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How to deal with bad reviews

Bad reviews can be a major problem for small businesses, especially companies that rely on a local customer base or are constrained by a lack of time and money. Larger businesses have the resources needed to cope with negative reviews – so what can we learn from them?

Take reviews seriously

It almost goes without saying, but you need to take bad reviews on-board. You might need to:

  • Review your procedures to make sure the problems in the review never happen to any other customers.
  • Pay attention to what your staff do until you are satisfied that the problems have been ironed out.
  • Ask your staff for feedback.
  • Take an honest look at your business.
  • Increase your prices to cope with the cost of resolving these problems.

Keep cool

After getting a bad review, business owners can go down two routes:

  • Fly into a rage, write a lengthy paragraph denouncing the reviewer and everyone involved with them, and attempt to get the reviewer blacklisted from every other business in the local area. This doesn't look good to the public.
  • Send an email to the reviewer expressing the issues that led to the problem and suggest that the reviewer could delete the review and receive a partial refund. Is avoiding the reputational damage and potential future losses worth losing a bit of cash to a terrible customer right now?

Seek out good reviews

If you’re not soliciting reviews, it will be easier to attract bad reviews than good ones – an annoyed customer is far more likely to review you than someone who was satisfied!

You should make sure to ask every happy customer to review you. You could tell them face-to-face how important it is after every hire, and then send them an email that shows where they can leave a review. If you manage to get 5 five-star reviews, you will be able to turn a single one-star rating into a better-than 4.5 star rating – bad reviews get much less powerful when you get a higher star rating, so put your efforts into diluting the bad review.

There are services like MailChimp that you can use to send emails to your customers asking them for a review or reminding them to review you. The Bouncy Castle Network website and booking system has tools built into it that can send mass emails to all your customers, so you can reach out for positive reviews in just a few clicks.

Work on your SEO

Perhaps the problem isn’t an individual bad review but is instead a website or blog post that says bad things about your business and that shows up on the first page when you Google your business’ name. You might struggle to get this website taken down.

Firstly, you will want to contact the website administrator and ask them to remove the offending content. You could ask a solicitor to write the letter for you, or you could try to find the relevant statutes and case laws that the website owner might be breaking by hosting this content.

It’s much cheaper and easier to send a threatening letter than to win a court case, however – especially if it’s unlikely that you’d ever win. If you’re not willing to take the website owner to court, the next step is creating business listings on other websites in the hope of knocking the offending website down a few places in Google search results.

So make sure you’ve got a profile on all the big websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as yellowpages.com, indeed.com and other SEO-friendly websites that typically rank well. Promote these profiles on social media and on your website and watch the websites that cause you problems disappear into the grey abyss of Page 2 of the Google search results.

A warning

You might be tempted to write fake reviews to counteract the real ones. Please note that doing so is probably illegal in your area, and the websites you want to write fake reviews on have systems in place to catch you doing so. They might lock your account down, delete all your good reviews or embarrass your business in some other way when they find out. You could even face fines and a jail sentence - in the UK the maximum sentence for writing fake reviews is two years in jail and an unlimited fine.

It is likely also illegal to ask your friends, relatives and other non-customers to review your business for you, and you might be getting them into trouble as well as yourself.

Finally, if you manage to avoid catastrophe, your customers and competition will still be able to spot that you have faked your reviews, and it will make you look bad.

Fake reviews are never a good part of a long-term business strategy. If you want your brand to be more than a flash-in-the-pan, you will have to cultivate legitimate good reviews!

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