This article in this week’s Washington Post titled “Woman Being Sued over Yelp Review” provided a really interesting illustration of the kind of thing we Internet pioneers have handled for years. Customer review sites like Angie’s List and Yelp do create an easy way for customers to have the last word but reputations are at stake.
I’ve been asked by business owners about handing negative or accusatory comments made by their customers in public forums. Here are a few thoughts about how to respond:
- Contact the customer by phone or email immediately to try to resolve the situation. Once the situation is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, you can ask the customer to update their public comments. You can also make a comment on the customer’s review indicating that the situation has been resolved. Often these favorable resolutions actually boost your ratings higher than businesses that have strictly positive reviews.
- Use the dynamic nature of the medium to demonstrate how you handle customer issues. You want to make sure that your comments strike the right chord. You should come across sounding concerned but not defensive. Something like, “Ms. Jones, I’ve just left messages on your home phone and sent email so we can correct any error that may have been made. Your business is important to us and we certainly want to get this resolved.”
- Sometimes being passive is the best approach. Actively pursuing positive reviews from other customers who you know are satisfied will help to counteract the negative review and push it further down in the list of reviews. I’ve actually had businesses offer me a discount in exchange a promise to write a review on Angie’s List once service has been rendered. They were clear that the review should be an honest assessment of their service which assured me that I was likely to have a positive experience with this company. I appreciated their confidence and marketing savvy.