Lumps of Coal: How to Handle Negative Reviews Over the Holidays

Lumps of Coal: How to Handle Negative Reviews Over the Holidays

What’s Santa to do when a company he does business with doesn’t quite come through as expected? For example, if the sleigh repair shop doesn’t do a good job, can you expect Mr. Kringle to leave a pile of coal at their door as a show of his displeasure?

Probably not. Kris Kringle is far more likely to hop on Google or Facebook and leave the company a bad review instead. Not only does a bad review get the point across to the sleigh repair shop that they failed to live up to expectations, but it’s also a great way for Santa to warn other potential customers to take their money elsewhere.

Managing your reviews on local search results can determine whether your company receives a lump of coal or the gift of revenue this holiday season.

Why Good and Bad Customer Reviews Matter so Much

If your small business clients are concerned about negative reviews, their fears are not exactly unjustified. In fact, 72% of consumers won’t even consider doing business with a company until after they’ve read a positive review or two — 30% consider reviews to be a key factor when choosing local companies to use.

Both positive and negative reviews wield a lot of power over local businesses because of their importance to local search marketing. A single star increase in a restaurant’s rating on Yelp, for example, can bring in 5-9% more revenue.

However, an occasional bad review shouldn’t be cause for panic.

Consumers know that it’s hard to please everyone, all the time. When consumers see nothing but glowing reviews for a business, they usually suspect that the brand is either padding their reputation with fake reviews or screening out the bad ones.

Owners Need a Strategy for Negative Reviews

Every business owner should commit to this strategy for negative reviews:

  • Acknowledge negative reviews as quickly as possible.
  • Empathize with the customer’s feelings and ask the customer to provide more information, if necessary, through direct contact (like email or chat).
  • Make it clear in the response that the business is willing to make things right, if possible.

Exactly what a small business owner needs to do next in order to turn each negative review into a positive depends on the purpose of the complaint. Let’s look at how small business owners should handle the most common dissatisfied customers they will encounter:

Disappointed Dianes: Unexpected Experience

These are the customers who genuinely didn’t get the experience they expected. The service may have been bad or the product may not be working as described.

Disappointed Dianes aren’t dropping coal at your small business owner’s door. They’re actually a gift. They are, more often than not, alerting small business owners to a problem that needs to be addressed. For every Disappointed Diane that speaks up, there are about 26 other unhappy customers who stay silent — and most just walk away.

Small business owner’s need to respond to Dianes by:

  • Asking for a new opportunity, whether that means a product replacement and a refund, a meal on the house or something more.
  • Asking for a new — hopefully improved — review.

If a small business owner has corrected the problem, there’s nothing to fear.

Critical Carls: Unreasonable Expectations

Critical Carls usually have unreasonable expectations in the first place. They walk into a store on Black Friday and are offended at the wait even though every register is running. They order the pepper-crusted steak and find it has too much pepper for their liking.

It’s important to remember that Carls are genuinely disappointed in their experience — even though the business did nothing wrong. small business owner’s still gain a chance to show their professionalism and increase the credibility of their brand by their response, so they should:

  • Gently illustrate the fact that the issue was unavoidable.
  • Show their willingness to “go all out” for the customer.
  • Ask for a new review.

For example, a restaurant owner might respond, “We realize our signature pepper-crusted steak isn’t for everyone, but we’d like you to try one of our other great meals — on the house!” The odds are Carl will be happy and everyone reading that response will be impressed.

Hateful Henrys: Something for Nothing

Hateful Henrys are, by and large, trying to get something for nothing and they hope to leverage their negative review into free services or goods.

Owners can’t fall for a Hateful Henry’s tricks. Nor can they just ignore a Henry. Business owners can, however, use a Henry to show just how exceptional and professional they can be — and gain the trust of many potential customers in the process.

Small business owners need to remain unfalling professional and worry only about how they look to other potential customers reading that review. There’s nothing they can do to appease a Henry except give in to the extortion and that’s not something small business owners should do.

Final Thoughts

What’s the most important thing to remind small business owner’s about negative reviews? Even lumps of coal can serve a purpose and have value if you appreciate them for what they are, not what you had hoped they would be.

Why are Online Reviews Important for Your Small Business’s Reputation?

Why are Online Reviews Important for Your Small Business’s Reputation?

In 2018, reviews made by consumers on websites like Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor, Yelp and more can make or break a business. Not only do 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, but 84% trust them as much as personal recommendations. It’s statistics like this that explain why online reviews have become an invaluable asset for small businesses.

