For small business owners, one bad review, either online or to friends and family, can derail your reputation. In many cases you’ll never hear directly from a customer that they are unhappy with your work. In fact, 96% of unhappy customers won’t complain to you, but will tell 15 friends. Plus, with a little help from review websites like Yelp!, social media, and Google, your customers can attack your business unexpectedly, leaving you scrambling to resolve the issue. After speaking to many small business owners, it’s clear how many of them rely on perfect customer reviews to maintain their reputation. This is because most new customers look up reviews online before doing business with you, which makes it extremely important to keep this rating high.  Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.

However, sometimes bad customer reviews are beyond your control. Your work may suffer due to poor hires, delays, or simply not meeting customer expectations. Virtually every small business experiences bad customer reviews at least once, and they best thing you can do is prepare for it.

It’s important to have a customer relations strategy in motion to rectify bad customer reviews when they happen. Here’s how successful business owners handle situations like these:

First, try to get in touch 

In some instances, the customer does not feel comfortable addressing the issue with your business directly. If your customer posts a negative review without speaking to you first, it’s important to try and contact them. They may not realize you were unaware of the situation, and will appreciate your attempt at reaching out directly. Now, some customers will resist communication but if they are willing to speak about the matter, then you should be ready to put your pride aside and do the following:

  • 1st: Be polite, and apologize sincerely for the error, and the inconvenience.
  • 2nd: See if anything can be done to resolve the situation
  • 3rd: Offer them an incentive to build back your trust

If the customer resists direct communication; then you may have to get creative…

Send them something of value 

When a customer writes or submits a negative review about your business, it’s important for you to show that you value their business. If you dismiss them, or insinuate they are in the wrong, you will suffer the repercussions. No matter what industry you work in; if you are customer facing, offering something of value will go a long way. Now, it’s likely you will not see this customer for the foreseeable future, which is why eGift cards such a powerful tool for you to leverage. We’ve witnessed small businesses scramble to repair connect with a customer to no available. However, in most cases businesses will have one piece of content that they can access day or night: e-mail.

If a bad review is written, sending an eGift card with a note to acknowledge an error was made, can go a long way. It will bridge that severed connection, when a customer may be too upset to speak with you directly. It is also a way to show you care by acting quickly and vigilantly. At the end of the day, the customer will find it hard to dismiss this sign of reconciliation. Even if the customer does not return, this is likely to prevent any further damage to your business. They are less likely to speak negatively about you to others, and are likely to praise the way you handled things.

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google-ratingsEncourage positive reviews

Negative reviews are part of owning a business, and being ready when they happen is important. But don’t just plan for bad reviews, you should also reward the positive ones as well.

One way to ensure that one bad review does not derail your entire business is to incentivize positive reviews. If no one is writing good things about you, your reputation will suffer. If you have nothing but negative online reviews, it’s going to be hard to rebuild your reputation back. As part of your marketing strategy, you should be rewarding customers who take the time to post positive comments about your business. You can send reviewers digital gift cards instantly, so that they are immediately rewarded for their contribution. This is a surefire way to motivate lots of positive recommendations to your business and help counter any negative ones when they occur.

Give your customers a nudge, through your online or in-person marketing, that if they have a positive experience with your business, sharing this feedback is valuable to you. You can even highlight the rewards they will earn by doing so. At the end of the day, this tactic will help drive more business and more opportunities your way.

Want to learn more ways of incentivizing customers with digital rewards? Check out how other businesses are using eGift cards as part of their marketing strategy now.