Are Negative Online Reviews Killing Your Reputation?

by | Aug 3, 2018 | Legal Tips

Recently, I have received several emails and phone calls from real estate agents concerning negative online reviews and what can be done to stop them. Today’s tip concerns online reviews and how to respond to negative reviews.

In real estate, your reputation is your business.  Even one bad mark against you could have an adverse effect on your business. Internet trolls are posting negative reviews on websites in order to solicit the company into signing up for their reputation management services. It is almost impossible to get Google, Yelp or Facebook to remove the bogus reviews.

Interestingly, many agents don’t even know that they have been reviewed online and even those that do take little action to increase their positive ratings. All the while, more and more consumers are turning to online reviews in the decision-making process. Every real estate agent should take time today to go online and look at your reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp, Facebook, Zillow, and other review sites.  Every real estate agent also needs to understand the importance of regularly monitoring and responding to reviews as well as increasing the number of positive reviews to counter a bogus or negative review. Online reviews simply cannot be ignored.

Online Review Tips from an Expert

Stephan Futeral is the CEO of DigitalCoast Marketing, a web design and online marketing agency in Charleston, South Carolina. Stephan has been in the digital marketing business since 1998 and he really knows his stuff!

I recently spoke with Stephan regarding the importance of managing your online reputation and how to respond to negative online reviews. Here’s what he had to say:

We’re living in the age of the “empowered consumer.” In this age, a single positive review can reach more people than a national TV ad campaign. Likewise, a bad review can spread faster and more broadly and can devastate your sales. Each year, more and more websites allow consumers to leave an online review. For example, consumers can leave reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Trip Advisor, BBB, Zillow, Yellowpages, Angie’s List, and many more sites. With so many review sites out on the internet and so much potential for reviews to impact your reputation business both positively or negatively, it is critical that you pay attention to what consumers are saying about you online.

If you receive a scathing online review, here are 3 important tips as to how you should (or shouldn’t) respond:

1. Don’t Respond Emotionally– Many businesses caught in the cross-hairs of a social media outcry respond defensively to negative comments and reviews. Essentially, they respond to consumer complaints by focusing on their “side of the story.” Although a defensive approach is a natural human response, in the business world this approach comes across as unapologetic and is likely to exacerbate the problem. Before you reply in anger, out of frustration, or defensively, take a depth breath and force yourself to look at the consumer’s complaint objectively. For example, ask yourself these questions: Who is the consumer? What is their beef? Can you piece together exactly what happened? What does the consumer want? What solution can I offer to the consumer’s problem?

2. Respond with Empathy– Regardless of whether you feel the consumer’s complaint is unjustified or if even you feel threatened, use genuine empathy in responding to the consumer. In other words, whether you agree with the consumer, take the time to understand their feelings and express that understanding to them.

3. Offer a Solution– Some solutions are easy. For example, I recently left a negative review on Yelp for a local restaurant. The manager responded the next day by refunding the entire cost of the meal and inviting me back to meet the manager and enjoy another meal. Although I may not take the manager up on her offer, the refund was a nice touch.

For more information concerning how you can receive and manage your online reviews, check out Stephan’s article – Are Online Reviews Important to Your Business?

IT’S PARTY TIME!  Blair Cato’s Annual Military Appreciation Event will be held September 19 from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm in our Parking Lot at 700 Huger St. We will have silent and live auction items, BBQ, beer and music by Tokyo Joe!  The event is free and open to all real estate agents. All proceeds go to the South Carolina Military Family Care Association.  Together we have raised almost $50,000 for the SCMFCA the past three years!


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