Reviews are a love-hate thing, especially for small businesses trying to build a solid reputation. On the one hand, positive reviews help promote your brand and on the other, negative reviews can produce an undesirable impact. As a business owner, you should always remember that a negative review here and there is inevitable, and if the vast majority are positive, you have nothing to worry about.

There are three major steps within the online review timeline, including inquiring customers to leave them, monitoring the reviews that come in and responding to the customers who leave them, both positive and negative. You should be prepared to invest your time and resources into each of these components.

In order to understand why these investments are necessary, here are a few reasons why online reviews are so important.

Reviews Build Credibility

In the era of smartphones, consumers conduct more research than ever prior to selecting where to purchase goods and services. And, as mentioned above, most of them trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Consumers turn to review sites to gain a better understanding of a business, so the more positive reviews you have, the better. These positive reviews will help instill trust within your business and solidify your reputation as a leader in your perspective field.

Reviews Help Your SEO

In order to appear in online searches, your business needs to have good SEO (search engine optimization) tactics in place. Online reviews play a big role in SEO, as reviews can influence where a business falls within search rankings. Google, for instance, gathers review information from many sites when determining where a business will fall in search results. Sites like Yelp and Facebook determine a business’s ranking based on overall rating and number of reviews.

Reviews Help Connect you with Your Customers

To stand out against competitors within your local community, it’s important to find interesting ways to connect with your customers. Reviews provide an avenue for doing just that. When a customer leaves a review, you can take the time to respond and thank them for taking the time to do so. This will also provide credibility to others who read the reviews and see your responses.

You can also learn about issues that you didn’t know existed this way. For instance, a customer might leave a comment regarding an issue they came across. You can then provide them with a solution to their problem, and hopefully turn that negative comment into a positive one.

Small businesses should embrace the power of positive online reviews. They can help customers learn more about your business so that in the future, they turn to you when they’re ready to learn more and possibly make a purchase.

How to Take Advantage of Holiday Cheer to Increase Positive Online Reviews

How to Take Advantage of Holiday Cheer to Increase Positive Online Reviews

Almost 95% of customers check out online reviews before making a purchase. This means that if your business has only a few reviews, you lack the social proof to convince users to choose you over a competitor.

In addition, reviews are critical to small business SEO, as search engines use them to determine quality and authority of your business.

To make matters worse, users (and Google) look for reviews in multiple places, including Google My Business, product review sites like Yelp, social media, and industry-specific sites. It’s best if you have at least a couple reviews in all of these places.

Luckily, the holiday season gives you an excellent opportunity to increase your number of positive reviews. Customers are full of holiday cheer and looking to spread their good will. However, it’s still unlikely that they’ll leave a review without some encouragement. You need to have a strategy in place to solicit reviews from satisfied customers.

1. Tap into the Good Cheer of the Holidays

Start a campaign, just for the holidays, where you ask for reviews. You can run this campaign on social media or through email — accompanied with a holiday greeting. If you use an email campaign, include a link to the site where you want users to leave a review.

It’s best if you can find a way to make your campaign holiday themed. For instance, you could ask people to explain how your product brightened up their holidays or to share a holiday story that involves one of your services.

2. Meet Increased Customer Demand

People are more likely to leave you a review if they have a bad experience with your company. You need to avoid disappointing customers at all costs. If you provide an exceptional service, you increase your chances of receiving great feedback.

If the holidays will mean an increase in sales for your business, you need to take steps to ensure that you’ll be able to meet the demand. This means stocking up on your most popular products, making sure that your e-commerce site is accurate about how many products you have in stock, and only guaranteeing delivery times that you can fulfill. You’ll also need to ensure that you respond to queries as soon as possible and otherwise provide great customer service.

3. Share Reviews

Pick your favorite holiday reviews and feature them on your website or social media pages. You can even explicitly say that you will be sharing the most inspiring stories — this should encourage more users to write reviews.

4. Offer a Holiday Gift for Reviewers

A final option is to provide an incentive for leaving a review. Incentives can be a discount on the customer’s next purchase, a freebie, or another type of offer. You can give the gift to all reviewers or hold a contest and randomly pick one user to win.

If you’re sending users to a particular site for the review, you’ll need to check that compensation is allowed. Some sites have strict rules about incentivizing customers — and if you break these rules, you could end up losing all your reviews. This will leave you much worse off than when you started.

