ASK THE PHOTOGRAPHER - WHAT TO DO ABOUT BAD REVIEWS
Updated: Apr 7, 2019
Dear Sarah, About two years ago four musician friends of mine and I started up a string quartet. Our goal was to play weddings. We were surprised by how many weddings we were able to book in our first two years. Two weeks ago we found out from a friend that we had not only been set up on Yelp, but that we had an extremely negative review. The problem is, up to this point, though we've booked a decent amount of weddings, they have all been for friends. We were 100% positive that our friends would never write a negative review and after doing some research we found that we were right. Turns out some competition in the area were the people who actually wrote the complaints. Of course we were instantly angry. How dare people talk about us negatively when they haven't actually used us, just to try to get us some bad publicity. Now we are wondering what we do.
Do you have any advice for us?
- Wrongfully Accused.
Hello Wrongfully Accused, I wish I could say your email was unique, and that people in your area are simply bullies, but unfortunately I've see this very thing happen quite frequently. Not just with other competitors in the same field, but with friends and family members (who might give you negative opinions even when they aren't asked).
I think a few things are important up front. Typically when anyone gets criticism the first thing I hear is "I bet it is because they are jealous, that is why they are criticizing me." I'm so happy, Wrongfully Accused, that your email didn't turn that way. I think it is one of the worst things to assume that someone is jealous just because they have a different opinion than yours. I also think that it only hinders and not helps you.
Why? Because you immediately assume the information provided by your "bully" - as we will call them - is inaccurate.
What I would suggest instead, though it might be hard to swallow at first, is to actually take the time to sit down and listen to what they had to say.
In your case, Wrongfully Accused, clearly these people have never used you, but you still might be able to learn from them. Sometimes your competitor can become your biggest teacher if you learn to turn the tables on them.
Let me give you an example: 10 years ago I did photography for a family friend. At the time, another family friend was also a photographer. By accident I discovered that the other photographer was talking negatively about my work. My first instinct was to assume that photographer was jealous.... instead, after a few days, I sat down and really digested what had been said about me.
Turns out that though 99% of what they said was inaccurate, 1% was kind of correct. There were ways that I could improve. By taking that 1% and allowing myself to learn and grow from it, I became a better photographer. In the end, my "bully" turned out to help me book more gigs. I even got the chance to thank them for it.
In the end the only opinion that matters is your clients, but if you can constantly learn, grow, and own up to places you can be better, you will become all that more successful.
As for how to deal with the fact that it is out on Yelp... you can take two approaches: You can address it, or you can ignore it.
If you choose to address it I would simply say "Hello (insert name here) unfortunately we don't see that you have ever been booked with us, perhaps you were meaning to critique another string quartet? We do appreciate the comments, though. We are always trying to improve our business and provide the best experience for our customers and some of your suggestions were extremely helpful. We hope we do actually get to work with you in the future."
I hope this helps.