In this age of fake news and downright fabrications and lies, it’s hard to know just what or who to believe. However, people still WANT to believe the media. It’s an unfortunate fact that approximately 85% of younger consumers (40 and under) trust an online review just as much as a personal recommendation. If you, the small business owner has recently been the recipient of a bad or negative business review, how can you address it publicly, in a way that won’t alienate other possible customers, and possibly even attract new trade?

Some of the most popular review websites are Amazon, Angie’s List, Google Plus, Trip Advisor, and of course Yelp Reviews. Primary Yelp business categories cover exactly where the majority of small business owner live – restaurants, shopping, home services, beauty and spas, automotive, food, pets, local services. The list is endless. Many of you also have a presence on Google Plus and have actively solicited reviews with their “Write a review” button. All well and good. But how do you address negative business reviews, WHETHER TRUE OR FALSE, in a way that will either exonerate your business or show the world that you are indeed a sensitive, caring business owner that will do anything to address their customer’s concerns?

Step Number One: Don’t Panic!

If you write a sarcastic, fiery reply to a bad review in the heat of the moment, you will do nothing to make the situation better and will probably make yourself look crazed and unstable. Calm down. Decide what you hope to accomplish with your response. Determine if the bad review came from a one time situation that you had no control of (the air conditioning was on the fritz, a bachelor party swarmed into your restaurant without a reservation, and startled a large family with their risque behavior) or if the review resulted from a staff member making a mistake (the customer stated loudly that they had a peanut allergy, and their meal came out swimming in peanut products, or a particular haircut was ordered, and the next thing you know, the customer is completely bald and in a fury).

Step Number Two: The Apology

Sincere apologies can go a long way, especially if they are accompanied by a discount offer. You should reply promptly, saying something like “We are so sorry this happened the last time that you were at our establishment. We are looking into this incident, and want to assure you that we will do everything in our power so that this mistake never occurs again.” Give them a contact number so you can talk with them personally. Mention that they will be given a discounted item, or a replacement product, at their next visit.

Step Number Three: Contacting the Reviewer Personally

The bad news is that you can’t go to the administrators of Yelp or Google Plus directly to delete a negative review. In some cases you can get bad reviews removed. Other options besides hiring an attorney, is to try to work with the offending reviewer on a one-to-one level. Reviewers CAN delete their negative reviews.  Ready? Try to talk with the customer offline – they might have left some kind of personal information on the site. Be extremely nice when you talk with them. You remember the old saying “Kill them with kindness”? Make an honest effort to resolve their issue. Provide proof to them if you can, that their complaint is being addressed. Now it’s time to ask them to modify or remove their review online. Once again, offer them a token of good faith, a free coffee or a meal, and invite them to come to your place of business to see that changes have been made.



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