Turn a Negative Into Positive—Online Ratings, Reviews and Your Business—Plus: 10 Common Questions Answered

Ask anyone in business what their reputation is and they will likely tell you it’s fantastic. They’ll assure you they have loyal customers and have been in business for years. It’s a part of business that is highly personal, and often speaks to the core values of a company. Yet many organizations, including credit unions, ignore their online reputation. Given the nature of online and especially mobile technology, online reputation is one of the most important areas in which your organization should be investing. That's why we spoke about it at a recent CUNA Marketing and Business Development conference.

Seeing Stars

These days it’s tough to look at anything online without seeing stars: Angie’s List, Yelp, Amazon, Google, Facebook and hundreds of others all use stars to rate customer satisfaction with products or services. While the general public was once skeptical of online reviews, these snippets have become the “social proof” for today’s generation—and possibly the top signal for Google's local SEO rankings.

Still, the number of people who provide reviews pales in comparison to the number who use reviews when making buying decisions. Estimates are that only 17% of people post reviews online and of those as few as 7% are active. Compare this to the 85% who have used online reviews to influence their buying decisions and you’ll understand the influence.

The history of online reviews isn’t pretty: stories of fake, purchased, inaccurate and unqualified posts abound. However, many sites are doing better at managing this risk. One thing is clear, reviews are here to stay and undoubtedly have a major impact on the traffic driving business. Accept this truth and adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to win members and gain market share.

  • How do you turn a negative into a positive?

  • How do you get rid of bad reviews?

  • How do you get members to review you?

  • How do you get your frontline staff to request reviews?

  • How long will this last?

These are all valid questions that we answer on a daily basis. Let’s break down our list of the top ten reputation management questions and answers.

Can I get rid of negative reviews?

Generally, no—and you shouldn’t waste time trying. If the review is a clear lie, you can sometimes use a site’s reporting function or other legal channels to get the review removed. There’s no guarantee that this will happen, though, especially if the site is large. In the end, the effort is rarely worthwhile. Instead, focus on getting more positive reviews to “drown out” the negative. We call this “the law of really big numbers,” which just means that you overwhelm a few bad reviews with a high volume of positive reviews. Having nothing but 5-star reviews is fishy, but having a few negatives mixed in lends legitimacy anyway.

Why does my bad review show up on a Google search?

The more people click on bad reviews, the more ranking that review will gain. Because it is coming from a review site and is tied directly to your review schema for Google and associated to your company name, address and phone information (NAP), it carries even more weight. If you only have a few reviews and half of them are poor, which will get the most views?

Get more positive reviews to drown out the negative. Google indexes all pages on the internet. If one poor review is ranking on the first page, you likely don’t have a great “digital footprint.” Your digital footprint is the collection of your presence online. The more good pages you have for people to engage with, the bigger your footprint. The bigger your footprint, the more likely it is that any bad reviews will be pushed aside.

Do I have to ask our members to review us or will they just do it on their own?

People are busier than ever, as demonstrated by the aforementioned 7% vs. 85% review poster/user numbers, so asking is paramount. Additionally, it’s an unfortunate fact that on their own, more people will review you if they’re dissatisfied than if they’re satisfied. This makes it critical that you solicit as much positive feedback as possible to offset the negative input.

Given a complement for their business, most managers will respond, “Tell everyone you know!” Online reviews are no different and are the next best solution to word of mouth. People absolutely value endorsements from friends, especially when they come via social media sites like Facebook. Today “tell everyone you know” means “post it to your 500 friends on Facebook.”

How do I get my employees to ask for reviews?

Make it part of the company culture, starting with you. Endeavoring to provide outstanding service is what most organizations do. When a customer is obviously happy with their service, it’s a perfect time to ask for a review. How many reviews could you get if you simply asked every person who was approved for a new loan for a review? What if each teller asked once a day? Once employees see positive reviews, especially when they are directed to them personally, it becomes infectious. Employees will see the willingness of customers to contribute and the benefit from consistent and positive reviews that lift their online reputation.

How do I respond to bad reviews?

Quickly, honestly, and consistently. The rule of thumb is: If the negative review is inaccurate, respond one time only with accurate information. This could be something like, “We don’t have a record of serving anyone by this name” or “You were denied an account because of policies that our organization has maintained for 30 years. We wish we could help everyone, but there are some unfortunate instances when we simply can’t.”

If the negative review is factual, on the other hand, simply apologize and explain the steps you’re taking to resolve the issue and prevent similar problems in the future.

It’s very likely that the reviewer will respond negatively to your reply, but it’s paramount that you never get into an argument or endless back-and-forth. You’re simply stating your position so that other readers who see the negative feedback will have an opportunity to see how you handle the situation and to get your side of the story. By responding promptly with a brief, professional message, you’re showing others that you’re running a tight ship. If you get into a debate, it almost always makes you look bad.

Should I respond to positive reviews, too?

Absolutely! Responding to as many reviews as possible demonstrates that you’re a customer service-focused organization.

How do I keep track of reviews?

You may have an internal marketing person who can be responsible for monitoring your online presence on your target platforms. Most concentrate on the big ones like Google, Yelp, and Facebook, but there are literally hundreds of options. The key is to monitor any where people are already reviewing you, but only encourage people to post to the larger ones. In fact, we now recommend focusing exclusively on Google reviews, since they're the most visible in Google search results and because it's the only platform that can boost your local SEO.

If it becomes too time-consuming to manage all of your reviews, consider implementing a platform that consolidates them all into a single management interface. Grade.us has always been one of our favorites because of its robust capabilities and minimal cost.

What’s the best way to ask for reviews?

Traditionally, simply asking someone to review your company yields a 1% response rate. Sending out an email to all of your customers usually fares slightly better with a 1-2% response rate. Using mobile-based software often yields the highest return. This software can text a review request to a member. The text simply asks how they would rate the your services. If they respond positively, it directs them to one of your pre-determined, public review sites. This process yields a 17-27% return for most organizations.

If the customer initially rates you below a defined threshold, feedback is requested without ever prompting the individual to share their review on a public forum.

Should I pay for reviews?

Never. If anyone picks up on this (it’s not difficult, as there’s typically less authenticity in such reviews), it will hurt you instead of helping you. Besides, with the right reputation management program in place, organic results can be much higher quality than anything you can buy.

What if we keep getting bad reviews?

Properly addressing issues should clear up problems much faster than languishing for months without recognizing where the problem lies. Somewhere, expectations aren’t being met, which is the reason we are all in business in the first place. Take measurable efforts to review and make changes to areas that are falling short. And be sure that you’re soliciting reviews from everyone so that it’s not just the angry people who are leveraging the review systems.

I already have good reviews, so why invest more time/money?

Is too much of a good thing bad? Reviews should be a best practice. If you have stellar reviews on Facebook, how are your Yelp reviews? How about your Google reputation? If you have consistently good reviews on all three, start converting those review to formal testimonials.

  • Have a customer appreciation day and reward your brand champions.

  • Have an area set up to record video testimonials. They can be used across multiple channels of digital from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, your website or landing pages for specific products. There are also platforms like GetBravo.com that automate this through user-generated content.

The possibility that your organization has never worked on its reputation is not a reason to continue avoiding the effort. You certainly don’t want to wait until enough negative feedback forces you to address the issue.

Don’t let anyone tell you that reviews are unfair or that you can’t argue with “the crazy people” who write them. This is avoidance. Consistent reviews should be the BEST indicator of your overall performance and be a gauge of how you are meeting expectations. Take the conversation from a negative to positive and you will win every time.

Need help with your reputation management program? Contact us for a free consultation.