Online Reviews: A Love-Hate Relationship

Last winter, my family and I were in Orange Beach, Ala., for a quick vacation after Christmas. After a day of shopping at the Foley outlet mall (which is FANTASTIC the week after Christmas!), my mom and I were charged with picking up dinner. We’d been to most of the touristy places along the beach, so we checked out Yelp on our way back in to find something different. What we found was Tacky Jack’s, a place that would have been overrun with tourists had it been along Perdido Beach Boulevard. The place lived up to its name. While we waited for the food we’d ordered to go, a local who spent every evening at the bar bought us a few drinks. The patio was fantastic. The bartender’s recommendations were spot on. (The food wasn’t too bad either, and I LOVED the bloody mary.) 
When we got back, Dad asked how we found the place. He laughed when I told him the reviews were good on Yelp, because he thinks online reviews are no way to judge a business. I’m willing to look beyond the total star rating and find the most valid of the positives and negatives to decide for myself whether I should try something. 
In our business, we often monitor what people are saying about us or about our clients. While some people treat online reviews as gospel and others don’t believe anything they read online, I think it’s fair to say everyone who owns a business has a love-hate relationship with reviews. You love them when they’re positive, and you hate them when they’re negative. 
It now seems like online reviews are everywhere. Users can submit reviews to Yelp, Google, Angie’s List or Facebook. There are even more specialized review platforms, like HealthGrades for doctors. But not all users are rational. Sometimes they have 49 good experiences and one bad one – and they write a terrible review and forget everything they like about a business. Sometimes people use reviews to ask for help, when they should be sending an email or message instead. 
So how do you handle reviews? Here are a couple of best practices:
There is certainly a place for online reviews. They allow consumers to share experiences and provide third-party, unsolicited endorsements for your business. And here’s a quick helpful hint – Facebook doesn’t allow businesses to publicly respond to reviews the way other sites do, so just remove them altogether if your fan page has an issue with people misusing the review function. All you have to do is disable the maps feature on your fan page. 
Got any other anecdotes or helpful hints for managing online reviews? Leave them in the comments!