How to Handle Negative Reviews of Your Online Business


Bad news travels faster than good news.

Our brains are hardwired to protect us from harm. Think back to cavemen days when it was especially important to be attuned to threats like saber-toothed tigers. They would have been more likely to survive threats and, ultimately, have better odds of passing along their genes if aptly prepared to process, plan for and overcome these life-threatening beasts. After all, survival requires careful attention to threats but less urgent with regard to positive ones.

The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice potential threats and, hopefully, respond to it. According to a study done by John Cacioppo, Ph.D., at the University of Chicago, the brain reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative, and this is marked by a greater surge in electrical activity.

An article in “Psychology Today," describes how Cacioppo, in his study, showed images typically known to arouse positive feelings, those likely to stir up negative feelings, and those known to cause neutral feelings, which ultimately confirmed the brain's “negativity bias." Then he recorded electrical activity in the brain's cerebral cortex that reflects the magnitude of information processing taking place. Not surprisingly, bad news and events leave a stronger impact than good ones.

The pulverizing power of perception

Fast forward to modern times and not much has changed. Today's saber-toothed tiger takes the form of a bad boss, an abusive partner or threats to one's livelihood, in this case-negative customer reviews. Online interaction, for some businesses, is given scant attention. But for other businesses it's akin to enduring a root canal, producing an all-consuming wave of dread.

If you, or your business, has received negative online reviews, you're likely to feel angry, upset, powerless, and even confused. After all, no one sets out to underwhelm. But there are not many options to defend yourself against such attacks. However, there are steps to be taken to protect your reputation. Here are a few:

1. Always respond to reviews, good or bad.

There are myriad review sites (Yelp, Facebook, Groupon, Glassdoor, Google, Indeed, Comparably, and many more) that offer opportunities for customers and job-seekers the podium to, both, bash and praise your business. When you receive a negative review, and it's inevitable, remember that it is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a positive experience, because you have the opportunity to respond promptly and politely. In doing so, you'll show that you care about the opinions and concerns of said naysayers. Others will not only read the negative complaints; they will also look to see how you respond, so make it sincere, professional and positive.

2. Ask current employees and potential job candidates to leave reviews.

Remember that bad news travels faster than good, so be as proactive as possible. Disgruntled employees and customers are far more likely to leave reviews, and by actively requesting company-wide reviews there's the opportunity to increase the ratio of positive to negative reviews.

Negative Uber reviews have been aplenty in recent months

3. Take the issue offline.

It may prove challenging, especially if the bad review seems unfair or harsh, but try to avoid engaging in discussions of details. Respond in a non-defensive manner that demonstrates you are listening, and get the conversation offline as quickly as possible. For example, you might say, “Thank you for taking the time to provide valuable feedback. I would love the chance to talk about your experience in greater detail; please reach me directly at..." Whenever possible, deal directly with “public" complaints as opposed to a customer service representative.

4. Ask to have negative reviews removed.

If a review is negative or you suspect that it's been left by a troll, you do have another option.

Though you can't delete it, you can ask that the comment be reviewed by a member of the publisher's team.Fake reviews do happen (competitors). According to research by a CRM software company, one out of every three consumers who receive a retailer response to their online complaint end up reposting a positive review. Furthermore, 34 percent end up deleting their negative review altogether. According to Google, your best initial course of action is to directly contact the owner of the site where the negative content is published, and ask them to remove it.

Though this rarely works, it occasionally does. Google explains that after you or the site's webmaster has removed or edited the page, the removal of negative comments can be expedited by using Google's URL removal tool.

5. Negative customer reviews can help your business to thrive.

Customers who are experiencing difficulty or disappointment, with your product or service-and tell you about it-are doing you a favor. A survey found that for every customer who complains about an issue, 26 remain silent. Simply, and effectively, solving the challenge of one complaint might just improve your product for many others.

Reputation management in the age of social media

The digital era has transformed the business/customer relationship dramatically, for better and for worse. Power has shifted from businesses toward consumers with regards to trumpeting a company's message. While companies could carefully hone their message, in years past, with traditional advertising tools (print, billboards, radio,etc.), social media has almost completely transferred that power to consumers-hence the ongoing struggle of brand management.

The sheer number of players involved, exacerbated by unrelenting speed, has created what seems like a perfect storm of anxiety and stress for business owners. In case you haven't done so already, familiarize yourself with the social tools to monitor keywords: TweetBinder and SocialMention, are just two good options.

One unenthused Ruby Tuesday diner shares his frustration

These tools will enable you to search various social networks for keywords and hashtags related to your business. Take it a step further and set up “alerts" (ex: Google Alerts) so that you know whenever your brand is mentioned.

Remember, awareness is the first step to brand management and ultimate business success. Now more than ever it is crucial to respond, when needed, to negative comments. Sometimes, just being aware of what's being said, about your business, will help to inform and guide your customer service engagements.

There's a timeless Warren Buffett quote that aptly describes what's at stake: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." You owe it to yourself to protect your reputation.

7min read

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.

A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization ( publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.