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Every now and then a story of marketing management gone wrong surfaces on the web and you just have to ask yourself, ‘what were they thinking?’

One such facepalm-worthy strategy was recently highlighted on Moneybox, Slate’s business blog. The story details the recent customer review misadventures of Union Street Guest House, a hotel in New York that hosts weddings. Like many hotels (or any business, for that matter) they are subject to testimonials on various online review sites. Unlike other businesses, however, they are attempting to mitigate negative reviews with a very…unique…strategy.

According to Page Six, they are trying to discourage wedding attendees from writing negative reviews by charging the happy couple $500 for each negative review. This is insane on many levels. But think for a second what they are asking here. It seems they are hoping that couples will actually go out of their way to warn guests about the policy and request that they keep whatever bad experiences they have to themselves. That, or monitor review sites themselves and track down the offending guest and get them to remove their review in order to receive a refund. I’m sorry…what?

Look, nobody likes a negative review. But, much like death and taxes, they are almost certain to come around at some point. With that said, what you can control is how your react to them. So what can you do to make sure that you minimize the effect of negative reviews? Check out the tips below. (Hint: none of the options will be to fine newlyweds $500.)

1. Monitor your reputation
While it might sound time consuming, monitoring your major review sites is essential to a successful public relations strategy. Most review sites have an option available to receive email alerts when a review is posted. Make sure you take advantage of this by claiming your business everywhere that it’s listed and adjusting your notification preferences. You should also have Google Alerts set up that will notify you whenever someone mentions your business name online.

If you have a little room in the budget, try an aggregation service like ReviewTrackers. Their single-location plan is $29 per month.

2. Have a reaction plan
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is hiding under the covers and hoping unhappy customers will go away. Ignoring the problem is only going to exacerbate it, so it’s best to tackle it head on. Start by making a plan that clearly indicates who is supposed to react, how they should react, and when they should react. For example:

“At my restaurant, negative reviews are handled by the social media manager. They will contact or respond publicly to the reviewer with a suggested resolution within 24 hours of the review being discovered.”

3. Accentuate the positive
Even if a negative review is handled well by the business in question, the reviewer will often neglect to remove or update their review. While this is unfortunate, you can minimize the review’s effect by maximizing the reviews of happy customers. The easiest place to start is by making it really easy for people to review your business. Link to review sites like Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Google+ from your website, digital marketing campaigns, and especially transactional emails.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, put up some badges on your doors and checkout counters letting people know that you are on review sites, and you would love to hear from them.

Now that you have fresh tools in your tool belt for creating an online review strategy for your business, you might be curious how Union Street Guest House’s strategy is working out for them. Well, you can see for yourself on their Yelp profile.

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Content Marketing Manager at Webs, where she also manages marketing for Pagemodo – a suite of social media tools. Loves social media, branding, whales. Get more from Sarah on Pagemodo’s Blog and Google+.

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