What online reviews can do to small business and how to manage them

online reputation, reviews

Just after I opened my swimwear shop, a woman came into the store and asked for a particular brand. I showed her to the rack and she perused the store for less than a minute before leaving and promptly writing a 1 star review on Google, claiming we didn’t have ‘any’ stock.

Admittedly, we had just moved stores from a much smaller pop-up location and there was empty floor space. But, as a new business owner, I was shocked by this person’s rash star rating. Did the service and product truly warrant only one star?

The implication of a one-star review for our fledgling business’ Google review overall rating was huge. It brought the average down significantly.

Soon afterwards, it happened again. Another one-star rating following a request for the same swimwear brand. Again, I felt disheartened. Devastated even. At the time, I had notifications set to ping me multiple times when we received a Google review and they would go off at all hours. And all I could think about was the consequences to my business – we all have personal experience with how our bad review of a business can taint our view of it and impact on whether we buy from that business or not.

But, two years on, I’ve made some observations about the people who leave reviews.

I’ve learnt that younger customers are more likely to leave harsh, low star reviews and older customers are more likely to be more measured in their feedback. And I’ve learnt that customers tend to be quite extreme in their reviews – leaving either one or five stars. And I’ve learnt that it’s important to ask customers before they leave my store to log onto Google and leave us a review.

I’ve also learnt some tough lessons about online reviews and how to manage them.

First, wait 24 hours before you respond to any negative review. Let things simmer down and clear your mind.

Second, remember that other potential customers will be reading your response. Be sure to be professional, polite, explain the story and invite them back.

Third, make sure customers get to know you, in any small way when they’re in you’re store. If they understand even a small part of your story, then they’ll be more likely to be understanding in their reviews of your business.