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What should you do about negative reviews?

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In the modern world, every customer has a voice and more than his or her fair share of ways to express it. Whether a consumer chooses to tell friends and family of a positive experience at your company or that story goes up on the Internet for all to see, every retail manager should have an effective way to deal with it when that process doesn't go as planned.

Unfortunately, negative online reviews can be like an albatross around your dealership's neck. According to BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers now check reviews of local businesses before making a buying decision, and if your dealership's online presence is surrounded by negative customer experiences, you might be left wondering at the end of the month why the till is a little light. But when an angry customer posts a negative review about your dealership, what's the best way to go about turning that individual back into a happy customer and dealing with suboptimal attention?

Whether they're angry, unsatisfied or anything in between, don't lose track of customers who post negative reviews.Whether they're angry, unsatisfied or anything in between, don't lose track of customers who post negative reviews.

Don't hide from bad press
As a retail or marketing manager, it might feel natural to turn a blind eye to the customers you couldn't please while focusing on the ones you did. However, in the world of online reviews, ignoring negative reviews isn't likely to do anything but leave them online for all to see.

Instead, responding to and interacting with those negative reviews can actually cause some unhappy customers to do a 180 when it comes to their experiences. According to RightNow's 2011 Retail Consumer Report, 18 percent of consumers who post negative reviews and who receive responses from businesses make repeat purchases from that same location. Moreover, 34 percent of these individuals deleted the initial negative review, and 33 percent replaced it with a positive one.

"When consumers have a bad experience, they will not come back," Greg Gianforte, chief executive officer of RightNow, said in a statement. "However, retailers have an opportunity to wow consumers by listening and effectively responding to their complaints on the social web. Retailers can bring back unhappy customers and turn them into brand advocates."

"Responding to negative reviews just might turn an enemy into a life-long ally.

Ignoring negative reviews doesn't do much to mitigate the damage to your dealership, but responding to them just might turn an enemy into a life-long ally. But what can you say to a customer online to overturn a bad experience?

Above all, be genuine
While a fair number of negative online reviews can be attributed to malice or unfortunate aspects of customer taste, there are others that are entirely justifiable. If a customer has a bad experience at your dealership, there isn't much you can do to change that fact. However, when that same individual goes online to post a review about it, Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, told Forbes magazine how simply showing some humanity can help.

"People are not looking for perfection online," Kabani told the source. "What they're really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers."

Managing negative reviews isn't about erasing their existence from the Internet. It's about proving to past and future customers that your dealership has what it takes to get it right more often than not.