This article first appeared as Anthony Bullick‘s column in the Daily Post on 5 June. 

Trip Advisor was in the news last month after a visitor to a North Wales restaurant left a negative review because staff members were speaking to each other in Welsh.

Fortunately for the Gorwel restaurant in the Plas Heli Sailing Club in Pwllheli, it has many five star reviews and one (unfair and ridiculous) rating should not impact its reputation.

However, the story highlights a problem businesses face: everyone is a publisher and it’s difficult for erroneous reviews to be removed. For organisations who have not been proactive, this could mean it’s one of their only reviews, which paints an inaccurate picture.

In addition, sometimes a dramatic increase in customers can lead to multiple negative comments if the structure isn’t in place to cope with the demand, for example not enough staff to meet expectations resulting in a poorer experience.

And with consumers carrying out online research before making a decision, it’s vital companies have a strong reputation across the internet to avoid people choosing to buy from their competitors.

The first step is to understand where their brand is online. In addition to Trip Advisor, there are other places reviews can be left including Google, Facebook, Trust Pilot, and industry specific sites such as Checkatrade.

If there are one- and two-star ratings, investigate whether there is anything that could be changed operationally. It’s a fact of life that things can go wrong, and if there is anything you can amend, eg employing an extra member of staff to speed up service, it will help curb future negative comments about this.

Reply to all entries as this shows you care about the experiences of your customers, and offer a phone number or email address for them to contact you directly to take the issue offline.

Actively seek reviews to ensure your average rating correctly reflects your brand: ask for them by handing out call-to-action business cards with receipts, post a request on your social media accounts, or run a competition.

Often, being honest about the situation will have your loyal customers heading online to share their positive experiences.

If there is more than one disgruntled customer, they could set up a Facebook group, often named <brand name> complaints or similar. These groups can be brought back in search results on both Facebook and Google, which can have a serious impact on your reputation. Reach out to the organisers in an attempt to explain your side of the story to try and resolve the situation.