Dealing with online reviews quickly and constructively is a key message from The Wedding Guy's Peter Duncan.
The Wedding Guy won the Trustpower Customer Service category of the Westpac Rotorua Business Excellence Awards in 2009 and 2010 and Duncan said online reviews and social media comments had huge potential to influence potential customers.
"With today's android phones, with their GPS features, you can search for a place to get a coffee and it won't just come up with a list of cafes. It will also bring up any online reviews."
He points to the importance of monitoring media like Trip Advisor, Jasons, Facebook and Twitter for comments about your business and responding in a prompt and positive way.
"I was talking to somebody the other day and pointed out to them that they had a horrible review online. They knew about it, but just didn't know how to respond in a constructive manner."
Duncan suggested business owners see negative comments as learning opportunities, identifying areas for improvement.
"People who do respond tend to take offence that somebody has dared to put a negative posting up about them. You can't take it personally. You have to see the criticism in a constructive light and become solution-orientated."
He recommended starting a response by thanking the person for highlighting the issue, letting them know it was being investigated and what actions were being taken.
It was also possible to contact site managers about removing poor historical reviews and happy customers should be encouraged to post positive experiences. Positive comments should be milked for all they were worth by sharing them on other media and using them to benchmark strengths.
"We are often so afraid of Tall Poppy Syndrome, we undervalue good news, but you really do have to accentuate the positive."
It was important to respond quickly. "If good news travels fast in social media, bad news travels even faster. If someone makes a critical post about your business, you have to think about the audience that is going out to. Facebook alone has 80 million users around the world."