Companies large and small worry about online reviews, almost to a point of paranoia, without ever finding the value in them. In today’s social world, the best review may be a bad one, depending on how you react to it. Let me offer two bad examples and two good.
A winery owner was freaked out over bad reviews on Yelp and asked for our help in “getting rid of them.” We did an analysis of the reviews and found that one of the 72 reviews was negative about the product of the winery and two were from a former business partner that went their way acrimoniously. Most were glowing reports of the wines and, in particular, the unique collection of ports they produced. Several were highly complementary of the facilities and and the services. However, within the high praise for the product were multiple negative comments about the lackadaisical attitude of the staff and the public arguments between the owners of the business. What was “killing” them on Yelp was something that was easily fixed: Don’t argue in front of your customers and get rid of employees who aren’t there to work. They had a hard time understanding that.
Then there was one that happened to me recently. I decided to order some pasta sauce online rather than go to the supermarket for it. It arrived four days after the promised delivery date and the jars had shattered in the inadequate packaging. According to the postal service, they picked it up like that and ended up having to label it a biohazard. I went to the store to get my sauce and then requested a refund. It took them a day to respond, but before they did, they requested a review of their service. So I did and gave them the lowest rating. That prompted them to call me and said they would give me a full refund IF I removed the review. It wasn’t an insulting review, it was just honest and removing a review from Amazon is not easy. Plus they conditioned my refund based on my action. They might have gotten a better response if they had offered to make it right. I think they got what they deserved and I learned a valuable lesson about ordering pasta sauce online.
Now for some good examples.
A student at a local preschool fell in a playground and hit his head on a tree root. The injury was quite bloody but there was no serious damage. The school employees responded quickly and the child received medical aid and evaluation. The parent, however, charged the school with negligence, which was determined to be without cause. Undeterred, she launched a Yelp campaign with multiple fake accounts. It was easy to determine that it was the same person because she made the exact same spelling and grammatical errors in each post, and copied whole sections from each. The director sought our advice and we first suggested going to her and seeing what could be done, but the woman was not convinced and continued her campaign. Our counsel was to enlist the help of other parents, telling them exactly what the issue was and asking them to go on Yelp to state their own concerns and reviews. The result was a wave of positive comments that raised the approval rating of the school and pushed the negative reviews to the bottom.
Finally, your unhappy customers can become your best friends. There was a tire shop that called us in to help them launch a modest social media program using Yelp and Facebook. Everything was going well and sales jumped 600 percent in three months requiring the addition of personnel and new equipment. But the fly in the ointment was a very negative comment by one customer on Yelp. It wa so negative the shop owner wanted to pull business from Yelp. We offered a different perspective.
We had the owner personally call up the customer, apologize for the problem and ask for specific details of what had upset her. The owner got a good perspective on a weakness in his business, offered to fix the problem and throw in a free service. The customer came back, was more than satisfied with the new service and started raving about the business on Facebook and amended her review on Yelp. That one customer has become an ambassador for the business.
Social reviews can kill your business, but they can also be a substantive force for positive change. Don’t fear them. Embrace the horror.