Timing is key when soliciting reviews. If you’re using social media, test posting times to find out when your campaign receives the greatest number of responses. For email campaigns, send out requests for reviews when your company is on your customers’ minds. This could be right after a customer receives a product, after a client has used your service or following an interaction with your customer support team. You are more likely to receive responses if the email doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Why Online Reviews Aren’t Out of Your Control

Why Online Reviews Aren’t Out of Your Control

Reviews. We’ve all read them. We’ve all given one. Whether by word-of-mouth, phone survey or sharing our experience online, as consumers we’re constantly giving feedback. It’s so commonplace, that now, not only are we sharing our feedback, we’re actively seeking the feedback of others as we navigate the purchase journey. And increasingly, because of it’s ease of access, we’re seeking that feedback in the form of online reviews.

In fact, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. As local businesses, it may seem like online reviews are a marketing tool that’s risky and largely out of your control. Here’s 3 reasons that’s just not true.

1. You can ask for reviews. Many business owners think there’s nothing they can do if their customers don’t organically leave reviews. However, a recent BrightLocal survey found that 68% of consumers left a review when asked. So, even if your business has no reviews on the big 3 (Facebook, Google and Yelp), don’t despair — just ask.

2. Bad reviews aren’t always bad. This may sound crazy, but the occasional bad review can actually be a good (ok, kind of) thing. Seeing a few less than stellar reviews can actually increase the credibility, trust and authenticity of your reviews overall. We’ve all seen a business with only 5-star ratings, and that’s usually a red flag. Less than perfect reviews also offer you an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to quality. When you reply promptly to a negative review (by publicly offering to continue the conversation offline) other customers see that you’re responsive, and you care about your customers’ experiences.

3. Managing reviews doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Requesting reviews. Responding promptly. Managing the big 3. You may be starting to feel a bit overwhelmed and maybe you’re thinking, “This sounds like way too much work!” And, the truth is, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. There are tons of super affordable tools and services out there that can make requesting, monitoring and managing online reviews as simple as a couple clicks of the mouse.

There’s no doubting that online reviews are a very influential part of the buying process for many consumers these days. Don’t miss out on what could be a powerful marketing tool because you think it’s risky, time consuming or out of your control. With a little understanding and the right tools, you could be on your way to a 5-star review program in no time.

Avoid These Marketing Monsters Dwelling in Your Closet

Avoid These Marketing Monsters Dwelling in Your Closet

It’s the time of year when monsters come out, but some of them need to stay locked in your closet: the marketing monsters. You’re not looking to create a scare with your marketing. Avoid devilish tricks and use best practices instead. Your efforts will pay off.

1. A Community of Zombies

You can instantly receive a large number of followers to your social media account or email mailing list by paying a fee. In the case of social media, you’ll likely receive ghost accounts, whereas email addresses will belong to real people. There are major problems with both.

For one thing, it is impossible to purchase engagement. On social media, follower count is a vanity metric, whereas engagement shows the success of your efforts. This lack of engagement is often obvious, meaning people will be less likely to trust your brand. Trust will also decrease if users see your follower account suddenly shoot up in a matter of days.

In the case of email, lack of engagement is even more useless. You’ll be targeting people who have never shown any interest in your offerings — and there’s no reason to believe they will be interested. Worse still, their first interaction with your business will be a spam message, making it unlikely that they’ll ever see your brand in a good light. Lastly, if you message EU citizens without their permission, you may receive a GDPR fine.

The Solution

Grow your follower base authentically. Find people who are actually interested in what you have to offer and want to hear more from you. For instance, give users the chance to sign up for your email newsletter after they download premium content. Your social follower counts and email mailing list will be smaller, but at least most people on it will be potential leads.

2. Horror Story Emails

You have probably created a mobile web design by now, but have you also given the same attention to your emails? If too much is going on, if images don’t fit the screen, or if users need to zoom in to read the information, your message will probably end up unread. In fact, more than half of people unsubscribe from email newsletters because they are unable to read the messages on their phones.

The Solution

Test emails on a mobile device before you send them out. Figure out how you can make improvements and save this template for future communications.

3. Unleashing Your Wrath in Reviews

Negative reviews can be hard to take, especially if the criticism is undeserved, such as in the case of a misunderstanding or a difficult-to-deal-with customer. Your immediate reaction may be to reply in sarcastic or angry tones, but this is never a good idea — you’ll only seem unprofessional or perhaps even petty. Even replying in a private message is dangerous, as there’s always the chance that a customer could leak a screenshot.

The Solution

All this isn’t to say that you should ignore negative reviews. You should definitely reply — but the right way. Instead, apologize (sincerely) and name what steps you’re taking to correct the issue. Then, users who may have been swayed by the negative feedback will see that you care about your customers and about providing an excellent service.

