nobody's perfect

Photo by lemonhalf

One of our Baltimore SEO clients has recently received a two-star review on Google Places. And the interesting thing is, the person was complaining not about a bad product or poor service, but, believe it or not, about the lack of authenticity. The reviewer claimed that the company is “cherry picking” reviews and editing them before they get posted by their own staff.

The reviews were real and were submitted by real customers. They were mostly five-star reviews, so I see why one can get suspicious, but if the reader checked Yahoo, they would have found not so positive feedback.

Whether you have reviews about your business on online listings, or you are featuring testimonials on your website, blog, or social media channels, here are a few lessons we can learn from this situation:

#1 Strive to be perfect, but remember to stay human.

When something looks too good to be true it usually is. If you are moderating reviews and asking customers to remove negative mentions, you are distancing yourself from your audience. Making mistakes is a part of being human, and your customers are people who want to do business with other people, not some perfect higher beings.

#2 Empower your customers.

Don’t decide for them what they should and shouldn’t know about your company. Negative reviews help people get a full picture of what you can (or can’t) do for them. Very often, negativity doesn’t hinder the purchasing decision, because what’s important for one person might not be important for someone else. Have you ever purchased products despite a handful of negative reviews? Your customers probably did it too, because they trusted their judgment of what’s good for them, and so should you.

#3 Encourage your customers to give honest feedback.

When you build a good relationship with your customers, they might want to help you out by leaving positive reviews. Talk to them and explain that you appreciate their honest feedback, even if it includes criticism. “Sugar-coated” reviews are dangerous, because they build high expectations among your customers. This means if you don’t deliver you are in trouble.

Presenting an online image that is polished yet true-to-life will earn you customer respect and loyalty. Remember that many people who read reviews don’t necessarily write them. They don’t know that you have to be logged-in with your Yahoo, Google, or Amazon account in order to submit a corresponding review. Forging reviews looks very easy and even expected to someone not familiar with the marketing aspect of business.

On the other hand, not removing negative comments doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be addressed. The faster you respond to an existing issue or train your staff to prevent any future instances, the happier the customer. If you think about it, negative feedback is way more helpful than positive one, because it highlights the areas for improvement helping you deliver a better product or service. However, as with everything else, negative feedback is good in moderation. If all you have is bad reviews, then you must be doing something wrong. Asking consumers to remove or adjust their ratings seems to be a common practice these days. But be careful, because with a wrong approach, you’ll just escalate the issue.