We all take pride in our business. It’s where we focus our professional time and efforts. When an unhappy customer decides to express their frustration publicly online in the form of a NEGATIVE REVIEW, you may take it personally. Reacting the wrong way could destroy your business.
Consider the Abbey Inn and Suites located in Nashville, Indiana. It was a small family-owned bed and breakfast that primarily catered to weddings and events. In 2016, a couple had a poor experience at the hotel and decided to write a negative public review after being asked by the hotel for feedback. The hotel’s reaction caused the owners to receive death threats and the Indiana Attorney General to sue the business. Ultimately, new ownership decided to close their doors and reopen under a new name.
The Abbey Inn had an illegal clause within their terms and conditions presented upon check-in that required all guests to lodge complaints to specific staff or through a phone system. If instead, a customer wrote a negative public review, the hotels conditions stated that the guest would be charged an additional $350. After the owners noticed the negative online review, the reviewer was charged $350 which was the beginning of the end for the Abbey Inn.
Word quickly spread online about the response by ownership and people revolted. The owner received death threats and eventually the Indiana AG filed a lawsuit. The customer complaint was real: these people had a terrible experience at the Abbey Inn and within their review was actionable insight that the hotel could have used to improve the experience for all their guests. Instead of improving, ownership reacted vindictively outside of the law and their business paid the ultimate price.
No business owner likes bad reviews.
There are always two sides to a story, and the proper way to respond to any negative review is from an objective perspective. Acknowledge the frustration of the customer and offer a solution by apologizing and improving upon the concern moving forward.
If the review is public, it is extremely important to respond to the review directly and publicly so anyone reading it can understand all aspects of the experience and see that your business is apologetic and is taking steps to improve the experience of everyone where warranted.
An honest account of someone’s experience is protected speech as the lawsuit against Abbey Inn proved. The way to remove a bad review is to generate a high volume of good reviews and “drown out” the bad.
Wombot.io has created the Word of Mouth BOT to offer a complete solution as your business takes control of its online reputation. Wombot internalizes the negative feedback so only you see it and posts positive reviews on external sites. A customer who had a terrible experience can vent their frustrations and you can respond directly without having negative feedback go public. As important, the marketing power of complimentary reviews is maximized by placing each review on sites like Facebook, Yelp, and others that will produce the best returns for your business.
As consumers, we all use reviews to inform our purchase decisions. As a business owner or manager, you need to take control of online reviews to maximize your marketing efforts.
No matter how much money was spent to design and launch your website, if there are only negative reviews, then much of that value is lost.
Your online ratings and review volumes can be the difference between winning a local Best Choice Award or struggling to keep the lights on. Heed the warnings of a failed business like the Abbey Inn and do right by your customers. Allow reviews to be your most powerful marketing tool.
Written By: Mike Hall
Expert online reputation marketer and Creator of Wombot.io