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How To Handle Negative Online Reviews

What can you do to counter negative online reviews?

How To Handle Negative Online Reviews

It’s becoming more common to see articles about business owners overreacting to negative online reviews. Sometimes this takes the form of an overly emotional online rebuttal, but in 2012, one fitness studio actually filed a lawsuit against two reviewers who complained about the facility and staff on Yelp. This is an uncommon reaction and not recommended, but it speaks to the frustration that some fitness and wellness professionals feel in navigating the constantly changing social media landscape.

These days, almost all of your clients are equipped with smart phones that allow them to publish a complaint about their experience with you, possibly before they even walk out the door. This can happen on review sites like Citysearch, Yelp and TripAdvisor, as well as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media platforms. Your customers aren’t the only ones who might get in on this action: disgruntled employees and former employees sometimes complain on social media as well.

So what should you do?

Start by listening

Ideally, you would hear about an online customer complaint quickly because you or someone you trust is monitoring online channels. Start by setting Google Alerts for your business name and your name so you’ll know right away when one of them is mentioned. If you have social media profiles for your business, be sure you are watching for feedback on posts including comments, replies, retweets and outside posts to your Facebook page.

Work toward a solution

If you run across an online criticism or complaint, address it immediately and treat it like any other customer service complaint. Contact the customer and offer to resolve their problem or listen to their feedback. If they are misinformed about something, this is your chance to correct their impression.

Most of this should take place out of the online public eye via email, phone call or private message, but it is appropriate to begin with a calm and professional online response including a statement that you will be contacting the customer right away.

In the case of a customer whose bad experience can be turned around by your response, don’t hesitate to ask if they would be willing to update or remove their original post.

Emphasize the positive

There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your happy and loyal customers to write positive reviews. This will help increase your ratings averages on review sites and move your negative reviews further from the top. One caution: never write your own reviews or ask your employees to do so. It’s not only unethical, but it violates the terms of service of most review sites.

Learn from what you’ve heard

Whether online or offline, keep track of the complaints you receive. Some may be completely off-base, but others could give you much-needed insights into staff training needs, facilities problems or other legitimate issues that need to be addressed. Use them as a learning opportunity to guide you in making your clients’ experience better.

If things escalate

From time to time, you may run across a customer complaint that cannot be mitigated through customer service best practices. In rare cases, those situations may lead to a lawsuit. That’s when it’s helpful to have Lockton Fitness Professional Liability Insurance. Whether you’re self-employed, working for a fitness facility, or own a fitness facility, a solid Professional Liability policy will give you peace of mind and the protection you need.