Great Advice on Managing Online Reviews

Posted by Dan Keeney
Advice for managing online reviews
Is your business active on Yelp?

A number of my clients have experienced troubling online reviews that can unravel a lifetime of hard work establishing a positive reputation. For anyone who have sacrificed so much to build a business and succeeded against all odds to create jobs and provide essential services that customers gladly pay for, having some nameless, faceless coward go on the attack can rip your heart out.

That’s why I really appreciate the article, “Cosmetic surgeons must manage negative online reviews,” published in the May issue of Cosmetic Surgery Times. It is written for cosmetic surgeons, but it offers valuable guidance that applies to any business. I particularly like this portion in which Dr. Alan J. Bauman explains how important it is to respond to online criticism:

“I’m not saying that you should engage a disgruntled patient in a forum. That’s not appropriate. But I think that you do in some way have to address the issues. You can’t let them fester,” he says. “The most important thing is that physicians have to build their positive images. And they have to put out the good information and encourage their patients to post their good results and talk about their good experiences.”

Public relations and social media consultant Amanda Vega of Amanda Vega Consulting in New York; Dallas; and Scottsdale, Ariz.; says physicians should, in most cases, ignore posts, reviews and comments that have no validity. But they should pay attention in many cases.

For those comments that are constructive, “RespondĀ and an offer to help,” she says.

Responding should be anything but a knee-jerk reaction, according to Babak Zafarnia, president of Praecere Public Relations, Washington. Cosmetic surgeons need to anticipate negative comments and plan for them, he says.

I recently had a client call me upset about seeing a negative review on Citysearch. It was posted by a customer who complained that my client failed to follow-up and was not accessible. He rated him with just one star. To put it in context, this client has dozens of reviews on Citysearch and other online review sites and this was the first that was not a five-star review. So my client was upset.

We talked through it and decided that it would be appropriate to post a response, but I insisted that the tone of the response could not be defensive — it needed to be open and welcoming of the feedback. So we posted a brief response that thanked the negative reviewer for his comments, suggested that we would take the comments into consideration as we constantly seek to improve standards and practices, and urged him to contact us directly so we could get the relationship back on the right track.

I’ve heard others describe online reviews as the equivalent of water cooler conversations. If you overheard a customer saying something negative about you at a cocktail party, you wouldn’t jump in and say they are wrong. You would probably express how sorry you are that they didn’t have an exceptional experience and attempt to learn as much as you could about their complaint. That’s exactly the approach I recommend for those who have negative reviews: try to make it right.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 29th, 2011 at 4:10 pm and is filed under Public Relations Advice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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