By Princess Jones

Word of mouth is still the best advertisement. It just a looks a little different in 2017. Now it comes in the form of online reviews. Whether your business exists completely online or has face-to-face contact with your customers, online reviews can be very important for conversion rates. If you want to get a handle on your online reviews, you’ve got to face some hard truths about how it all works.

Consumers are far more likely to leave bad online reviews.

You could service 99% of your customers beautifully and make a mistake with just one percent, but that will be the one percent who write reviews about you. Maybe that’s not exactly fair, but it’s absolutely typical. People tend to write reviews when they are upset rather than when they are satisfied. Being upset is what drive them to make the review.

Honestly, there’s not a lot you can do about bad reviews. Sometimes you can reach out to rectify the problem, which will cause the customer to revise their review. But the best way to combat bad reviews is to make sure you’re asking for them from people who have a good impression of your business.

Consider using autoresponders on your mailing list to prompt customers to leave reviews. If you own a restaurant, you could have the QR codes for Yelp on your menus so that customers can use them to access the site to make a review right there. Or it could just be as simple as responded to all compliments about your work with a request for that customer to review your business.

Bad reviews are better than no reviews at all.

If you think having lukewarm or bad reviews is the worst thing that can happen to your brand, you’re wrong. Not having any reviews tends to be much worse for conversion than having bad ones in the mix. No reviews means you’re either new or untested. So, if it’s a platform where your audience expects you to be featured — like Yelp if you’re in the hospitality business — make sure you’re not completely review-less.

In fact, in the age of Amazon scandals, your consumers are more savvy about reviews than ever before. If all of your reviews are glowing, five star long winded love letters to your product, a lot of potential customers will assume that they are fake. It’s better to have a few bad or lukewarm reviews rather than none at all.

Your response makes a difference.

It can be hurtful to read about how terrible someone thinks your business is. The Internet makes it seem like everything is done in a vacuum. It’s easy for a stranger to provide vicious online feedback about you without thinking that you’re going to see it someday. And even if they think you’re going to see it, they sometimes don’t care.

That said, you don’t do yourself any favors by going online to respond to the reviews in a similar manner. Even if you feel justified in going after someone who writes a bad review of your business, the vast majority of those reading the reviews will not be impressed by you going back and forth with the reviewer. Although there are some notable exceptions, the most professional response — and the best customer service you can offer — is to apologize for their experience and ask for contact information so you can handle the situation privately.