DIY Marketing Series - Dealing With Online Reviews

According to a survey conducted by Brightlocal in 2016,  "84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation". This is probably not a surprise for many of us, but it does highlight why the online review is possibly the most stressful thing business owners contact us about.

I don't believe it is a far stretch to assume most businesses are truly out to offer people something good in exchange for money, and I know some fantastic business people who are all about their customers...and they still get the occasional 1 star review. For them it is heartbreaking that a customer left their business so unhappy that the customer felt the need to tell the world.

1 Star Review Types

Genuinely Unhappy Customer - This customer is a normally content individual who experienced an issue/concern and either did not get the assistance from the business they desired, or are too passive aggressive to confront the business staff face to face, so they use online reviews to express their discontent.

The "Hook Me Up Or Else" Customer - These customers are always contrary, never happy, and almost always looking to get hooked up with a credit/freebie/payout. This pond scum uses the online review tools as a weapon, and if they do not get their way, they will (much like a child who wants the latest fidget spinner) throw a 'hissy fit' all over the reputation of a business. I have no idea how these people sleep at night, and if you realize you are one of them, please slap yourself now before reading on. Thanks.

Dealing With Online Reviews

I have had at least 30 people call over the last 5 years asking how they can get reviews deleted. Every single one of them was not happy when I told them the reviews are not erasable by anyone except the reviewer. 

I know that the prospect of dealing with negative reviews is intimidating. Most humans are not programmed to enjoy conflict (thankfully) and would rather avoid confronting someone on any topic. With that said though, responding to online reviews is actually your opportunity to shine. 

Oscar Wilde famously wrote "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." This also applies to online reviews.

When dealing with an unhappy customer, respond promptly and sincerely. If applicable, offer assistance, express disappointment with their 'unhappiness' and let them know you would be happy to make things right.

One of my favorite examples of a business responding correctly to a customer online comes from JetBlue:

online review response from JetBlue
online review response JetBlue2

What is brilliant about this response is not only does it make the customer feel cared for, but it shows everyone else that JetBlue is an airline that takes care of it's customers. This very conversation actually convinced me to try flying with the company the next time I needed to travel.

It is always unfortunate to have to issue a credit as well, but when done so like above, the PR is worth every cent and more.

Dealing with a "Hook Me Up" customer on the other hand can be very frustrating, and I personally encourage business owners to stand up for themselves. Here is a great example:

online review nasty customer
online review response to nasty customer2.png
online review nasty customer 3

As you can see, this business owner took full advantage of this nasty review. They pointed out their professionalism, their high standards of quality, and even a little sense of humor. If you choose this approach, just be mindful to remain polite, do not call anyone 'names', and make sure you highlight your business in positive ways.

Responding To Happy Customers

When you are lucky enough to get the very coveted 5 star review from a client, reward them with praise too. Here is an excellent example:

Happy Online Review

As you can see, it's a happy party in all directions. 100% the best possible result. 

If you are struggling to come up with nice things to say in return, may I offer you these templates:

  • It makes us very proud to have customers such as yourself happy with our service. Thank you.
  • It is an honor to serve wonderful people like you. Thank you.
  • We work very hard to make our customers happy, and feedback like this lets us know that our efforts are worthwhile. Thank you.

You are fully capable of coming up with better ones I am sure, but follow the theme at least.


Asking For Reviews

In an ideal world, a happy customer would take the time to hop online and give you a solid review for a job well done. I personally do it all the time, but most people never even consider it. This is where you need to find ways to encourage them.

My favorite method is to just outright ask people if they could take a moment and leave a review. Others prefer a less obvious approach, such as placing signs around their business directing customers to check out their social pages.

The bottom line though, is unless you find a way to encourage your customers to review your business, you will only get negative angry people rarely forget to review.