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By Mark Kingsdorf, MBC™, The Queen of Hearts Wedding Consulting, Philadelphia

Recently, the industry was abuzz with the story about a wedding vendor who, because of a very negative review by an unhappy couple, ended up in court, was losing major amounts of business, and was watching everything fall apart. Unfortunately, in this day and age of social media and online evaluations, negative reviews are bound to happen. They key is not to let one bad review ruin your business.

How can you do this? You can start by running an ethical, customer-service-based business and avoiding several common mistakes.

First—Don’t Freak Out
One very common mistake when people get a negative review is to freak out, because we’re human and take our businesses very personally. But look at it this way, one bad review actually makes us human. Too many online reviews are all 5.0. It’s because we are all encouraged to solicit reviews from clients, and we all go to the people who will give us glowing reviews. But, one 4.6 review is still very good and makes people realize you’re not fabricating great comments.

Keep an Ear to the Ground
Keep up on all of your reviews and your online presence by setting up a ‘Google Alert” for your name, business name, city weddings (example: Philadelphia Weddings), even your competition. You’ll get email reports every time your key words are posted to the Internet.
Be proactive, if you get a review on one of the major wedding portals and get a notice, read the review! If the review is not for your business (it happens), is untrue or malicious, dispute it. Just click the “Dispute” button, and let them check it out.

A Word of Thanks
Be sure to comment on all reviews. Thank the reviewer for allowing you to be part of their day and for posting a review. If it’s a negative review, thank them for taking the time to post their comments, and ask them if you can contact them to discuss the issue privately. Prospective clients will see that you care about your reviews and business and are willing to deal with negative issues.

Be Accessible and Get Noticed
Can one bad review really kill you? If one bad review does kill a business, it’s because there were underlying issues—whether customer service issues or visibility and branding. Make sure potential clients can find you easily. Not everyone can afford to purchase listings on wedding website portals—they’re not cheap. Try to list your business on several free or low-cost sites. All it takes is research time. Then list it on one major wedding website. Find one that works for you, and negotiate a payment plan with your ad rep. In the case of the company that wound up in court, the business had no phone number on their site, no visible email link, and a message above their detailed and lengthy contact page with “This MUST be filled in completely.” All of these are turnoffs to newly engaged couples.

If you fall victim to a report on one of the sites like Rip-off Report, be proactive. Respond to or dispute the post; reach out to the couple and try to mitigate the damage. Try to avoid getting there in the first place by establishing good customer service skills, which are the key to keeping bad reviews off of the Internet and keeping you out of court. Put systems in place to follow up with all customers after their wedding. Be prepared to objectively deal with negative comments and issues that will arise.

And remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Be proactive in dealing with issues. Brides want to feel like they are being heard. If you aren’t listening to them, especially after the wedding, they’ll likely go to a forum where others will listen.

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