How to Handle Online Business Reviews–Good, Bad, or Ugly

By Jo Sahlin, Massagetique Correspondent
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Cultivating an online presence for your business has predictable pros and cons. Expanding any type of marketing can lead to dramatic improvements in the way your practice gets found and the number of potential clients who contact you. But an online presence can also result in more feedback than you’re used to–both positive and negative.

Sure, Miss Manners might advise visiting a business and offering complaints in person before jumping on the internet to register offense, but it’s increasingly clear her wise words often fall by the wayside. Though some may say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, it’s important to know how to interact with your online audience to best serve your practice.

Why Respond at All?

Think about the last time you were researching a business online–a restaurant, for example. You might visit their website to check out the menu ahead of time or see their hours of operation, but you likely also want to know what other people are saying about the service, the food, the cost value, and more. You might have checked Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List, or Better Business Bureau for reviews.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are not forming an overall impression of the business only by reading what previous patrons have to say; you are also looking for a professional response to these comments. If an employee of the establishment responded extremely defensively, blamed the patron in some way, or was otherwise rude in return, that would likely influence what you thought of the business.

Similarly, your opinion may be swayed if the company did not address any of the concerns logged by customers. You might wonder whether those issues have been addressed or whether the company cared at all about working to fix the problems mentioned. A simple acknowledgement of any comment demonstrates the business owner’s commitment to customer satisfaction. Even if the individual commenter never visits the establishment again, the interaction reflects positively on the business in the eyes of future visitors doing research.

Responding to Positive Comments

Taking compliments and kudos is the easy part of managing your online presence. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking kind words can simply be left alone; even a glowing review deserves a thoughtful response. People don’t often take to the internet to say something nice, so take the time to address individuals who verbally appreciate your services. “Thank you!” goes a long way on its own, but here are more ways you can acknowledge their gesture:

  • I’m honored by your kind words. Thank you!
  • It was a pleasure to meet you! I hope to see you again soon.
  • Please let me know if I can do any more to aid your healing.
  • I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better!

Addressing Negative Feedback

Receiving criticism can feel like a punch to the stomach–especially because the internet offers a special kind of anonymity people often feel comfortable using with abandon. The occasional bodywork session might go poorly, for whatever reason. Or, you may do everything right and feel a special rapport with a client, but that person still fixates on the one aspect of their experience beyond your control. Reclaim the interaction by recognizing the person’s opinion and graciously replying in the most appropriate way you can.

If something is particularly hurtful or damaging, or if it may endanger your practice altogether, some platforms do allow you to delete comments. However, remember word-of-mouth is powerful, and someone may feel emboldened enough by your attempts to eliminate the feedback to criticize further. In fact, it can reflect positively on your business if you’re willing to let negative reviews sit with your courteous responses to them.

When you first see a highly critical comment about you or your practice, take a deep breath. An emotionally charged response may be tinted with anger and less likely to reflect your true compassion and understanding. Put yourself in the commenter’s shoes and try your best to adopt their perspective. Rather than making excuses or going overboard to explain a backstory for the person’s complaints, make constructive suggestions and offer an apology, if appropriate. Thank them for offering their viewpoints, and focus on moving past the offense.

Some responses that may work:

  • I would love to speak with you personally about this experience. Please get in touch with me when it’s convenient for you.
  • The issues you mention are things I am actively working toward resolving. I appreciate your patience as this process happens.
  • I would never want a client to have the experience you mention. I hope you will let me remedy this situation and offer a better service in the future!

The way you respond to any commenter, critical or otherwise, can make more of an impact than the original post on visitors and potential clients who are researching your practice. Invest a bit of time in addressing any comments you receive, and your online presence will be better for it.

Reference:

  • Martin, J. (2010). Complain in person before jumping online. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.uexpress.com/miss-manners/2010/2/28/complain-in-person-before-jumping-online

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