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Dealing with Online Reviews: Taking the Good and Learning from the Bad

Internet commerce is absolutely booming.  Online sales are expected to top $1.25 trillion worldwide.  With such an astounding amount of exchange taking place, the use of review sites have become increasingly popular among patrons that wish to either report their experience with a  particular business or for new, potential consumers to read reviews in order to decide whether or not to do business with a certain company.  Now, with the inclusion of social media in mainstream culture, online reviews (good or bad) can go viral in a ridiculous amount of time, making it more important than ever before to manage them properly (both good and bad). 

Starting with the Good

Outstanding reviews NEED to be seen.  Earlier this year, BrightLocal conducted a study that surveyed 3,600 consumers located in the United States and throughout Canada.  The study concluded that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend.  52% of those polled said that positive online reviews will make them far more likely to choose a specific business over another.  Their findings also found that more people are turning to online reviews as part of their “due diligence” prior to making a purchase.  Needless to say, a good review can go a long way.  If you are a website owner, post new reviews on the site consistently on the homepage and sales page to help persuade shoppers that may feel any uncertainty when they reach your site. 

Most importantly, positive reviews should be shared with your target market.  Posting reviews on your social media accounts or in emails is not bragging, it is showing your potential consumers the benefits of doing business with you over your competitor.  A few positive reviews may just set you apart from the pack. 

What to Do with the Bad?

No matter how much time and effort a company spends on customer support, if the company is dealing with a lot of transactions a day, the likelihood of a less than savory review is bound to occur.  The truth is, you can’t please everyone, BUT, that does not mean that you should accept poor reviews either.  It’s important to take criticism and use it to better your business model in order to maximize the consumer’s buying experience. 

Most review sites allow comments or additional posts to accompany the original.  The best possible course of dealing with a negative review is to begin a dialogue with the reviewer in order to get to the bottom of the issue.  Negative reviews can be hurtful and often times downright infuriating.  That is why, before you even touch your keyboard to type up a response, you should take some time to cool off.  Choose your words wisely as they will soon be open to public scrutiny.  Often times, a reviewer just wants to vent frustration over an issue, so they take to the online world.  If you help them or simply offer an apology for whatever their grievance is, they may recant their previous complaint or it will at least show other potential patrons that you do take their needs seriously. 

The worst possible recourse would be to either argue with the customer as it makes you (the business owner) look petty.  Instead, empathize with what the plaintiff is saying and offer a refund or discount on future purchases. 

If negotiations break down between you and the plaintiff, attempt to offset and negative reviews by prompting your faithful followers to post positive reviews on your behalf.  If a potential consumer views 1 negative review followed by 30 positive, then the odds will be much stronger in your favor.

Legal action should be the absolute last resort and should only be used if the comments made constitute defamation and are untrue.  Just the other day, ABC News ran a story about the ongoing battle between a company and a couple that posted negative review on a review site.  The company had been unlawfully targeting the couple attempting to extort money from them.  Needless to say, the company is now facing a hefty lawsuit along with having a horrendous amount of PR hanging over their head.  If you do a Google search for the company, the entire first page is made up of negative press which will likely end the life of this business.  All of this could have been avoided if the business owner had acted accordingly instead of immediately calling for legal action. 

Negative reviews may occur.  It is often times part of the growing process of a business.  No business is perfect, but how you react to negative feedback and utilize positive feedback will help aid your business for years to come.  

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

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