A Tale of Review Management

Today I want to tell you a story. A lot of people in the industry talk about businesses that succeed, why they have done well, tips, secrets, and what specifically caused them to succeed. Everyone loves a good success story, and I’m no exception, but we rarely talk about what failed or why it failed. What I want to tell you about today is a story of a client who did not succeed in business (names removed to protect the inexperienced). While I won’t tell you all of the juicy details today, I want to focus on one small aspect of business that proved difficult for her and that, if handled properly, could have saved her some stress. Her story is told with her permission to enlighten, and hopefully save others from the same pitfalls that caused her business to fail.

To set the stage, the business was handed over from a previous owner, already had a client base, full website, and orders ready to be placed. It was a third-party vendor model on-line retail website. You would think that with “everything” already in place, including a modest marketing strategy via google ad-words, you would think that the job would have been simple. There was already a brand, a name people recognized, and clients ready and waiting; however, the journey proved to be anything but easy.

Aside from all of the other things that go into owning a business the first, and immediate, issue was customer reviews. Why were customer reviews an issue? Since the business was inherited, there were already reviews out there on the web and a lot of them were negative. The business model was that orders came into the site, her business ordered in bulk from the manufacturer, received the orders, and then shipped them to customers. Since this model was already firmly in place, there was nothing that could immediately be done to shorten order times, and often the vendor the order was placed with had long ship times of their own, making her shipping times even longer. However, we are not here to talk about shipping times. The dilemma was: to respond to negative comments or not? How do you respond to the comments? Should you be transparent and let the clients know that you have to order from the vendor, and then send it to them? Many people don’t understand that model, and there was already negative feedback since some clients had discovered that the business did NOT have a warehouse and just ship product to them.

In addition to all of the questions about exactly what to say to clients, there was the question of how soon or late to respond to a review, whether good or bad. The previous owner had chosen to not reply to ANY comments, so many of them were months or years old. At that point, do you let the customer know that the business is under new management? Do you ignore it? Do you respond and, if you do, how? The previous negative reviews made new customer acquisition difficult, raised the standard of care expectation in new customers, and caused many difficulties as she was trying to build the business back up to make it profitable.

Our potential client’s issue is a common one that business owners face and it can be difficult to know exactly when, where, how, and what to say to a client review. This is where an experienced review manager could have jumped in to save the day and provide guidance because they are trained to know how to handle such situations when a business owner has a different set of skills that does not include client management.

There is much more to the tale of the learning experience in business, but for now I will leave you with this question. Do you know how to effectively respond to your clients, and do you know what effect client comments have on your business both in the long term and the short term?