Yelp Help! Make Online Reviews Work for Your Store
It finally happened. My store received a one-star review on Yelp. One—stinkin’—star! I played back the incident that sparked this terrible review over and over in my mind.
We’d let a customer “straddle” two classes in our lesson program. She was only enrolled in one class, but we let her take the last half of an earlier class and the first half of a later class, as this worked better for her schedule. We’d explained to her that we might not be able to accommodate her in the latter class if it filled up. Well, that’s what happened. Unfortunately, the customer had forgotten about our conversation, and she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
My manager, Kimberly, handled the situation brilliantly. I watched behind the counter as she let the customer vent. Kimberly apologized and went over our policies. The customer continued to vent. After 10 minutes, I’d had enough. I didn’t start a business to sit around and watch my employees get verbally bashed. We had a full house that day with several other parents in the waiting area and about 20 kids in lessons.
I approached the customer. “Ma’am, does your student take any other classes here?”
“Yes,” she said.
After a few, “Well, I never’s,” she stomped out. I knew I was in for it. Sure enough, the next day, I logged onto Yelp and saw it: our first one-star review.
Never Engage in an Online Argument
A friend of mine who owns a business had also received a one-star review from a disgruntled customer. I told my friend not to engage with the customer online. When I’ve seen that happen, it spells out certain demise for the business defending itself. What begins as a negative customer review turns into an online debate over who’s right. And you know how that saying goes.
My business-owner friend ignored my advice and tried to reason with the disgruntled customer with an online reply. This only inflamed the customer and resulted in even more bashing, making the one-star review even worse. Now, my friend was reduced to arguing with someone unreasonable in a public forum.
It’s so much easier to give advice than to take it yourself. I found myself itching to respond to my own one-star review. My fingers were tingling over the keys. I’m proud to say that I didn’t engage in a public fight. Never mind that this was only one of two reviews that she ever gave on Yelp. But I kept wondering what I could do to repair the damage.
Keep the Positive Reviews Coming
After talking it over with the manager, we decided that the best response was to keep the positive reviews coming. We’d received mostly five-star reviews up to this point. As an active online Yelper myself, I had become more sophisticated about viewing a company’s reviews. Just because a company had a few low stars didn’t mean that I wouldn’t go to the store. I would look to see what the customer complained about and how often he or she submitted reviews. A customer with few reviews carries little weight.
We encouraged our fans to leave their own honest reviews, especially those who reviewed regularly. We also encouraged them to be detailed about what they like about our store. This would help potential customers decide if they wanted to do business with us. Eventually, the one-star was averaged out with the four- and five-star reviews, and the damage didn’t seem to be so bad.
Be True to Your Store
When I think back to my interaction with the customer, I don’t think I would do anything differently. First, it’s important that my employees know I back them up. My manager was being berated, and the other people in the store were becoming visibly uncomfortable. Second, this wasn’t the only time we’d had problems with the customer. This was a “problem” customer, and we were risking losing our good customers by keeping her.
Music stores specialize in different aspects of the business. Some do more lessons, some sell mostly guitars, and some do only pro audio. It’s impossible to be the best at everything, so it’s impossible to please everyone out there. It’s OK to not be liked by everyone, and it was worth the bad review to get rid of a bad customer.
All in all, we decided that it was best to concentrate on giving quality group lessons in a great atmosphere. The customers who love us for what we do will continue to visit our store and leave great reviews. We will continue to be true to our store, and our customers will continue to be true to us.
Robin Sassi has owned and operated San Diego Music Studio since 1994. In 2010, she was admitted to the California State Bar as an attorney. She currently lives in San Diego and has a law practice that focuses on business law. You can see San Diego Music Studio’s reviews by logging onto Yelp and entering “San Diego Music Studio,” location: San Marcos, Calif.