What do you do when your school’s online reputation is at stake?
For every four parents that drop a review about your school, 96 parents have gone past without saying a word. Such parents deserve ‘accolades’ for stopping by.
Ruby Newell-Legner in her book, “Understanding Customers”, indicates that 96% of customers do not make complaints and out of those, 91% will not visit your business again
Let me start this piece on a controversial note – The truth is that people are too busy minding their businesses, people don’t care about your business, yes your school. For every four parents that drop a review about your school, 96 parents have gone past without saying a word. Such parents deserve ‘accolades’ for stopping by.
What is being said about your school is a different kettle of fish. If the review is a 5 star one, it is a testimony that you have done well and such parent is pleased with your educational services. All you need to do is just to keep up the good work. However, if such review is damaging and hurtful, the natural response is to frantically look for ‘delete’ button. This is a very bad approach – resist the urge!
Rather, consider the following truths about negative reviews
- The parent (reviewer) still cares about your business: Even if you have reasons to believe the review is written out of prejudice (maybe from a competitor). For him/her to leave his/her business and mind yours, be generous enough to thank such parent in your heart of hearts for minding your business.
- It is not about you but your business. It is a good practice to always separate yourself from your business – don’t take it personally. Parents spreading the news about your school is great marketing only if you know what to do with it.
- It is assessment time: As an educator, you know (and tell your students) that having ‘F’ grade does not mean the student is doomed and can not make ‘A’ in subsequent assessments. If this philosophy is good for your students/pupils, then it is also applicable to you (sorry, your school)
- Bad Reviews are not bad business: Accept the fact that your school cannot be suitable for every parent and it is not a bad thing. Most genuine negative reviews are as a result mismatched expectations on the part of the reviewers, in this case, parents.
- Bad reviews make good reviews look authentic and build credibility: In my article 5 ways to avoid ‘avoidable bad reviews for your school, I mentioned that prospective parents look out for negative things about your school to see if they are things they relatively consider ‘normal’. And if they find none, it could be a ‘red flag. Negative reviews are good for your brand because they show that all of your reviews are real.
Turn Lemons to Lemonade now that your school is on parents’ radars.
If you find your school a victim of a bad review, just know that more eyeballs are on your school as it is in the spotlight. (Read my article, importance of online reviews to your enrollment strategy for more on this). Take this as an opportunity to further market your school to prospective parents who want to read the ‘bad’ about your school for free. And how do you achieve this? Look for a cold drink (not beer), sit back, and take the following 5 actions:
- Pause and evaluate the review: For the fact that you are aware of the review and you respond proactively, you can still salvage the situation. Study the review to determine what to do- Is it an isolated case or it affects other parents? Gauge the level of damage this could potentially cause- use your best judgement but do not exaggerate it. Your findings will determine your next line of action. In some instances, you just keep your responses short, thank the parent, and move on. In some extreme cases, you explain your side of the story with facts and figures in a polite but non-defensive way
- Respond publicly if you have to: Public replies provide an opportunity to show other parents reading the reviews that you care enough to try and remedy the situation. It shows you respect parents and you have nothing to hide from anybody. Apologize publicly and offer incentives if you need to, we all make mistakes. In drafting your response, follow these best practices;
- Call the reviewer by the first name with appropriate title eg Dear Chief Alex if you know it.
- Even with the worst of reviews, thank the reviewer for deeming it fit to express herself
- Don’t lash out. Even if you’re right, it won’t end in your favour
- Use the same logic you would apply if she walks in to your office to express same reservations
- Don’t respond while you’re angry. It won’t end well
- Present your case – make it as short as possible but without loosing the key info
- Address legitimate concerns only- don’t digress
- Don’t get personal.
- Be nice and keep things professional
- Gather more positive review to neutralize the negative ones: With this, you are simply saying the obvious and reality that it is impossible to please everyone and this is an isolated case. Get help in doing this by reading 11 ways to gather online reviews for your school
- Remove the review if it is absolutely necessary but resist the temptation of pressing charges: In most cases, there is no need to remove this because negative reviews give authority to positive ones. A sprinkle of them is good for your brand. Parents are your direct market, dragging them to courts is likely to incur other parents’ grievances in solidarity. There is almost no justification for that – Even if you win the case, public opinion may not favour your school.
- Check yourself and make adjustments: Few days after Dana Air license was restored after the crash in 2012, I intentionally flew it. Guess what? I got the best air treatment and felt safer than ever before! Do you know that Queen’s college got a brand new water treatment after the cholera outbreak incident of last year and the chances of it happening again are slimmer than where it never happened? There is no smoke without fire. It is probably time for self-assessment.
Lastly, after you’ve addressed a problem and the parent is once again satisfied, you can ask for an update to the review to reflect your efforts. She might update it or take it down. Leave it up to her. If she does, wonderful! If not, at least your school is on record as having replied to the parent/reviewer.
Do you know about our ‘Stop Enrollment Leak’ Seminar coming up on 21/11/2018 in Lagos? Do not miss it for anything.