What should small business owners do about negative online reviews?

If you’re a small business owner who works with the public, you’ve probably at least heard about Web sites such as Citysearch and Yelp! that help consumers find information about businesses. Whether you are a salon, men’s boutique, or car repair shop, it’s likely that your customers have gone online to find information about you and to post their opinions of your products and services. And if they haven’t yet done so, they likely will at some point in the near future!

Hopefully, you offer excellent customer service and a quality product at a reasonable price and your customers will sing your praises. But, what if you have done all you think you can do, and someone goes online and disparages your business?

The key to this new world is to be proactive. Ask your regular customers to go onto the sites that provide online reviews and write about their experiences. If a prospective new customer sees one negative review among 5 or 10 or more positive ones, they will likely ignore the negative comments. You should also monitor the reviews regularly and read the sections of these sites for business owners.

And don’t be afraid to write your own review, but be sure to disclose the fact that you are an owner (or a manager or employee). It’s possible someone may discover your true identity anyway. Large corporations have tried to game the system, such as a supposed fan blog that was surreptitiously funded by Wal-mart, only to be exposed in the end.

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