There are people in this world that love McDonald’s, and there are some people who absolutely hate it. Many of the McDonald’s haters take it to the Interweb to publicly express their distaste for the food and service. For a while, the fast food chain ignored the criticism, thinking that it would all magically disappear (like how the McRib did for some time).

Years later, that one scathing review on Facebook is still there, but now multiply it by a couple thousand and you’ll have an accurate picture of what their social media pages look like. Instead of being a place that encourages like-minded brand enthusiasts to gather and rave about the outstanding food and service, McDonald’s profiles look like a public wall with graffiti plastered all over it.

So what would you do if you saw graffiti on the walls of your business? Don’t tell me you’d ignore it. You should have the same mentality when it comes to your online reputation.

Cleaning Up Graffiti

Unfortunately in the case of the internet, there is no way to get rid of the graffiti, but there are certainly ways to remedy it to protect your reputation.

1. Take it With a Grain of Salt and Understand the Situation

When customers are irate, it’s natural for them to have a distorted sense of reality to sound more dramatic when they’re writing reviews. They’re upset and want the world to know. Take it with a grain of salt and never take it personally. The key here is to be understanding and sincere. Don’t just apologize, take ownership of the situation (even if it wasn’t your fault). Whether a complaint is valid or not, try to wrap up your response on a positive note regardless of whether they’ll be a returning customer. Offer to take it offline by providing an email or phone number so the customer can contact you and come to a resolution privately.

2. See if it Violates Terms and Conditions of the Website

Yelp, Facebook, and Google+ have strict guidelines for posting reviews. We recommend seeing if the negative review violates content guidelines for the site’s Terms of Service. For instance, if a reviewer left a review on your business page when it was meant for another company, this violates the terms of services for Yelp, Facebook, and Google+. Make sure to “flag” it to let the review site know to look into the review and consider taking it down. If nothing is done, consider writing to the review site — however, know that they are inundated with these requests all day and may not get to you for weeks or months.

3. Use the Drowning Technique

Many businesses deal with reviews by attempting to change a customer’s mind. This is not always the route to take because you will not be able to please everyone. Most customers already have their minds made up, and it will be very hard to get them to budge.

With the growth of social media and technology, an upset client has the power to make your business suffer online. Try the drowning technique (in addition to responding to reviews). When you see a new bad review online, contact your most recent satisfied clients and encourage them to post their experience on the same site. When you get enough of them, the bad reviews will be drowned in a sea of good ones!

4. Give an Opportunity to Contact You Offline

Going back to point 1, make sure you give an opportunity to contact you offline. Once you become aware of a negative review, make sure to reply back to them and provide them a way to contact you offline. There is no need to post the resolution in public. Treat this situation the same way you would any other situation with a dissatisfied customer that complains on your face; via email, phone, etc. Do whatever is within reason to correct the situation so that the customer will be willing to do business with you again.

5. Keep the Words and Logic Simple

When you acknowledge the poster’s criticism in a negative review, the reader is likely to trust the rest of what you say. Keep the words and logic simple for the public to understand. If there’s too much complexity, onlookers won’t hook the negative to your credibility. Replies that include strong positives while acknowledging room for improvements will also develop curiosity in prospective shoppers. The curiosity can lead to the shoppers wanting to check things out for themselves at your store or website.

6. Use Negativity to Your Benefit

As much as the “graffiti” may sting when you look at it, use it to your benefit. Think of it as quality control. Perhaps the review that your customer left you was slightly insulting, but at the core of that, there’s something that you can take away from it and improve on. Now that you know what the problem was, do you have a process in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? Make sure the necessary measures are implemented and follow up in the review by letting the customer know that. Not only could that customer potentially change their review, the public will be more willing to do business with you now that you’ve implemented a new workflow to improve the customer experience for the better.

When handled correctly, a negative review is a gold-mine opportunity to draw attention away from the negativity and toward your business’ positive qualities. You can turn the negative review around by highlighting your unique value propositions and strengths. Here’s an example: “I apologize for your less than stellar experience. We have been in business for over 15 years–serving thousands of customers a week. Our goal is to provide a positive customer experience for everyone.” Think of it this way — responses are a great way for you to frame your company’s story while making your customer feel acknowledged.

7. Acknowledge Without Taking it Personal

As a business owner, you will have an urge to defend yourself and your company when someone posts a review that is not entirely accurate, or is just a bad review. I sometimes tell my customers a proverb that goes, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head and you will be rewarded”. There’s a lot of truth to this statement. It takes two to tango. They can look really bad if they are dishing out dirt while you pile on genuine kindness. Piggybacking off point number six, their attack can quickly turn in your favor. Use it to your advantage.

Acknowledge the review and reviewer without taking it personal. Find a tactful manner to let them know you understand their disposition, and that you may feel the same way if you were in their shoes. Then offer them a solution, such as: the next time you visit, you get a discount of some sort.

What to Do When You Get Good Graffiti

While there is no such thing as good graffiti in the real word, good graffiti certainly exists in the online world–I’m talking about positive reviews. Should you ignore them? Absolutely not. That’s like ignoring someone when they give you a compliment.

There are much less best practices and guidelines to follow when it comes to positive reviews, but they are very important to remember. Here’s how to handle the positive reviews from your customers:

1. Amplify on Social Media

Stand tall and let the world know about your customers’ positive experiences with your business. Be proud, but don’t brag. You should amplify all positive reviews through social media. Try using a graphic tool like Canva or PicMonkey to create engaging graphics of your testimonials and share across social media. Make sure to cross-promote the testimonials on all social channels you’re active on; this is known as social proof. If you want to start social advertising, a great strategy is to take a snippet of a 5-star review and use it in your ad graphic. We’ve seen click-through-rates and conversions go through the roof with this social proof technique.

2. Be Thankful

It is the best practice to reach out to reviewers who left a positive review and respond to them publicly. Thank them individually and welcome them back to your business anytime. After leaving a thankful response to your customer publicly, reach out via private message and thank them once again. You can try offering them a coupon code to come back to your business if they LIKE you on Facebook or Check-In on Yelp.

3. Turn Customers into Ambassadors

Think about taking your relationships to the next level with happy customers. Anyone who is over the moon with your company is valuable to you, so turn those happy customers into brand ambassadors for your company. Offer an affiliate commission to spread the word about your business — this will result in more business from new customers. Word of mouth, depending on a person’s influence, can spread like wildfire.

Like McDonald’s, you will have customers raving about your products and services and you will have customers who will not do anything but bash your brand. It’s important to remember that whatever someone says about you online cannot be ignored — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Stay positive and remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and companies do make mistakes. We’re judged by the general public based on how we handle and respond to accusations others make. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the graffiti.

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Digital Graffiti: How to Handle Positive and Negative Reviews
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Digital Graffiti: How to Handle Positive and Negative Reviews
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RepuGen
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Ajay Prasad is a serial entrepreneur, a business strategist, and a digital marketing expert with almost three decades of experience. He is the founder and CEO of RepuGen. He has built this innovative online management software from scratch, incorporating multifaceted artificial intelligence (AI) which has allowed for rapid growth, maximum outreach and a 95% user satisfaction rate.