A common concern folks share from all businesses and industries above and beyond death care is HOW to respond to negative reviews. It's safe to say that most businesses fear being reviewed negatively but let's be honest, at *some* point, a negative review will happen. And family members or consumers can be gentle in their criticism ... and others will leave scathing reviews. Either way, it's important to monitor what is being said about you and then respond in a timely and politically correct fashion.
Case in point ... right here in my back yard ... on February 18, 2011, Jennifer P. of Manassas, Virginia complained on Yelp about the Baker-Post Funeral Home & Cremation Center:
"Most expensive cremation service in town. I have been calling funeral homes all day to get quotes on direct cremation here in the Manassas area. There are at least 4 funeral homes that provide direct cremation and Baker-Post is the most expensive of them all at over $2000. Ridiculous rip-off when competitors are charging $900 for the same services. It is very important to cost compare death expenses to avoided getting ripped off in your time of grief. Stay away from these guys."
About three weeks later, the owner of the funeral home responded to Jennifer's one-starred review:
"As the owner and operator of our business, I need to point out that the information provided in the comments made by Jennifer P. are inaccurate. There isn't a funeral home in the Manassas area that offers Direct Cremation for $900.00. We are the only funeral business in Manassas that has made the investment to the families we serve, to offer our own crematory on site, where your loved one will never leave our care. We are also not the most expensive, and we do not "rip-off" the families that we serve. We take extreme pride in the care that we give to each and every family that we serve and before comments like this are made, there should be accurate information provided. I encourage the general public to stop, see our facility, and discuss the cremation process and the costs that are associated with this service. Shopping prices over the phone is not something I would encourage, especially for a funeral. Our business carries on a 116 year tradition, as the original family owned and family operated funeral business in the Manassas area. Businesses that have been able to continually serve their communities for that length of time are not ones to usually "rip people off"
Michael C. Post - Owner / Director
Baker-Post Funeral Home & Cremation Center
Here's what Michael did right:
- Provided a direct response as the owner rather than having an employee respond on the business's behalf
- Knowing the local business and competitive climate and being able to clearly communicate pricing discrepancies
- Highlighting the value his funeral home brings to the table to differentiate: "We are the only funeral business in Manassas that has made the investment to the families we serve, to offer our own crematory on site, where your loved one will never leave our care."
- Acknowledging directly that his funeral home does NOT "rip off"
- Encouraging the public to come by and check the place out shows that his funeral home has nothing to hide ("I encourage the general public to stop, see our facility, and discuss the cremation process and the costs that are associated with this service."
- Reinforcing long history of service in the community is a plus ("Our business carries on a 116 year tradition, as the original family owned and family operated funeral business in the Manassas area.")
Yelp will continue to challenge business owners ... but it really shouldn't have to
Yelp continues to challenge many business owners and proprietors who fear negative commentary but it really doesn't have to. Below please find some of my quick tips for help mitigate the impact of negative commentary:
- Define a protocol for how to respond to negative comments is key
Who responds and how should he or she respond?
- Hire or assign someone to regularly monitor ** ALL ** commentary being said about your funeral home or death care service operation
Knowing what is being said about you at all times, not just the singular moments when a bad comment is being posted, is very important. You should develop an online review process that is responsive to all commentary, good and bad.
- Change your perspective!
Yes, negative comments can sometimes be harsh and difficult to face. However, if you view these instances as an opportunity to acknowledge the reviewer, thank them for their feedback and address the comment with diplomacy, you will be able to turn lemonade into lemons and possibly learn a detail or two about your operations or your customer service that you had not yet considered or been made aware of.
In the end, you want to keep a cool head and investigate each review, good or bad, with great care before responding. There are various tools and services to help you monitor online reviews that you may also wish to consider. The goal should be to be proactive and not reactive. When in doubt, seek the advice of a good consultant who can help you to define goals, challenges and solutions in all matters pertaining to online reviews as they pertain to your death care operation.