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by John Eberhard

There are quite a few sites now where the public can write a review about your company, if you have a business listing on that site. These include Google Places, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Insider Pages, Manta, and more. Most allow the person to rate their experience with you with 1 through 4 stars or 5 stars.

The idea is that you want to get a bunch of positive reviews online, so that potential clients or customers will see those reviews and feel good about doing business with your company. It is supposed to be a true third party endorsement.

But what if you get a negative review? Or several? Can it negatively impact the amount of business you get from the web? You better believe it! What can you do about it?

  1. First of all, if the review is actually false, i.e. they are saying something about their experience with your company that is not true, you can request of the website that they take that review down. I’ve been able to get Yelp to take certain false reviews down. Failing that, like if the site won’t take it down, most sites allow you, the vendor, to comment on a review. So you should post a comment saying that wasn’t true or whatever.
  2. If the review is correct and you did deliver poor service or product in some way, you can contact the customer and offer to do something to make good on the service problem. You can offer to correct the problem or offer something else like a discount on further service. If you can reach an agreement where the customer is now satisfied, you can ask them to take the review down and sometimes they will. If they will not take it down, you can post a comment explaining what you did to make the customer satisfied.
  3. You can overwhelm the poor review or reviews by getting lots of positive reviews. You can do a campaign where you email happy customers and ask them to write a positive review.

One aspect of this is that you can offer the customer a $5 or $10 Starbucks or Amazon card for writing the review. I think this incentive is important because on most of these sites (except for Manta) you have to have an account on that site in order to write a review. So if the person does not have an account he will have to create one and frankly that’s a bit of a pain. On Google you can write a review if you have any Google account, such as Gmail for instance.

Be aware that Yelp has a strict policy that you cannot offer your customers anything as an incentive to write a review on Yelp. So if you do offer people something make sure you do not include the link to Yelp as part of that.

It is important today to manage the reviews that people write about your company online. This means you have to be aware of what reviews are out there, notice when you get a negative review or reviews, work out the best possible handling for any negative reviews, and be proactive in getting customers to write positive reviews. Reviews will definitely impact the number of leads you get from the web.