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TOUGH CALL: Bitten by Bad Reviews

Negative online reviews are threatening your company’s reputation. What would you do? (Scroll down to take our poll)

Bitten-By-A-Bad-Review---Tough-Call-June-2015Ever since you were a youngster, certain lessons were hammered home by your dad. “Always do what you say.” “If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, then make it right.” And so on. The common theme boiled down to protecting your reputation—because at the end of the day, that’s all you’ve got. You like to think that these lessons, which you took to heart, are a big part of your success. You’ve always taken a great deal of pride in serving your customers well. While your store has never been the cheapest in town, the value you deliver is in your unmatched service. That reality is what makes this situation so frustrating.

“This situation” refers to three strongly negative reviews about your company on a website created to allow customers to rank their experience with local businesses. As a lumberyard, your company doesn’t get a lot of attention on this site. In fact, before the three one-star reviews, your five-star rating was based on just four reviews. Unfortunately, that means that your company’s rating is now between two and three stars. Not good.

You know that this site and others are popular with consumers, and that crowd sourced reviews carry a lot of weight. You’ve used this very website (with some success) when seeking out a new restaurant for dinner on occasion. Then again, there are only a handful of LBM suppliers in your market, and you doubt that a builder or remodeler (who represent about 80% of your business) would use a review site to choose their supplier.

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Still, that leaves the 20% of your revenues that comes from homeowners and DIYers—some of whom almost certainly seek out reviews before making a purchase. The other frustrating piece of the puzzle is that these after-the-fact reviews don’t give you the chance to make the situation right. You’ve dealt with your share of angry, disappointed customers over the years—and nearly every time, you’re able to set things right and re-earn their goodwill. You’ve checked the date on the negative reviews, talked with your staff, and none of them recall anything that could have reasonably led to strongly negative reviews.

Curious, you checked this website for reviews of your closest competitors—one of whom is a discount warehouse-type yard (with notoriously poor service), and the other is part of a large national pro chain (with a good reputation). Both show nothing but positive reviews. You suspect that the bad reviews may be the work of a competitor. But the anonymous nature of the sites makes it impossible to know.

What would you do?
1. Ignore it. When it comes to lumberyards, word-of-mouth and reputation in the market outweigh anonymous online reviews. This is not worth your time.
2. Fight it. Online reviews may not matter much now, but they may in the future. Do everything you can to discover who posted the negative reviews.
3. Learning tool. Assume that the reviews are valid, and use them as the theme of your next store meeting to emphasize the importance of making sure customers leave your store satisfied.
4. Counter. Have a note printed on the bottom of your receipts that says: “Great experience today? Review us online. Bad experience? Tell me [list your name and phone]

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Bitten By A Bad Review: What would you do?

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If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to

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