4. Trust No One But the Numbers

You should certainly trust your gut for some aspects of marketing. However, relying on feelings entirely and never putting in any research is a recipe for disaster. Assuming you already know the answers will cost you money and reduce conversions.

The Solution

Monitor your successes down to the smallest details. This means finding out how well a piece of content performed, how posting at different times impacts engagement, and who is responding to your campaigns — for each channel.

Even during this spooky time of year, there’s no excuse to release the marketing monsters. It may take more time and effort, but marketing the right way leads to far better results.

How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to find out which local business was reliable, and which wasn’t, you just walked up to your neighbor by the backyard fence and asked for a recommendation.

Today, the internet has taken the place of the backyard fence and everybody’s your neighbor. Online review sites are today’s version of “word of mouth.” Every happy (or unhappy) customer has the potential to share his or her experience at your business with hundreds — or maybe thousands — of other people.

Knowing that, do you really want to list your business with Google, Yelp, and other review sites? Do you dare open your business up to potential criticism?

Absolutely. Online reviews are far too important to avoid.

Online Reviews Make Your Business Visible and Create Trust

Reviews are another way to increase your local search engine rankings through organic means. The more people discuss your brand, the better its visibility is to Google. Each review creates unique content that’s relevant to your brand — and some review sites, like Yelp, may even come up higher in search results for keywords than your actual website.

In addition, consumers are increasingly wary and distrustful of marketing techniques. They work hard for their money — so they need reassurance that they’re going to get a certain value when they hire someone or buy a product. That’s why 90% of people check out a local business online before they actually visit it. It’s also why 89% of consumers need to read multiple reviews for your business before they’re willing to trust you.

Essentially, consumers are looking for a good reason to choose one business over all the rest. In an increasingly competitive market, that’s exactly what you need to give them. Registering your business at online review sites and working hard to get those positive reviews is the best way to do it.

The Reviews You Get Could Make or Break Your Business

A heartfelt, positive review can have a huge effect on your business. Most online review sites use a five-star ratings system — and every star a business gains is associated with increased revenues of 5%-9%. In addition, consumers tend to overlook a business that has less than four stars. They simply don’t trust them. That makes positive reviews a major driving force for foot traffic, no matter what business you are in.

However, positive reviews aren’t the only ones that consumers are reading. A single, deeply-negative review can also have tremendous consequences for your business. One negative review can cost you 22% of your potential customers. Get three negative reviews, and you’ll lose 59% of those who read them.

It quickly becomes imperative to gain as many positive reviews as you can for your business. That not only gives you more good things for consumers to read, it helps mitigate the fallout from the occasional bad review.

Start a Plan to Solicit Reviews from Happy Customers

So, how do you go about getting more positive reviews?

Whatever you do, don’t hire anybody to write fake reviews. Not only is that unethical (and possibly illegal), it can backfire on your business badly. Your goal is to build trust — fake reviews from someone paid to write them will destroy that trust in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, getting good reviews is actually pretty easy. You simply ask for them. As soon as you open your business up for reviews on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, put your plan into action:

  • Ask friends and family who have used your services or bought your product to write a review. The odds are good that they’re some of your biggest fans anyway. Ask them to be specific about what they find most compelling about your business so that their reviews have that all-so-important ring of authenticity.
  • Talk to your most loyal customers. You know who they are. Let them know what you are doing and ask them for their support. Try reaching out to the people that already support you online through your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages.

People love to be asked for their opinion, and you’ll continue to build trust by making your most loyal customers feel like they’re partners in your success.

Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews Alike

One of the biggest mistakes brands make is not responding to reviews — good or bad. Consumers want a response. Far too often — about 63% of the time — they’re disappointed.

A simple, “Thanks! We look forward to seeing you again!” can often suffice for a positive review, while negative reviews take a little more finesse. Since the world is watching, keep your tone professional and address customer complaints as openly as possible. Avoid angry, emotional responses and focus on the overall impression you want to make on others who read the exchange.

When you respond to a review, you’re telling the customer who left it that you care about his or her opinion. You’re also telling everyone else that you’re responsive to all kinds of feedback.

The Takeaway

Your customers are your neighborhood — and you need to lean over the metaphorical fence between you and engage their support.

Online reviews are a fantastic opportunity for your business. Not only do they help with local search marketing, they’re a tremendous source of information and feedback. Learn to solicit that feedback — and respond to it in earnest — and you’ll gain your customers’ trust and give prospects a reason to pick your business out of the crowd!