Irish author Brendan Behan said:  “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

Today as more and more people and companies join social web networks, everything from Facebook to Linked-In, our businesses are being exposed to publicity, both good and bad.

One enterprising business owner in New York felt like Mr Behan when he rode a rash of bad press and reviews all the way to the top of search engine results. The situation was so embarrassing to Google that they implemented measures to stop this from happening, and in an entry on Google’s official blog, Google Fellow Amit Singhal stated: “I am here to tell you that being bad is, and hopefully will always be, bad for business in Google’s search results.”

( read more here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/being-bad-to-your-customers-is-bad-for.html )

This tells me something very important. Bad press and bad reviews about your business will be bad for your business on the web. First and foremost, I am sure that you as a business owner want to do right by your customers, but I also know issues arise that can get out of control. What can you do about these issues?

1) Deal quickly with all complaints. If your customers come to you mostly on the web, more then likely they demand immediate attention. don’t let emails sit on your desk top, respond quickly and decisively to all inquiries or complaints.

2) If you should receive a bad review, check to see if there is a way to respond to this review. Most reputable sites that allow reviews (not just ratings) will give you an opportunity to address or at least reply to the review. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you to remain professional when writing any replies, but it’s so important, that I will anyway; Remain professional when replying to bad reviews! Also. DO NOT argue back and forth with an irate reviewer, it will only look bad on you.

3) If you or your company is in the wrong, own up to it. While this step will not remove the review, It will show what kind of business you run and will be received favorably by those reading the reviews.

 

4) Do you make it easy for your customers to contact you? By dealing with unhappy customers on your site you make it easier to control the situation in a more favorable venue.

 

One last thought. There are companies out there that promise to flood review sites with “good reviews” for your company thus drowning out bad ones. I have seen however that these can and usually do back-fire. The reviews often times feel canned. If I feel I can’t trust this company to play fair with the system, I don’t want to do business with them.

Here for example is what I do when I want to purchase something on Ebay, I check the posters overall rating first. this gives me an idea of their overall trustworthiness. Next I open the reviews themselves and look to see when the most recent BAD reviews were. At this point I could care less about the good reviews. They tell me very little about the company or person I’m going to be doing business with. Then I look to see how quickly and satisfactualy they handled the issues, if at all. I may be pessimistic, but if I see no bad reviews at all, I wonder if this company is for real.

We as business owners have to work for our customers. How well we deal with the unhappy ones tells the world who we really are.

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