Some years ago we addressed the challenge of handling bad online reviews. For local businesses and especially small to medium sized companies who depend on good customer relations to remain in business, the online review landscape can be stressful. Anyone is free to leave any kind of review on a wide variety of internet sites. That person doesn’t have to be a reliable individual or be fair or objective about his experience. What happens if your shop gets bad reviews? Can you get them removed? Can you get customer reviews changed? Is it worth it to try?
Customer Reviews on Facebook and Google My Business
Customers have many websites where they can leave reviews if they want to weigh in on the products or services they buy. Auto shops should stay on top of all the review sites, checking periodically to see if anything new has been added to sites like Yelp. When looking for others’ experiences with local companies, however, most online users will focus on either Facebook or Google. They will do a quick Google search for “auto shop near me,” for example, or look up a company by name either on a search engine or on Facebook. From there they will focus on what the customer reviews say.
If your auto shop is very good at what it does, very good at dealing with customers, or lucky, those reviews will be overwhelmingly positive. If there have been past problems or your company has the bad fortune of dealing with negative people, customer reviews may be mixed. Mixed reviews definitely discourage new customers from checking out your shop.
Bad Reviews Are Nearly Impossible to Erase
The first impulse of anyone getting a bad review, particularly online, is to make it go away. Unfortunately, that is pretty difficult to make happen. The good news about Facebook and Google My Business is that auto shops can use both venues to interact directly with customers and shape their brand and public relations efforts. The bad news is, when negative customer reviews are posted, they are hard to remove.
If you can prove that the person leaving a review is a crank or troll, then you might be able to get Facebook or Google to delete the review. Neither is very responsive to these kinds of complaints, though. They see negative feedback as an important part of the overall service they offer, helping consumers differentiate between good and bad. Also, it can take weeks to get the most basic answer from either Facebook or Google, meanwhile the review remains up, influencing every potential customer you have.
It’s much more proactive, then, to try to communicate with the reviewer and get that person to change his review. This is not always possible, but in many cases, with good customer service and the right incentives, people are willing to either rewrite, amend, or add to their reviews making them less critical and more satisfied. This means, of course, that the shop has to make a point of not just fixing the problem but fixing the bad impression. That may involve discounts or inconvenience for the shop, depending on how disgruntled the reviewer is. Chances are, if the reviewer made a point of finding the site and writing down the experience, that person is not very pleased. Still, it never hurts to directly ask the customer to change the review. Some people can be brought around with this kind of proactive approach.
What If Customers Won’t Change Their Reviews?
If a customer won’t change the review, it’s still not time to panic. Both Facebook and Google will allow for and encourage an exchange between company representatives and customers. If your company is transparent and lists the steps you will take or have taken to improve customer satisfaction in the review thread, that’s still proof of good service. These measures can transform bad customer reviews to a demonstration of how accommodating the company is willing to be. Most people understand that there are two sides to every story, that unhappy people who like to leave bad reviews exist, and that fixing mistakes is good customer service. That evidence of good customer service is what people are looking for when they search for reviews, after all.
Some companies do have other methods they use. Flooding the website with positive reviews can serve to hide the bad review. Sometimes businesses will give incentives like discounts or freebies to reviewers who will leave (positive) reviews or encourage friends and family to post. A simple policy of responding to every review left online can inspire others to leave reviews for your company as well. The way you reply to customer feedback has an enormous effect on your online brand and how much leeway customers will be willing to give you.
Auto repair shops can’t stop bad customer reviews from happening to them. They also can’t erase them from the web. They can be proactive in their customer service approach, though, which can help to mitigate the impact of bad reviews. What is your company’s experience with bad reviews? Do you have any tips on persuading customers to change their reviews? We want to hear from you. Leave your ideas here or in our forums.