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.