Is your business being reviewed online? If so, it’s time to “hug your haters.” At Social Media Marketing World earlier this week, a talented panel of speakers including Daniel Lemin of Convince and Convert, Tyler Anderson of Casual Fridays, Martin Shervington of, Jacob Sapochnick of Enchanting Lawyer, LLC, and Kari Embree of Green Flash Brewing Co. shared tips on attracting positive online reviews and addressing negative reviews.

Below are key takeaways from the discussion:

Dealing with bad reviews:

  • If someone leaves a bad review and you can’t make them happy after two attempts, stop trying.
  • Read the review and really understand what the customers wants. Don’t rely on a blanket reply. Take the time to understand what the customer is thinking and hoping to achieve, then respond to them. The panel suggested picking up a copy of Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters for more insight on embracing customer complaints.
  • Don’t ask people to change a negative review, even if you fix their problem.

Asking for reviews:

  • The employee on your team that worked with the customer should ask for the review. If the customer is interested and willing to leave a review, send them a link/survey to complete or a link to your review site (like Yelp).
  • When asking for a review, focus on impact. Let the customer know that you’ve enjoyed working with them and want to help more people/businesses like them so you can make a difference. Make them feel like they’re helping you help other business owners/people just like them.
  • Don’t send a review link to everyone you know. Be strategic about who you ask.
  • If possible, get customers to write stories on your behalf. After all, you should be telling stories about your consumer, not yourself. In today’s age, content should be co-created with the customer’s input.
  • Cards in the mail are a nice way to thank people and ask for a review.
  • Don’t offer a discount in exchange for a review.

Looking ahead: 

  • Approximately 75 percent of Yelp traffic comes from people doing a Google search, then clicking on Yelp. There’s word that Google is pushing Yelp out or down in search results so that Google reviews appear first.
  • Are your customers or former employees rating you on websites that you’re not monitoring such as the employer review and job search site, Glassdoor? Keep your eyes open!

Leveraging your reviews for PR:

As a public relations professional, I can’t help but add my two cents about leveraging customer reviews for PR. This wasn’t covered during the discussion, but it’s worth considering. If your customer leaves a glowing review, consider asking them for a testimonial. I often interview my clients’ customers, asking them about their journey and experience. These interviews can lead to wonderful customer stories — usable as blog posts or as storylines for pitching the media.