Responding to Negative Comments & Online Reviews

Woman in computer room holding monitor and smilingIt's bound to happen. You log onto your Facebook page and last weekend's Bridezilla is on there saying nasty things about your wedding photography business, for the entire world to see. The first time it happens you'll be angry and shocked. But don't do anything rash.  Never respond to negative online comments and reviews when you're upset.

The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath, calm down and assess the damage.  Even though the bride's comments are posted on the Internet, that doesn't mean that everyone in the world has seen them. In fact, most people find that a negative review adds balance to all the rest of the glowing reviews you have.

One negative comment or review isn't likely to destroy your entire photography business. But you can take steps to minimize the damage. Now that you're in a calmer frame of mind, take these steps to counteract those negative online comments and reviews.

Don't Reply on Social Media Sites

Your gut reaction is to jump right into that comment stream and tell that Bridezilla exactly what you think of her but that's the worst thing you can do. Arguing online in a comment stream is like arguing in the middle of your shop – with everyone watching.  Yes, it would be fun to say something so cutting that you'll reduce her to tears but you'll never actually get to see it and all you'll do is alienate future clients. However, with review sites like Yelp, you can craft a short response as the business owner. The best approach is to be friendly, concerned and professional. When someone writes hateful, vicious things, and the response is calm concern and professionalism, who are you more likely to believe? Especially when you have other positive reviews?

 Reply Professionally  to Review Sites

Some review sites such as Yelp allow business owners to respond to negative reviews. This is an excellent idea because it gives you a chance to respond in a professional manner and show you care. What’s different about review sites is that’s it’s not a conversation, it’s carefully worded response statement. Do not suggest that this review is ‘crazy’ or else you might appear callous. Show real concern that someone has this ‘misunderstanding’ and how you plan to make it right. The idea is not to respond point by point, but show in your response that their impression is more of a misunderstanding of how you do business. Make it clear you value your clients.

Stay Professional

Don't blog about your disagreement, don't talk about it on your Facebook page, don't have your friends and family talk about it online, don't do anything online that acknowledges the situation and adds fuel to the fire. You're not trying to run away from it or bury your head in the sand; you're simply keeping it professional. Let Bridezilla look like a raging lunatic if she wants to. YOU are a professional. In most cases these Internet rants blow over in a matter of days. People get bored and move on to other things and all is forgotten. But here are some things you can do to help minimize the effects:

Handle It Privately

Obviously, you want to contact the bride and see if you can rectify the situation. And if you do reach an agreement, ask her to remove her negative comments or at least go online to let everyone know that things worked out.

Request Testimonials

Ask your satisfied customers if they will post positive for you on sites like Yelp, Project Wedding or the Knot. You can never have too many. In fact, ask them for it when they pick up their proofs or see their images for the first time. If you are trying to “bury” a negative review, it is best to request testimonials over a period of time. It looks fishy if you get a bad review and then four good reviews the next day. Even worse if those reviews appear to be ‘defending’ you. While it might make you feel good, it does not appear professional.

Post Examples of Your Work

Make sure you have plenty of examples of your wedding photography posted on your blog, your Facebook page, Yelp, Project Wedding and anywhere else you can get them online. Again, this helps distract from the bad review and shows the quality of your work.

Your gut reaction is to respond to negative online comments and reviews by going on the defensive but don't let Bridezilla drag you into an online wrestling match. Those nasty comments will fade into Cyberspace quickly, but they'll never completely disappear. If they are dredged up sometime in the future, you don't want people to have any reason to think you're anything less than a professional. More forward.

Have you experienced negative comments on Facebook? Negative reviews on Yelp? How did you handle it? Please share thoughts, comments and advice in the comments below.

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