“I don’t like to call it ‘online reputation management,’” Angie Hicks tells me over the phone in early November. “I like to call it ‘focusing on improving your business.’ Reputation management sounds negative to me.”
Hicks can call it anything she wants. She basically invented the concept. We are talking about how small-business owners should handle online reviews and Hicks is co-founder of Angie’s List, a wildly popular review site that charges consumers subscription fees in exchange for verified reviews of small businesses. The business is doing incredibly well with 1.5 million members reviewing companies in more than 500 categories.
Here, Hicks shares her top three rules for how entrepreneurs should handle negative reviews.
Rule No. 1: Own up to your mistakes.
Take a breather before responding immediately to a bad review. Hicks recommends going for a walk to clear your head and then coming back to the computer. Think about what the reviewer is saying and, if they are right, apologize and own up to your company’s mistake. Explain how you will fix it next time.
“It pays to be transparent with your customers and to let them see that you are a human being who makes mistakes,” she says. “Don’t start finger pointing. Remember that the world is watching your response.”
If the reviewer is wrong, explain your side of the story in a respectful manner, she suggests.
Rule No. 2: Tackle the real problem.
If your company is getting a fair amount of bad reviews, sit back and think about the root of the issue.
“The review is not the problem, it is a symptom of the problem,” Hicks says. “People spend a lot of time thinking about how to combat bad reviews when they should really be putting that energy into providing better service.”
Rule No. 3: Take reviews to heart.
Turn bad reviews into a learning opportunity, advises Hicks.
“Consider those reviews valuable feedback to help you make improvements to your organization,” she says. “I’ve seen entrepreneurs build businesses with great reviews. It is all about recognizing where there are improvements to be made.”
Read more posts about maintaining your online reputation.
Photo courtesy of Angela Hicks