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    The New York Times recently published a hilarious and telling article explaining the power-position of negative online reviews. In it, they reference one of mankind’s greatest (albeit tragic) structures of all-time. 

    “The Great Wall of China has more than 9,000 Google reviews, with an average of 4.2 stars. Not bad for one of the most astonishing achievements in human history. But you can’t please everyone.

    “Not very tall. Or big. Just sayin. I kinda liked it. Sort of,” wrote one ambivalent visitor of the structure, which stretches thousands of miles. Another complained, “I don’t see the hype in this place it’s really run down and old … why wouldn’t you update something like this? No USB plug-ins or outlets anywhere.” Someone else announced that he’s “Not a wall guy. Laaaaaaaaammme.”

    Obviously, if folks are leaving bad reviews about the Great Wall of China, you can imagine their perspectives are skewed, to say the least. Then, if they feel this passionately, or dispassionately, about an amazing international trip, imagine what they might say about less-than-stellar customer service or a less-than-fantastic shopping experience? It doesn’t mean they are incorrect, but, if your goal is to visit the Great Wall of China, or buy a vacuum, or get your teeth cleaned, are you going to change your plans because someone, with poor grammar, said it wasn’t all that great?

    Oddly enough, the answer might be yes. While studies show there are more positive reviews online than there are negative ones, this creates a scarcity of negative reviews, and humans naturally associate scarcity with value. From the New York Times article, “One study showed that only 15 out of a 1,000 consumers even take the time to leave a review and those reviews are often fickle and circumstantial. When emotions are high, which generally leads to bad reviews, can you really trust it? “

    All that said, real reviewers are usually genuinely trying to help, people are most motivated by helping others make decisions, so if they do have a less than fabulous experience in your store, it might very well drive them to leave a bad review.

    Your best forms of defense are to: 

    1. Pay attention – check the places you can get reviewed at least weekly.
    2. Respond quickly – the sooner you respond and engage the customer, the better it looks for those who see the reviews.
    3. Be thorough, kind and slightly pushy – best practices are to apologize that the customer had a bad experience, ask the customer to call you or a manager directly to discuss and make sure everyone who is reading both the review and the response see that you are taking the next step and hope the customer does too.
    4. Reiterate your efforts to remedy the problem – whether the customer replies, calls in or goes radio-silent, it’s always best to have the last word and make sure it’s a positive one. 

    Another way to combat those few bad reviews is with some really stellar ones. Begin a campaign that requests reviews. More often than not, you’ll get buried in happy customers who love something specific about their time with your team or in your store. During this campaign, there are a few things to remember:

    1. You still need to pay attention – make sure you have someone checking for new reviews, good and bad, every day during your campaign. 
    2. Be even quicker to respond – the reviewers are likely looking for your response and will be pleased when they see it; as will future readers.
    3. Thorough, kind and slightly pushy – always and forever. Sure, it’s every customer’s right to review your company online. But in taking the steps to write a review, they are also held to certain standards and by asking them to call in or write an email explaining their circumstance, you’ll either get great feedback or you’ll find out they were just having a tough day and they took it out on your digital platform. 
    4. Be prepared to pat yourself and your team on the back – you will likely get flooded with great reviews, make sure you take the time to share the good ones with those who helped make the impact so positive. 

    Be sure to share the link to your preferred review platform (your Google My Business page, your Facebook Business page, your Yelp page, etc). Then, be consistent in your wording and make it fun. You don’t want to monetize the reviews (by offering a discount or perk) but instead appeal to your store’s local impact. 

    Remember, everyone online (unless you’re unlucky and get review-slammed by bots) is a person who may have just had a bad day or is reviewing your teammate who may have, too. Take everything with a grain of salt, be thorough and kind and always, always respond and ask them to do the same. We highly recommend this article for a good laugh and a long sigh.