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Help! I recently did business with an impossible-to-please customer. Even though I did everything I could to make him happy, he posted terrible things about my business on Yelp and who knows how many other review sites. What should I do?

Answer

Some customers turn to review sites to voice their frustration, whether with the intent of warning others about the experience, damaging the company’s reputation spitefully, and/or working to receive a response from the business that could include an invitation to revisit the work or provide a discount or refund.

Here's what not to do regarding online reviews:

Don’t panic—When responding to negative reviews, first take a deep breath. Typically, the consumer will contact the business before resorting to venting online. Customers tend to post online after they feel they are past the point of resolution.

Don’t deny a problem exists—In the age of social media and online reviews, consciously ignoring a customer’s concern is akin to not returning a phone call or walking away from a customer standing in front of you.

Don’t get defensive—Sure, a customer could have misheard, been misinformed, be mistaken, or there may be a dozen genuine reasons why a transaction went south. Responding angrily could cripple your reputation permanently as information stays on the Internet forever: it will only make you or your organization look petty to onlookers. (If you want to see how getting angry can run amok quickly, do a Google search on “Amy’s Bakery Company” and see what you can learn from that fiasco.)

Don’t game the system—Paying people to write positive reviews (called astroturfing) is not only a bad idea, it comes with the likely possibility that you’ll get caught. Some consumer review sites have systems in place to warn readers of suspected paid reviews.

Don’t post canned responses—Your customer took the time to write about his or her personal experience: respond in kind because you care about addressing their individual concerns. Acknowledging the content shows that you listened.

Try to examine the situation realistically and remember that one bad review is not the end of the world. If everyone stopped patronizing businesses because of a single Yelp review, the entire world economy might collapse.

Your Personal Business Trainer