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Managing Online Reviews...With Class

I, like so many, rely heavily on certain sites for of businesses reviews, and appreciate those who take the time to write them, as well as the business owners who have the good sense to respond respectfully when they receive a bad one, and make an honest attempt to rectify the situation. But all too often, there are those business owners who decide the reviewer is the bad guy and try to publicly thrash the reviewer, whether it be in their response to the customer on the actual review, or in person.

In Revenge Yelp, It’s a Thing Now, Jesse Linklater defines the term as “when a business responds to an online review by lashing out at the reviewer, in an attempt to shame and embarrass them.”

We saw this happen in three key situations over the years...

  • An especially memorable one during our honeymoon where the owner of a restaurant in Hood River who treated us poorly upon arrival and proceeded to hurl horrendous insults at us publicly when we called her out (and we learned online she has a long history of insulting other upset customers)

  • In another situation, we were seeking a plumber who lied to us multiple times during the process and actually received threatening phone calls and emails after reading the poor review!

  • And finally, the cafe where not only we’d been going 2-3 times a week and where I held 75% of my client meetings to support their business, not to mention the place we paid substantially to host our wedding reception. After seeing the service decline in a couple of key areas, to a point where we started to question why we even went there, after 4 great reviews we'd posted, I finally talked with my husband and we agreed that I’d put a review describing in detail how one barista had been treating us and other customers, along with a few other concerns. One can see the past reviews so there is a clear history of how the service used to be great, and I even mentioned how upsetting this was because we’d been such loyal customers since the day they opened (heck, I’d even gifted the owner with a black & white print I’d taken of her building!). But the moment I did the review, did she respond with a “oh my gosh I’m so sorry, let’s make this better”? Nope! Instead when we went in, she was outside and proceeded to hurl snarky remarks to us about our review, defending her employee and basically telling us our review was a load of crap. We left our food on the counter, walked out, and now because of her treatment, we will never be back. To add further insult, another one of the baristas (one I’d gotten along with very well over the years) sent me a message through the review site also harassing me about what I wrote! NOT ONCE did they attempt to look at it from the customer’s point of view. NOT ONCE did they express any regret for our experience, but rather both of them mentioned that we’d left other negative reviews for local businesses and the barista had the cajones to say that this was “unfair to small business owners” to leave bad reviews. WTF?

I *am* a small business owner, and if someone was concerned about my services, you bet I’d work my ass off to find a peaceful way to make the situation better for all parties. But all too often, companies forget that customers are the reason they are in business.

And I’m not the only one – click here for Salon's example of a customer who dealt with similar unprofessional business owners. As the author said,“Negative reviews are a fact of the modern world. Suck it up, respond appropriately, move on. Your bottom line will thank you.”

As someone who spent the first 7 years of my professional life with Nordstrom, it was made clear that everyone who comes in the store was important and deserved to be treated with respect and friendliness – even if I believed they were in the wrong. Delivering great customer service means you give you customers the opportunity to vent their frustrations, you acknowledge and empathize with their disappointment, and you do your best to leave them feeling good.

As a recruiter, that means my goal is that even the people I don’t hire have great things to say about how our interactions went. Even if they flubbed the interview, I will go the extra mile to share with them anything helpful I can think of, so they can be successful. Because I want people to go away happy – even if they don’t end up working with me! And I know I can’t make every single human happy, but I can go away knowing I did my best.

The funny thing is, business owners who act like jackasses end up cementing their reputation as jackasses when they decide that the customer is wrong (obviously I’m not referring to fraud reviews) and make sure the customer knows that their business is not important to them. Calculating a minimum of $75 week spent at the aforementioned cafe for personal and business, not including special events, our departure means we’ve spent close to $20,000 there over the past 5 years. As a small business owner myself, that’s a large chunk of change.

And if they’d made an honest effort to improve and listen? I would have totally updated (and probably even deleted) my negative review. As a reviewer, I can be impassioned but am always constructive, and provide specifics so the owner can be informed and has the opportunity to improve – as I would want myself as a small business owner. It’s called continuous improvement. Just a couple of months ago, we were looking for a roofer for our garage, and when one didn’t respond a couple of times, I left a brief Yelp review advising of this, and within a day he was in touch with me, apologizing, and did such a great job in showing they were genuinely embarrassed by the mistake that not only did we have them come by for a quote, but we hired them to do the job! I removed the negative review and posted a positive one in its place along with a photo of their great work – and recommended them to others!

Online reviews are mentioned because Glassdoor and Indeed have a TON about employers, and not that many employers actually are engaged in responding to the negative reviews, and the ones who do often simply accuse or get defensive, rarely using it to make changes. Companies - let go of your ego. If someone was ticked off enough to go off on you in a review, EVEN if you disagree with them, there might be a kernel of truth worth not only listening to, but taking into account when looking at your business practices, from hiring to benefits, to workplace culture.

Below is the infographic about online review management with all the stats proving that it's best to not be a d*ck. Shocking, I know!


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