These are real online reviews of wood flooring companies:
"We are left with floors that are not really finished and just look plain bad in some areas. Very disappointing outcome … my experience with them was not good. Based on the results we got from our engagement with them, I cannot recommend them. Perhaps your experience will be different."
"We had to hire other contractors to fix his work, and now to this day I have to get down on my hands and knees about once a month to hammer down nails which pop up from the flooring. Think twice."
"You NEED a ZERO star review option. I am SO heated. I thought I went with what seemed like a very professional company (which they may be, company-wise) but I am SO disappointed with the level of professionalism when the s*** hits the fan. THIS IS WHEN PROFESSIONALISM REALLY SHOWS. Its all professional when you are getting the sale, but ohhhhh..... boy does it change after that!"
Ouch! Those hurt.
And there it is, right there in black and white for anyone and everyone on the Internet to see—the naked truth about what someone thinks of your product, your service or your company.
Bad online reviews can bite, wound and sting. Worst of all, a mountain of them can appear in a matter of seconds. Social media is a wonderful thing until it turns against you.
So, what's a company to do when its online reputation is suffering? Plenty. Here are 10 steps to clearing your good name.
Take a deep breath. You can fix it. Not overnight, but you can fix it.
2. Move Forward
Get over any hurt feelings or embarrassment, and do it quickly. The people who complain have done you a great favor. It's now up to you to decide if negative reviews are going to be the kiss of death or a wakeup call.
3. Take a Deep Dive
Uncover everything that is being said about you. If you found a bad review in one place, there are probably others—Yelp, Angie's List, the BBB, Facebook, Google Maps, Local.com, etc. You will need to spend a few hours researching yourself online. Start Googling, and take notes of what you find and where. A word of caution: resist the urge to respond to anything. Be strategic, not impulsive. You will need a game plan before typing a response.
Sign yourself up for Google Alerts at google.com/alerts. If new content mentioning your company shows up online and Google sees it, the search engine will email you an automatic alert letting you know. There are also a variety of free and paid services that will monitor online search terms and any major review sites for mentions of your business, and will quickly notify you if new information about you is posted. If you are serious about managing your online reputation, these services are extremely valuable.
5. Find Solutions
Once you have a good picture of your online grade, get ready to roll up your sleeves and start problem solving. If your employees are rude, train them. If your establishment is dirty, clean it. If people hate working for you, investigate. Unless you are the victim of competitor sabotage or a crazy customer, what you are reading is probably based in truth. If needed, revisit step two.
6. Include Everyone
Involve your team and communicate your improvement plan. You will reach your goals faster if everyone in your organization understands what the goals are and how everyone is going to work to achieve them.
7. Ask for Opinions
When you are interacting with people online and off, ask them what they think. You already know some of them have no problem sharing their opinions with the world, so they will probably be willing to candidly tell you the good, bad and ugly. Asking your customers or clients for help can prove extremely beneficial. Put it like this:
"We are working hard to improve. Would you be willing to talk to me for a few minutes? Thank you. What two or three things could we have done differently in order to make your experience with us better?" If at all possible, have these conversations verbally. Creating a feedback form online and sending it to your customers' email will also work. You may be surprised by the quantity and quality of information you are able to quickly gather.
8. Respond Publicly
Once you have a clear sense of what is going on with your business and you are on the road to smoothing out the rough spots, get back to the reviews. It's time to answer them. First, thank the reviewer for letting you know about a problem and include something good about yourself, too:
"I'm sorry your experience with us wasn't what you expected. We've installed wood floors in hundreds of homes in our five years of business, and we strive to make each customer happy."
Second, describe what you have done to prevent the issue from occurring again:
"We've taken a few steps to prevent what happened to you from happening to another customer. Since your visit, our employees have taken several classes to improve their installation and customer service skills."
Third, ask the person to give you a second chance:
"Please consider hiring us again. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. My name is Kate. If you ask for me when you call, I will take care of you personally."
Resist the urge to be snarky, judgmental or to correct your customers. Yes, some customers are wrong—however, pointing that out will not help. Lots of people are going to be watching how you respond to others. Take advantage of the opportunity to be polite, helpful and solution-focused. People who rely on the reviews can often tell when other customers are being difficult. If you are gracious in your dealings with them, you will win in the long run.
9. Ignore Fake Review Services
As tempting as it may be, do not post fake reviews or go to a service to get others to do the same. Apart from the fact that it's dishonest, it's also dangerous. If you get caught, you will look even worse than you did before.
10. Positive Reinforcement
Ask your happy customers to post reviews. Over time, your review average will improve. Obviously this approach only works if you are indeed making changes and removing the causes of bad evaluations. If you are not, prepare for more of the same reviews you've gotten in the past, because they're coming. You simply cannot turn off the social media tap. Followed closely, this 10-step plan for a reputation overhaul could earn you five stars.