The Terrible Two Stars

I was contacted by one of our clients recently about a poor review they recently received on Yelp, asking what we could do to help them delete what they felt was an inaccurate review and possibly one created by a competitor. My answer to them was not pleasing to hear I’m sure….”nothing”.

Independent reviews, whether they be on Yelp, Google, City Search, Facebook, Linkedin, Yahoo, Foursquare, etc….are just that, independent, and for very good reason too. How useful would any of these reviews be when a company could bully their way into deleting poor reviews on a site or worse pay to have them deleted (which Yelp was accused at one time helping to facilitate)?

Any time I am looking at purchasing a new product for more than a few dollars I will spend some time researching that product or that place of business online. We were recently looking at new accounting software. Bookkeeper, Peachtree, Sage, Quicken or Quickbooks? We spent some time looking at the pros and cons of every package online before making up our mind. We looked at more than the features, benefits, and pricing of each package, we looked at how people perceived each company’s customer service and willingness to listen to suggestions as to how to improve the software.

Close to 70% of consumers will research a store or product online before ever doing business with that company. Let’s say you need new tires for your car and you see an ad claiming a set of 4 steel belted radial tires for just $95. The price is of course about 25% of what you paid last time, but hey, a deal is a deal, right? Just as a fluke you go online and Google Tom’s Toogood 2 Betrue Tires. Low and behold you read review after review about their never having what they advertise, how they strong arm every person who brings their car in, how their people make up things that need repair, and how their people steal anything not nailed down in the car. Good thing you checked them out, right?

Let’s assume World’s Worst Optical was somehow getting negative reviews for the $3 frames it was importing and selling with scratched reused CR-39 lenses for $500 a pair.  Wouldn’t you want your customers and potential customers knowing that?  You might even frame some of those reviews when someone walks into your store/practice talking about WWO.

Your reviews are VERY important. What people say about you counts. Is every review accurate? Probably not. There are plenty of examples where competitors or disgruntled employees might write poor reviews. What counts for most people is your overall ratings or scores and how you deal with those negatives. Another client of ours advertises on conservative radio, including Rush Limbaugh. This summer they had several people complain about their sponsoring his show. No matter what side of the political aisle you are on, negative comments such as these need to be addressed tactfully.

I’ll share a funny (for me) story about my reviews and check-ins online with a local coffee shop. They truly make an amazing cup of coffee in my opinion. They are artistes in caffeine. They are also some of the most arrogant people I’ve ever met. I nicknamed them “the coffee nazi” after a famous episode of Seinfeld where the best soup in New York was made by a chef nicknamed “the soup nazi” for his mercurial attitude towards his customers. The coffee shop here refused to make espresso to go and would for years only serve it in a porcelain cup.

I mentioned it in my online review of the shop which I believe was one reason they eventually relented and now allow to go cups of espresso. I check in every time I go there, which for a time was 5-6 days a week. On their Foursquare account they accused me of “drive-by” check-ins saying they didn’t recognize me as a customer. I wrote back online how poor their staff must be when they can’t remember someone who comes in just about every day every week. They even had one of their employees check in numerous times a day to best me as Mayor.

Talk about getting it wrong. They publicly chose to fight about something they could never win in public. Instead of addressing the issue about espresso to go, they chose to make they attack personal and I know it has cost them business. While I think their attitude is still somewhat reminiscent of that famous Seinfeld episode, I will be the first to tell you that very few people anywhere I’ve ever been make as good a cup of coffee as they do. My review, their attack, and my response are a part of the web now, that anyone can look up at any time.

So, back to the online review of this optical shop. My advice to them and to all of you… spend an hour each week looking up your shop on Yelp, Foursquare, Google and your Facebook page. When you see a complaint, write a reply asking the person making the complaint to call or email you and that you will do everything within reason to see to it they are made happy. Showing a willingness to address these issues will go a long way with those in the future who read those complaints.

In addition, ask customers who are happy to go online and write a positive review. Few will, but every positive helps. Remember, someone who is happy with their experience will tell a handful of people. People who are pissed will tell EVERYONE. Keep in mind that bribing your customers to write positive reviews is against the Terms Of Service for these sites and could lose you those positive reviews. On the other hand, rewarding those who do write them, after the fact with publicity on your website or Facebook page is often an incentive for others to follow.

Daniel Feldman, is a co-founder to the Visionaries Group  an optical consulting firm specializing in helping eye care practices achieve success at or on Facebook.

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  1. Re: 2 stars. My first response would be to ask, could this have happened? Good educational moment for the staff.

    And the outward hypothesis may also be correct. They could ask their customers to relate their experiences on Yelp too. Additionally, I’d suggest a BRC w/ service/selection/satisfaction q’s. Frankly, don’t know why more ECP’s don’t do this.