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Kate Peterson: Customer Testimonials That Sell

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Did an online reviewer say something bad about your store? Don’t fight it or try to make it go away — own it.

At The SMART Show on Saturday, retail expert Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts talked about what a great sales tool customer testimonials can be, and dug into what to do about negative reviews. Here’s what she says:

  • Monitor Yelp, Google, and other review sites in your market. If you don’t, you have no idea when a disappointed customer has complained online.
  • Don’t respond directly to negative reviews on the review site. “You’ve got to avoid defensive posturing. Other customers will side with the [complaining] customer,” Peterson says.
  • You can — and should — have a page on your own website for customer comments. But if someone leaves a bad one, don’t delete it (though you might edit offensive language). You’ll just invite further, angrier comments complaining that you censored them the first time.
  • If you can piece together who the unhappy reviewer is, have the salesperson who worked with them get in touch and offer to make it right. (“I saw this review. Is that you? Because if it is, I want to make you happy.”) The owner or manager shouldn’t be the one to get in touch, as that level of attention may cause the customer to clam up or deny posting the review.
  • Look at negative comments as a learning opportunity. No matter how off-the-wall the complaint is, perception is reality, and the customer’s reality is the only one that matters. Apologize, own the criticism, fix the problem, and thank the customer and tell them what steps you’ve taken.

As for positive testimonials, they’re one of the most powerful forms of the advertising at your disposal. You should like directly from your website to positive reviews on Yelp, Google, or other sites. And, says Peterson, don’t be afraid to actively ask customers if they use online review sites. The ones who do are your best source for testimonials.

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