“The customer is always right”. It’s a mantra that every business owner knows by heart. But, customers are not only right—they’re powerful. When a customer says something about a business, others start to listen. What they say goes around, and most of the time, it stays.
While you spend years building a good reputation, a few words from customers can turn your reputation from great to bad. A bad reputation causes a domino effect. It’s not just your name that’s on the line; you can also lose customers — customers who are paying you with good money to run your business.
In a study by Go Fish Digital published on Moz, businesses risk losing 22% of customers when a negative article about their brand comes up in search results. This goes up to 59.2% customer loss if three negative articles about a business comes up. That means a negative mention about your brand could cost you almost half of your potential revenue. The worst is you might end up losing more than just money — you could be pulling the plug on your business.
Now the question is, “How do you counter the effects of a bad reputation and bring your business back to the good side of customers?”
Some businesses work on a mindset that a single bad review wouldn’t be much of a problem. What they fail to realize is how that bad review can travel to other customers. Customers can see it, and they can share it to others.
Case in point, United Airlines. When singer/songwriter Dave Caroll’s flight landed in Chicago, he discovered that his Taylor guitar was damaged. After nine months of fruitless negotiations and unanswered emails, Caroll wrote a song that would bring him instant fame and would cost United Airlines 10% loss in stock price – which is equivalent to $180 million.
Bad reviews can bury your business, but acknowledging them and making the right adjustments can just be your way out of a bad reputation. Customers are not looking for perfection; they’re looking for a business that will care enough to acknowledge what they have to say about the business. Because at the end of the day, it’s them whom you will be serving.
Customers can be very vocal when it comes to their experience – more so if that experience was unpleasant. Business owners take pride in how they’ve built their business from the ground up, and some are not very receptive to negative reviews. Sometimes a business just can’t help but to return fire, and that’s a sure recipe for disaster.
Stop, breathe, and think. As a business owner, you need to be the one who will take the high road. Collect your thoughts before you type a response to a review. The last thing you want is add fuel to the fire and make your business look bad.
The best approach here is to look at the opportunities behind the negative reviews. Flip the script and play on your strengths. You can say, “We apologize if you had a bad experience. We’ve been in the business for 30 years, and our customers are always a priority. Do you have any suggestion to make the experience more favorable the next time you visit?”
It’s a matter of providing a polite, constructive reply.
With customers having an increased reliance on the internet, you can’t just shrug off that single bad review and hope it will go away. It was shown that 92% of customers are influenced by online reviews before they make a purchase. While most brands put their business in the control of their customers, the smart ones act on these reviews to improve their service.
This is one lesson that Andrew Gruel learned. When one of his Slapfish restaurants started getting one-star reviews, he emailed his customers and made some changes to how he ran his business – from his menu to the prices. Soon afterward, those one-star reviews started climbing to five-star reviews.
Your business has nothing to lose if you act and address the issue quickly. If anything, this might even bring back the trust of your customers.
A bad reputation doesn’t always mean that it’s end of the line for your business. It all boils down to how you face the negative reviews and develop a solid reputation management strategy. At the end of it all, your transparency and genuineness in facing negative reviews is what will bring back customers to your side.
Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of SEOReseller a white-label digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies—and their local business clientele—all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).