WAUKESHA - Business owners not only must know how
to market themselves via social media and with online tools, but
also how to respond when a customer posts a negative review on
Sarah Zubarik, public relations and social media
coordinator at Image Makers Advertising Inc. in Waukesha, said
while some business owners may choose to ignore negative posts
or reviews, her staff recommends a more responsive approach.
By responding to a negative comment, a business
may be able to improve the situation and create a customer for
Matt Koeppel, principal and technical director
for Ocreative in Oconomowoc, said there are three ways to handle
a negative online post: respond publicly; reach out, directly or
privately; and request removal.
He agreed with Zubarik that a business owner
should not ignore a negative review.
“If you choose to respond publicly try to respond
promptly. Be polite and apologize to your negative reviewer,”
Koeppel said in an email. “Thank them for bringing a situation
to your attention. Do not become defensive, attack the reviewer
or argue with them.”
He said a business owner should take the feedback
and learn from it. A response could also include positive
highlights about the company.
“Take a little time to compose your response, be
professional, and keep it positive,” he wrote.
Koeppel said it’s not wise to publicly offer
coupons or freebies as compensation for negative reviews because
it may only spur more.
Those online reviews are very important, Zubarik
said. People searching for a business online may choose one with
a four-star ranking over another with a one-star ranking or none
Google and its reviews is the main website
business owners should pay attention to. Regarding online review
site Yelp, Zubarik said it uses its own algorithms and some
reviews are shown while others are not. She said the reviews
can’t be removed and there are only small ways for business
owners to respond. They can respond to reviews left Angie’s
List and Facebook, she said.
Business owners, Zubarik said, should encourage
customers to post positive reviews after a good experience.
“The more positive reviews you can have for you
the less a negative review will affect you,” she said.
Koeppel agreed. “Make it easy for customers to
provide your business feedback and reviews. Your website can
provide direct links to sites where customers can review your
business online,” he wrote.
When a negative review gets posted, Zubarik
recommends finding out as much as you can about the situation
and then respond without attacking the person who wrote it and
apologize for any inconvenience. Also, if a phone number is
available, call the person.
“Unless it’s a personal attack, never delete the
negative review as it may fuel a fire somewhere else,” she said.
“It’s best to respond to the best of your ability and handle it
in a straightforward way.”
Koeppel said if a business owner contacts a
reviewer directly, he or she may be able to resolve the issue
privately and have the reviewer either update or remove the
negative review. Requesting removal of the post is not always a
solution and should only be used in special circumstances, he
“Some reviews may be from frustrated past
employees or even a competitor. Every review website has various
policies and practices in place to keep reviews real. Depending
on the specifics of the review and policies of the website
facilitating the reviews, you may request a removal of the
review from the site. Realize that you may need to provide
sufficient proof to support the removal of these reviews,” he
Alisha Hayes, co-owner of Pats Rib Place in
Waukesha, whose overall online reviews are strong, said she
doesn’t respond often, mostly because she doesn’t have the time.
Plus, she said the customer is always right.
“It is important because they do have an
influence on customer thinking,” she said of reviews. “I like to
go back and look at them every now and then because it is
important to know how the customer feels as well.”