If you’ve been in the kitchen and bath design business for any amount of time, something bad has probably happened on a job. Your cabinet company didn’t deliver on time, the hardware was discontinued or your plumber scratched the new appliances. While all of these situations can be stressful, we can handle each of them as they come for a good resolution.
However, over the past year, while traveling around the country speaking at KBDN seminars, I have come across one common fear that designers have been expressing – getting a bad review from a client online.
Online reviews have been around for a long time. Back in the day, your eBay rating was critical to showing how trustworthy of a seller you were. More recently, restaurant reviews have been becoming prevalent.
As more and more kitchen and bath designers use and advertise on social media, the topic of online reviews will become increasingly important. Many of us have little or no reviews, and then when we get a bad one, we’re horrified and don’t know how to handle it.
HOW ONLINE REVIEWS WORK
There are many places you can get reviewed. For starters, there’s Houzz, Yelp, Google and Angie’s List, to name a few. If you haven’t already, you should check these sites to see if there are reviews on you. Sometimes, even if you’ve never had a profile or an account on these sites, reviews can still be left. A simple Google Search for your business name is a great place to start. You should also go to each of these sites and see what the status of your reviews is.
Broadly speaking, these sites do whatever they can to make sure that the reviews that are left are authentic. Google ties the comments you make to your Google account. People with Google accounts generally have these tied to many other things, like their music and movie purchases, Drive and other Google services. This means that, most likely, the Google account used to leave a comment has been left by a real person.
Yelp employs a similar account system, and also automated algorithms that can detect a fake review.
So what do you do if you see a bad review? First, don’t panic! Next, if you don’t have an account with the service where there is a bad review, make one. These services thrive on authenticity, and they encourage businesses to “claim” their business listings that are created by their users. What this means is that, as a regular Yelp user, I could have created a listing for your business if one didn’t exist before. You, as the business owner, can take control of that listing by following the steps to verify that it’s your business.
Once you do that you now can take steps to start dealing with a negative review. The big question is, how do you deal with them?
ADDRESSING NEGATIVE REVIEWS
Just like dealing with negativity from customers in real life, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Let’s deal with the easy stuff first. If there’s spam, racial slurs, profanity or any other commentary of that nature, if it hasn’t already been removed, you can request the service to remove it. These services don’t want that kind of non-helpful stuff on there any more than you do.
What this doesn’t include are bad reviews from real people. Whether or not it’s true, the service thinks the review has been written by a human with a real opinion, and they’ll likely not remove it. This is where step two comes in.
Respond to negative reviews, but don’t engage. No matter how off-base a negative comment can be, acknowledge that you’re sorry that they are upset and that you would like to help them fix the problem. As a next step, offer to get in touch with them over the phone or by email. The sooner you can take the conversation off of a platform and into “your own court,” the better. You don’t want to rehash a bad situation in public and on the Internet for all to see. Also, many times these problems lead to the discussion of private information, which certainly shouldn’t be posted online.
Once you connect with the person in another medium, take care of them in a way that you would normally take care of them.
I’ve heard stories of customers using the threat of a bad review to convince a designer to give them free work, or other potentially unreasonable requests. Don’t ever agree to something like this. You and the customer may think that a single bad review can make or break a business. But even if it’s your first one, it won’t. Threats of bad reviews don’t carry enough weight to make or break you, no matter who you are, customer or designer.
If you look on any manufacturer’s website, product page or Amazon listing, you’ll always be able to find someone’s tale of how a product or service ruined their life. Even in listings that have 4-5 stars overall, there’s always a subset of people who will claim a particular product or service was the most horrible thing they’ve ever experienced in their life. A few negative comments haven’t put these companies out of business, and they won’t put yours out of business either.
So you’ve done all of these steps, you’ve removed the spam and dealt with the problem. Let’s say you have only two reviews left – one good and one bad. That’s not a good percentage. What do you do? Take a minute to think back about all of the work you have done over the years. Are your clients generally happy with your work? If you’re still in business, the answer is likely a resounding “YES!” If so, start contacting old clients and get some good reviews posted on these accounts.
Nearly all of these services let anyone leave reviews at any time. You’d be surprised how happy people are to do this. A few positive sentences and 4 or 5 stars only takes someone a few minutes, and this is a great chance to connect with old customers.
Moving forward, how do you handle reviews? You should be checking them daily, and at a minimum once a week. Oftentimes these online reviews serve as a place for customers to air grievances that would have been heard on the phone in years past. You need to not only be on top of responding to these right away, but you also need to get ahead of them by getting as many good reviews as you can. The more positive ones you have, the less a negative one will have an impact when it inevitably happens.
Always remember, striving for perfection is a goal we should all have, but in the line of work we are in, pleasing most of the people most of the time is exactly what you can – and should – be doing. If your reviews reflect that, you’ll look great to prospective clients.