by John Eberhard

Online reviews are becoming an important aspect to a company’s online presence, especially with local service oriented businesses such as home improvement, health care, photographers, or restaurants.

This article is going to be in two parts. In the first I want to caution people that writing a negative review on a company can have a very negative impact on their business. In the second part, I will outline how you can take control of the online review universe.

Cautionary Tales

I believe that in this day and age, with all the communications that go on between people online, from email to Facebook to commenting on blogs and articles to writing reviews, the Internet has somehow cheapened the quality of discourse. Perhaps because online you don’t have to come face to face with the person, people seem more willing to throw manners and civility out the window and viciously savage others when writing to or about someone online.

In the past few weeks I have seen several instances where a company had one or more negative reviews written on them that were having a major effect on their business.

  1. A wedding photographer got a couple negative reviews online, which has virtually crashed the business he gets from the Internet.
  2. A veterinarian got one very negative review from a client on Yelp. The vet felt the review was unfair and mostly untrue, and appealed successfully to get it removed from Yelp. But even though the review is gone from Yelp where it originally appeared, it still shows up on Google who pulled it from Yelp.
  3. A plumbing company got two bad reviews viciously savaging one of their salesmen by name, that the company believes were put up by competitors.

So I want to make an appeal to you right now, that if you have a bad experience with some company, before you write a vicious review on the company online, contact the company and give them a chance to make it right first. Especially if the company gets a lot of their business online, your bad review can seriously damage their business. You may be angry now, but bear in mind that most businesses are really trying to do their best and service the public well. Even the best companies can blow it sometimes, but if you give them a chance they will often try to do something to make it right with you.

Taking Control

OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I want to offer a method whereby you can take control of your online reviews.

If you get a bad review on your company on some online review site, first contact the person and see if there is anything you can do to make it right with that customer, and then afterwards, ask them to amend their online review. If the review is just untrue or really unfair, you can contact the web site where it appears and ask them to take it down. Sometimes they will.

But the method I recommend to really take control is to flood the Internet with positive reviews of your company. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open up an account on one of the online email services. I recommend Aweber or Mailchimp.
  2. Set up a list which we will call your “online review list.”
  3. Set up a private form page on your web site that is not linked to from your other pages, that has a form to dump emails into this new online review list. Bookmark this page so you can find it easily.
  4. Set up a series of 3 autoresponder emails that will go out to the people that you enter on this list. The emails should each say “Thank you for using our company. We want to ask you to write a review on our company on one of the online review sites.” Then include links in the email to the online review sites (Google, Yelp, Insider Pages, Angies List, etc.). Also it is effective to offer some sort of incentive for the person to write a review, such as a $5 Starbucks card or something like that. Set it up so that the first email goes out right away, the 2nd goes out maybe a week later, then the 3rd goes out a week after that.
  5. Go to your private form page and enter the emails of new customers you completed work for this week that were very happy with the service. Continue entering those happy customers onto the list every week.

In this way you will be sending out a series of emails to remind your happy customers to write a review on you, and giving them the links right there in the email to go to the review sites. This will make you proactive, put you in better control and significantly increase the number of positive reviews you get. Even if you get a few negative reviews, the positive ones will drown them out.

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