Last weekend, news went viral about a local Houston business owner who called a former manager derogatory and racist terms after she quit. To express her anger and frustration with the business owner, the manager shared screenshots of the offensive texts on Facebook. In almost a blink of an eye, the post spread like wildfire.
The owner and manager weren’t the only people affected in this situation. Within less than 48 hours, the local business Pho Shack began to crumble. The business's partnerships were severed. Innocent employees suffered from harassing phone calls and visitors. The building was forced to increase security. But the biggest consequence from his mistake was the business's demolished image online. They received backlash in the form of hundreds of bad Yelp reviews (which led to a monitored hold on their account), articles on popular news sources, negative comments and reviews on Facebook … just bad PR, in general.
Since the birth of social media, reviews replaced personal opinions, and pictures replaced the “art” in culinary arts. The internet reaches to millions of people (they don’t call it “world-wide web” for nothing), which, in this case, serves as both a blessing and a curse. Considering how fast and how far news has traveled, how will Pho Shack recover from this incident, and what can other business owners learn from this situation?
How to Manage Reviews About Your Business
Pho Shack is one of many examples of how reviews can impact a business. We discussed this issue with a Houston-based SEO and website design business, ASTOUNDZ, to understand the implications of good and bad reviews for a business, and what business owners can do about it. Here’s what we came up with:
Credibility and Trust
One of the downsides of social media and online-based reviews is the displacement of consumer trust. One negative review can create a bias for future customers when they visit your establishment.
Michael Cohen, an SEO specialist with ASTOUNDZ, notes that “trust is one of the most important aspects in driving business both on- and off-line.” He supported the comment with a statistic from a 2018 consumer report that states, “86% of all consumers read an online review, and that 89% of those that do read reviews also look for company responses.”
Solution: It’s important that businesses not only provide a quality customer experience, but also ask clients to post their positive feedback and build credibility. Although a few positive reviews seem minuscule now, you’ll look better against your competitors in the future. Negative reviews can serve a purpose, too—by handling the problem quickly, effectively, and publicly, users will see the possible negative experiences they might have at your establishment, and how you would resolve them.
Improved Search Engine Placement
Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors report shows that reviews account for 15.44% of Finder’s ranking factors, and 6.47% on total organic local search ranking factors. It’s common for local small businesses to verify their businesses on Yelp and Google My Business, especially since the majority of smartphone users use their device for searches and calling businesses. However, not everyone stays active in these applications.
Solution: Stay active on social media and applications such as Yelp and Google My Business, and provide as many details as you can. Search engines load the most relevant information per search, so consider including several services in your descriptions that the ideal customer would search for.
Stay Proactive with Reviews
“One of the easiest ways to lose out on potential customers is to discredit the importance of reviews,” says Cohen. “This goes beyond simply making sure you have a good review rating (though consumers definitely care about having an average of over 4 stars).”
Create a strategy in your business to encourage positive reviews so that when the negative review happens, you’ll have a solid backing of credibility. Communicate your reputation management strategy with your team in the event that anything happens.
For those wondering how to control negative reviews or remove them from applications: You can’t. That’s the beauty (and curse) of reviews — they allow the users to provide feedback about their real experiences… or so they say.