By Rieva Lesonsky
If your small business is a restaurant, retailer, salon or bar—the type of business that relies on local customers and word-of-mouth—you’ve probably had some experience with review and ratings site Yelp!. How much weight do Yelp! reviews carry with consumers? A study by University of California, Berkeley, economists, reported on Mashable.com, found that an improvement of just half a star in a restaurant’s Yelp! ratings can increase business by nearly 20 percent during peak dining hours.
If you haven’t already listed your business on Yelp!, I hope this inspires you to do so. But is fear of negative reviews holding you back? After all, if half a star of improvement can boost business 20 percent, half a star of declining ratings could cut into your business, couldn’t it?
Negative reviews are a reality, on Yelp! or any other ratings and review site. It’s how you deal with them that matters. Here are some tips to help you get a grip—and keep your customers coming back.
First, remain calm. It’s human nature to get defensive when reading a bad review—especially if you feel it’s undeserved or if the reviewer seems to be a little unhinged. However, bashing the reviewer won’t get you anywhere—and in fact, will probably backfire by making you look bad to the other customers and prospective customers reading the exchange.
Talk to your employees about the review to see if you can figure out what happened and if the customer has cause for complaint. You can respond to reviews publicly or privately. Start by posting a brief, public response thanking the person for his or her comments (so other users can see you aren’t ignoring the review). Then respond to the reviewer privately to offer solutions or get more information about the situation.
Often, customers who are upset simply want to be heard and acknowledged, and in most cases, starting a personal dialogue with the person will be enough to defuse the issue. If you find you’re in an escalating situation with an irrational customer who keeps posting about your business, however, the best strategy is to disengage and trust that other readers will draw their own conclusions about the legitimacy of the complaints. You don’t want to get dragged into an online screaming match.
Consider negative Yelp! reviews as a learning opportunity to discover problems with your business and find solutions. No business can please everyone, so if you’ve done all you can to address an issue, it’s time to back off.
Image by Flickr user William Brawley (Creative Commons)Google+