Is Someone Playing in Your Consumer Backyard?
Your consumer backyard is the public side of your brand. Any discussion referring to your brand on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter as well as forums, blog's, review sites, or media sites like YouTube, Vimeo and even offline discussions are considered part of your Consumer Backyard. The Consumer Backyard may be the most difficult segment of a brand to manage.
As Business owners we do not have full control over what our customers say about us or our products and services. We can however influence the discussion by offering quality products and services at reasonable prices and providing quality customer service. Every step we take toward protecting, building and enhancing our brand will help determine what consumer discussions sound like.
What if someone is purposefully trying to damage our brand? Competition, disgruntled former employees or someone with nothing better to do can easily harm our brand by posting false negative reviews and creating a negative narrative where ever our brand is discussed. While we can't control what others do we can react promptly to minimize the damage.
Responding to negative reviews should be your first step. If the negative review is warranted (sometimes things go wrong) respond with a brief apology while mentioning that your intent is for every customer to go away satisfied. Offer to discuss the situation directly so you can make things right. For example, try a response like this:
I am only giving your restaurant one star due to the bitchy hostess that seated us. She was so rude that when we arrived I approached to offer my name for our reservation and she rebuked me by stating that she had not called me forward and until she had she really didn't care what my name was. If it hadn't been to late to eat elsewhere we would have. I have no intent of ever eating at your restaurant again.
I am truly sorry your experience did not meet your expectations. We strive to create a pleasant experience for every customer but it appears in your case that we fell short. I checked with the hostess and she admitted that her interaction with you did not live up to our usual standards. I am to blame for that as I scheduled her to soon after a personal crisis. We appreciate your feedback and hope you give us a chance to make it right. Please contact me directly to discuss the situation or if you ever have any questions or comments.
This response is helpful because it directly responds to the issue brought up in the review. The response not only mentioned an investigation in to the problem but responsibility for the issue was addressed. An offer to make things right was made and it was made clear that this was not normal practice for the location.
Our work is not done yet, we now have to react internally to avoid this type of problem in the future. Investigate the circumstances of the complaint. Is there more to the story? Is the review accurate? Once you feel certain you have the full story then deal with the situation appropriately.
In some circumstances it may not be possible to remedy the feelings of a reviewer, but you may appease the ill will that prompted the review in the first place. Others reading the review will realize that you are quick to respond if there is a problem.
What if the review is false? The same response with out taking responsibility for an error will suffice. Try this for example.
I am truly sorry your experience did not meet your expectations. We strive to create a pleasant experience for every customer but it appears in your case that we fell short. We appreciate your feedback and hope you give us a chance to make it right. Please contact me directly to discuss the situation or if you ever have any questions or comments.
This addresses the problem without accepting blame. You are still responsive to a customers complaint and the reviewer has the right to contact you directly if they want to discuss things further.
The next step is to contact the site that the false review was posted on. Be certain to have as many facts as possible to prove that the review is false. (i.e. No hostess is used to seat customers at your establishment.) Submit the information along with your company name, the screen name of the reviewer, date of the review and the URL the review can be viewed on. Explain why the review is false and ask politely for it to be removed. It is difficult to get a review removed from most sites unless you can prove it is false so consider this before taking the time to submit a request.
Always keep your cool when responding and avoid online battles or arguments. Ask the reviewer to contact you directly to resolve any issue. A timely, reasoned response can offset a negative review. But positive reviews do more than any response. Encourage customers to review your business. You can even provide a tablet or laptop on site for people to post reviews after checking out.
Alert website's that have allowed false reviews, statements, videos or posts regarding your business that you take your reputation very seriously and will take what ever steps are necessary to protect it. Do not threaten but be emphatic in your demand that false information be removed.
Create a plan of action to respond to negative posts and implement your plan quickly once you are aware of a potential problem. A quick, professional response will help reduce any ill affects of a negative review.