Settling the Score: Tips for Boosting or Repairing Your Online Ratings

Online reviews are a fact of life. So, what do you do if your scores aren't as high as you'd like? We outline several steps you can take to put your business on an upward trajectory!

Read Your Online Reviews

This sounds like a no-brainer, but a fair amount of business owners don't read their own reviews. While the online review landscape tends toward exaggeration and often serves as the release valve for consumers who simply like to complain, there's still a lot of truth you can use to improve your operations.

If Candace from the suburbs has a parking issue, put yourself in her driver's seat and consider the dilemma from her point of view. If you're a restaurant owner, it may lead you to add a few more spaces or add valet service. But the opportunity will be missed if you're not paying attention.

Reading your reviews is Online Ratings Score Boosting 101. What's more, if you read the reviews, you can respond to them so that everyone who reads Candace's complaint can also read your response about addressing the problem. And that's what we call turning a negative into a positive!

Ask Your Customers to Leave Reviews

Creating a business culture that fosters online reviews, especially positive ones, doesn't happen by accident. Don't be afraid to ask satisfied customers directly if they'd be kind enough to rate you on Google, Yelp!, and other platforms your customers or prospects value.

If you're not comfortable asking outright or simply don't get the face time with customers, post signs at the point of purchase requesting reviews and let your employees know to ask away. And if you do go the signage route, a QR code that directs customers to the review site makes it a seamless process for them.

Respond to Your Reviews Appropriately

We touched on this earlier, but it pays to expand on the fact that reviews are a two-way street. When customers rant, you get a rebuttal. But it only works in your favor if you stay in your lane.

By this, we mean keeping it professional and businesslike at all costs. Whether a terrible review (i.e. 'if they had less than zero stars to give…" you know the idea) is rooted in fact or fiction, your first reaction should be to check your emotions.

Resist the urge to fire off an expletive-laden missive that reduces the reviewer to shreds—it will only make you look petty and small. Then consider the facts of the review, minus the customer embellishments. Were your windows delivered late? Was your sommelier rude? If so, make a mental note to follow up on the issue.

Then, go on an even-keeled offensive by apologizing to the reviewer for their experience. If their complaint had merit, outline what you're doing to address it. And if it didn't, invite the reviewer to take the conversation private where you can debate outside of the public eye. No one benefits from a public review fight other than gawkers.

Problematic Reviewers

If a reviewer insists on escalating, you begin to enter uncharted territory where each step must be measured carefully to avoid a public relations mini-crisis. The line you're straddling between defending your business and maintaining your reputation is a tightrope.

Here's one example where the business owner, in this case, a vintage furniture reseller, walked it like a pro. Names were changed for the sake of privacy.

THE BAD REVIEW

Connie (one star out of five)

We ordered MULTIPLE pieces from Peter, and one arrived damaged. We noticed it immediately and contacted the owner. Peter AGREED to pay for the repair and stated MULTIPLE times he would pay for this. This cost 300+ dollars to repair on top of having to buy new material. The worst part was that he agreed to pay for it and continued to ignore my husband's calls in regard to this. Do not recommend this company as he lied to us about how he would proceed with a damaged delivery and has yet to pay us back for what we had to fix.

OWNER RESPONSE

It's unfortunate that you feel this way about our transaction. The sofa in question was viewed by your husband and delivered in the same condition it was viewed. It had a small blemish on the corner. Your husband viewed it in the same condition it was purchased. I stand behind the pieces I sell, and my stated policy to sell as is. It's unfortunate that you truly believe that the products you received at the price you paid merits a one-star review. I believe my other reviews, all five-stars, speak for themselves. Please reconsider your view of our transaction. I thank you for your business, but respectfully disagree with your review.

In this example, Peter was professional, respectful and tactful in a situation that clearly could have devolved. No matter how hot his inner emotions were burning, his cool-headed response served him and his business well.

The best way to avoid negative reviews is to be sure you're doing everything you can to deliver a positive customer experience the first time. While it takes a commitment to quality, service, and common sense, the five-star resulting reviews make it all worthwhile.

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