right to Step 3 to take “advantage” of these reviews.
- After problems are addressed and solved, there’s a high chance that disgruntled customers can become avid advocates. If you did Step #1, you should have been able to turn that unhappy customer into a champion. I hear many business owners talk about “completely unreasonable” customers who leave a 1 star review and there is no pleasing them. I’m positive this is true. I’m also positive this is a small majority of the people leaving you poor reviews. Many people leave a poor review solely to get a response from the owner. By not responding, you are confirming to your customer that you do not care about them. As the article states:
“The criticism may hurt, but the way a business responds matters.”
- The personal approach is best. In the article, one of the business owners responds to all reviews/feedback himself, even if the feedback is positive. This can be up to 50/day! He states:
“Dining experiences live on in the computer,” he said. “And they reach thousands of people. But you can only manage a fraction of that experience inside the restaurant.”
In other words, if somebody inside your store was complaining and you were there, you would handle it immediately, and all the other customers would see your great customer service. So, why is somebody complaining online any different? Instead of just the customers inside your store seeing how great you handle customer issues, everybody seeing your review can learn how great your service skills are. Also, respond to customers online in your own voice or that of a trusted employee. It’s much more authentic than using canned responses or hiring a Marketing firm solely for this purpose. The only exception is when responding to a particularly sticky piece of feedback. In those cases, we do recommend that you share your response with somebody before posting. And never post angry!
It’s time to realize that review sites are really a customer service channel for your business if you treat it that way. Yes, a negative review may hurt temporarily, but the opportunities to leverage it for good are just too strong to ignore. We’ll conclude by adding a quote from a small furniture retailer who sums up the real value of her business:
“I want people to know my true heart,” said Ms. Piercy, who doesn’t want to outsource her review scans either. “And I’m thankful for their feedback.”