The internet can be a wonderful place for your small business. Prospective customers from all over the world are only a few clicks away from your business website (if it’s set up right. Here are some tips!). Furthermore, you can pretty much learn any skill imaginable via a “how to” guide on youtube, self-diagnose your medical condition on WebMD, track down a long lost love from high school or simply Google pictures of puppy’s (I can’t be the only one) on a slow day via the amazing Internet 24/7.
However, the Internet does have a dark side (and no, I’m not talking about creepy missed connections on craigslist). I’m talking about the scary and easily accessible world of Yelp. Or more specifically, the incredibly evil “one star” bad user reviews on Yelp. Directed at your business. For the whole world to see. Within a few short seconds, anyone with access to wifi and a 2nd grade education can instantly blast your small business’s reputation and completely ruin your day . And trust me, if it hasn’t happened yet, the inevitable bad review will come. It’s far better to prepare for this sad, sad day than to be caught off guard one Monday morning and have a Yelp induced mini panic attack, because I’m pretty sure your health care doesn’t cover “bad reviewitis.”
Here’s our step by step guide to getting through the bad review!
Step 1: Do not overreact.
Sure, when someone writes that they would pay NOT to eat at your restaurant because “the steak was obviously seemingly marinated in cat pee and their deceased great grandmother could have served their table faster” you’re bound to freak out a little bit. And that’s fine. Freak out in private. Close your door, bang your head against your keyboard, call your mom crying, call your girlfriend crying, eat some ice cream, maybe call your mom again, and then make a list of everyone who could potentially hate you and want to do such a horrible, disgusting thing against your business! The key here is to overreact in private- not in a public, anger induced response that will live on in infamy on the Internet forever and only hurt your reputation further. Yes, you will need to react to the review, but please wait until you calm down a bit. Until then, here are some cute animal pictures to bring you back to sanity.
Step 2: Think about the issues address in the review.
The truth hurts, especially when it’s neatly typed out on the Internet for everyone to see. Forever. You might not realize it at first, but the person who wrote the negative review may actually have done you a favor. They pinpointed an issue within your small business you might not have noticed otherwise – or previously turned a blind eye to. Business owners constantly claim to want to see their organization through a customers point and view, and guess what? Now you have. It may not be the point of view you wanted to see, but you now have a chance to analyze the opinion and make changes within your company. Maybe your restaurants food does need to be reevaluated. Maybe your staff does need a little encouragement to work faster. Whatever the issue at hand, take a solid look at the complaint behind the painful review and try to address it internally. After all, do you really want ANOTHER negative review dealing with the same issues? Of course not. You can only bang your head against your keyboard for so long without having to replace it. And that’s just annoying.
Step 3: Apologize and make nice.
You know that old saying, “The customer is always right?” Well, it’s still true today. Whether or not you completely agree with the complaints issued on Yelp, the customers obviously had a bad experience and you owe it to yourself, your employees and your business as a whole to try to rectify the situation. Login to Yelp, take a deep breath and apologize to the user. Publicly. And then offer some sort of solution to pacify the situation, such as a free dinner or a refund. The user may not actually take you up on this offer, but you just took a negative situation and turned it into a positive one (give yourself a pat on the back.) A simple apology is rare and can go a long way in nullifying a dissatisfied customer, plus other users will respect the polite and professional way your business responded to the negative review.
Congratulations! You successfully navigated your way through a potentially life threatening online situation (okay, maybe it wasn’t that serious, but I’m sure it felt that way the first time you stumbled upon the review) and saved the reputation of your small business. And if you are still feeling down about the situation, please feel free to watch this video of actors reading real Yelp reviews. It may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, and certainly puts you situation in perspective.