By Sarah Reid

You’ve taken the time to verify your local accounts (Google Plus Local, Bing Local, etc.), optimized your pages with pictures and complete business information, and you’re excited to watch the reviews roll in. Despite all of your effort so far, this is usually where things can get caught up for various reasons, including:

1. You have a hard time getting customers to review your business.

2. A customer reviews your business, but it’s a very negative review and not something you really want other potential customers seeing.

Asking for Reviews

Encouraging customers to review your business online can take some work, especially if you’re a smaller business without a massive client base. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Have your employees verbally remind customers to review you online, as well as providing them with some sort of written instructions on how to find your local profiles on the web (create an instruction sheet or include your local profile URLs on your receipts).
  • If you send out newsletters to your customers, include a blurb about reviewing them online and provide the local profile URLs.
  • Encourage them to write about specific examples of why they enjoyed your services (2-3 sentences). “They were awesome” isn’t very descriptive and won’t be valued as much by other potential customers reading your reviews.

Dealing with Negative Reviews

We’re often asked why a business should open the door to reviews if there’s a chance that a customer might post something negative and scare off other potential customers. The honest answer is this: People will talk about your business online whether or not you decide to be a part of the conversation. It’s a much better strategy to host the conversations and be able to respond to negative comments, rather than try to pretend they don’t exist.

When you see a negative review on a profile that you’ve claimed, you have several options to address the negative comment. The first step is to sign into the account that controls the local profile with the negative review. From this dashboard, you will find the option to respond next to the review. Now you’ll need to consider how you want to respond. Here are a few tips that we like to share with our clients:

  • It’s usually best to let them know that you’re sorry that they were dissatisfied with their experience, but that you’re committed to excellent customer service and would love the opportunity to speak to them about whatever occurred.
  • Take the conversation offline as soon as possible by providing them with a customer service email address or phone number.
  • If you can tell that the review is completely fraudulent or that you’re being spammed by a competitor, you can usually report it to Google or Bing for review. Follow the reporting options that they display within the dashboards if you’d like to try and have them remove fraudulent or spammy reviews.

As with many aspects of digital marketing, some work is involved in paying attention to your reputation online. It’s easy to think that if you don’t create a profile on the local listing sites, you won’t have to worry about people saying negative things about you online. Unfortunately, it’s simply not true. Being a part of the conversation, monitoring what is said about you, and responding in a professional way is the best strategy in combating negative comments about your business online.

Ideally, you’d also be doing your part to build the amount of positive reviews posted to offset whatever negative comments might pop up. It does take some time, but it’s crucial to protecting the reputation of your business online.