Angie’s List Tips to Turn Negative Online Reviews into Ongoing Business

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Online reviews are big business and so is the battle to fight negative reviews. But the woman some call an Internet pioneer says companies shouldn’t get so riled up about them. Angie Hicks offers tips for companies to manage their online reputation.

“Fixing a negative report is not a marketing action. It’s plain old customer service,” says Angie's List Founder Angie Hicks. “Negative reports are symptoms of greater issues on the horizon. So get to the actual problem and fix it."

Online reviews are big business and so is the battle to fight negative reviews. But the woman some call an Internet pioneer says companies shouldn’t get so riled up about them.

“A negative review isn’t the end of the world,” says Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “In fact, it’s a great tool to win back customers who feel wronged and it gives potential new customers great insight into how you operate.”

Angie’s List has collected millions of consumer reviews on local service companies and professionals since 1995. Most consumers turn to Angie’s List to find the best companies in town and focus on the positive reports there. But Angie’s List also collects negative reports, and it’s not uncommon for the site to field complaints about negative reviews from companies ranging from roofers and contractors to doctors and dentists.

“Our response hasn’t really varied over the past 17 years because even the best companies are going to get a negative review every once in a while,’” Hicks said. “No one’s perfect.”

Beyond that, Hicks said smart companies see negative reviews as useful tools.

“Fixing a negative report is not a marketing action. It’s plain old customer service,” she said. “Negative reports are symptoms of greater issues on the horizon. So get to the actual problem and fix it. Once you do that, your negative report issue is solved as well.”

Service professionals should pick a few sites to follow. Then, learn how they collect and distribute information and what role the companies being reviewed can play, she said. Angie’s List, for example, doesn’t allow companies to review themselves, but encourages them to monitor and respond, free of charge.

Angie's List tips to turn a negative online review into a positive:

1. Monitor: You can’t respond to what you don’t hear or read. Develop a list of reputable review sites that are relevant to your business and regularly look for comments about your company. Set a time each week to run Internet searches for your company.

2. Participate: If you find reviews about your company, respond to them with an appropriate and professional message. Never respond immediately, though. Take time to investigate and respond professionally. Your response could be as short as “sorry you had sub-par service from us. I’ll be in touch to determine if we can fix the problem.” But get the word out fast that you’re paying attention and prepared to act.

3. Investigate: Gather as many facts as you can about the situation. If it’s something you can correct, do it and respond to the report describing your reparation efforts. If you’re at an impasse with the customer and can’t resolve it, say that. But say it professionally. Never respond in anger or in a way that could be perceived as a personal attack.

Angie’s List helps consumers have happy transactions with local service professionals in more than 550 categories of service, ranging from home improvement to health care. More than 1.5 million subscribers across the U.S. submit more than 65,000 reports each month about their consumer experiences and use Angie’s List to gain unlimited access to local ratings, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine, the Angie’s List complaint resolution service and information about how to make the most of their home improvement projects.

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Cheryl Reed
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